Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Friday, August 20, 2010


The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) reports one soldier's account of the incident at Fort Eustis, Virginia in its recent newsletter:

The week prior to the event the [unit name and NCO's name withheld] informed us of a Christian rock event that was about to take place on Thursday the 13th.

On Thursday 13th at 1730 we were informed that instead of being dismissed for the day, the entire company (about 250 soldiers) would march as a whole to the event. Not only that, but to make sure that everyone is present we were prohibited from going back to the barracks (to eliminate the off chance that some might "hide" in their rooms and not come back down).

We were marched as a whole to chow and were instructed to reform outside the dining facility. A number of soldiers were disappointed and restless. Several of us were of different faith or belief. A couple were particularly offended (being of Muslim faith) and started considering to disobey the order.

From the dining facility we were marched back to the company area. There was a rumor circulating that we may be given a choice later on to fall out or attend. Though it was only a rumor it was also a small hope enough to allow us to follow along a little longer before choosing to become disobedient. We were marched back to the company area. To our dismay there was still no sign of us having a choice.

We started marching to the theater. At that point two Muslim soldiers fell out of formation on their own. Student leadership tried to convince them to fall back in and that a choice will be presented to us once we reach the theater.

At the theater we were instructed to split in two groups; those that want to attend versus those that don't. At that point what crossed my mind is the fact that being given an option so late in the game implies that the leadership is attempting to make a point about its intention. The "body language" was suggesting that "we marched you here as a group to give you a clue that we really want you to attend (we tilt the table and expect you to roll in our direction), now we give you the choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us." A number of soldiers seemed to notice these clues and sullenly volunteered for the concert in fear of possible consequences.

Those of us that chose not to attend (about 80, or a little less than half) were marched back to the company area. At that point the NCO issued us a punishment. We were to be on lock-down in the company (not released from duty), could not go anywhere on post (no PX, no library, etc). We were to go to strictly to the barracks and contact maintenance. If we were caught sitting in our rooms, in our beds, or having/handling electronics (cell phones, laptops, games) and doing anything other than maintenance, we would further have our weekend passes revoked and continue barracks maintenance for the entirety of the weekend. At that point the implied message was clear in my mind "we gave you a choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us. Since you chose to disappoint us you will now have your freedoms suspended and contact chores while the rest of your buddies are enjoying a concert."

At that evening, nine of us chose to pursue an EO complaint. I was surprised to find out that a couple of the most offended soldiers were actually Christian themselves (Catholic). One of them was grown as a child in Cuba and this incident enraged him particularly as it brought memories of oppression.

AlterNet reports that "MRFF works to protect the rights of U.S. armed forces personnel to be free from unconstitutional religious proselytizing."

The MRFF has recently picked up over 30 new clients, including some in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, who have turned to the foundation in reaction to what they feel is a dangerous climate of religious coercion. MRRF founder Michael Weinstein says all the new soldier clients are Christian Protestants, and he stresses that 96 percent of MRFF clients are Christians persecuted for not having the approved kind of fundamentalist beliefs.

This kind of pressure to adopt a militant Christian faith is increasingly becoming problematic in the U.S. military. Alot of it has to do with the fact that a high percentage of the Pentagon's officer corp comes from the south and are themselves Christian fundamentalists. The MRFF website has reported countless cases of this proselytizing inside the military as they try to develop a consciousness with the soldiers that they are fighting a holy war against Muslims.

Religious freedom - whether to have none or the one of your choosing - is under serious attack.


Anonymous Brother Jonah said...

The entire concept of "Fundamental" comes from a turn-of-the-century religious book called "The fundamentals of (christian faith) and the churches most identified as Fundamentalist, like Baptist and Pentecostal churches, have doctrine of "The Priesthood of the Believer" meaning complete religious freedom within the churches, save that doctrine had to come at least tenuously directly from the bible.

And one Pentecostal church couldn't tell another congregation what to believe. Legally, Or in Church Doctrine.

On the legal issue, if 2 of your friends identify you as being their spiritual leader you can be ordained by them as their Pastor, Legally, you're then Clergy.

So you don't have tho top-down structure of Pope-Cardinal-Bishop-local pastor ordained by the heirarchy.

Or Queen of England, Archbishop, bishop, vicar with the same top-down ordination of Clergy like in the Episcopal churches, like Methodists,

I mean, there's supposed to be no such an animal as a Baptist or Pentecostal Pope. Even the General Convention and Southern Convention of the Baptist churches are a Voluntary Association.

Southern Baptists and Southern Methodist split off from their parent churches over the issue of Slave Owners being missionaries.

So now, with gruppen-fuhrers like Dobson leading the pack, even that is being taken away.

It's not insanity, they're perfectly cognizant of what their actions mean. It's Blasphemy but that's an ecclesiastic term and officially (so far) limited to members of your own church.

The Baptist and AOG churches challenged me as a child to "search the scriptures and see, if it is not so" I read in Leviticus and Deuteronomy "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and certain almost-exceptions to that commandment.

But to judge any case in religious court according to the Law of Moses, you had to be purified. The only ones who were always ritually pure were priests anyway. If you eat something unclean or have sex with your wife you're not purified until a week later.

If you have committed one of the sins listed as punishable by death, like talking back to your parents or masturbation, you could be redeemed from the death sentence, but never purified to the extent that you could judge a Capital Case. It's sort of a trap, all these Death Penalty Laws and because there are so many of them, the only person who could judge you to death or carry out the sentence... didn't exist. It's what Jesus was talking about, and He wasn't unique in the rabbinate in saying that, when He said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone".

Can't judge people to death. Nobody can. Dobson and friends insist differently, but then, my Priesthood of the Believer trumps theirs in any case involving me...
So Far.

8/20/10, 10:43 PM  
Blogger libhom said...

This misappropriation of my tax dollars is especially offensive given that I am an atheist.

8/21/10, 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Brother Jonah said...

I know. They don't care that it offends their fellow Christians, or God Himself, and don't feel that anybody not in their own insular clique is actually worthy of citizenship or even life itself.

It doesn't take any special gift of prophecy or clairvoyance or even any special mental prowess to realize that, in case we miss the point they'll loudly announce it, just to make us absolutely certain what their motives and goals are.

And the further away from the center of their clique one gets,I know it doesn't seem possible that the level of contemptuous hubris can actually rise, but it does. Imagine how your average Afghan or Iraqi feels knowing that he's not even within any of their vague circles of people about whom they give a damn.

These kids make enemies for everybody. It's a way to guarantee perpetual war and, thus, perpetual war spending.

Their histrionic rendering of Ground Zero Sanctity? They don't care for the people who died that day or subsequently, any more than they do for an Iraqi. The Iraqi can just see it better.

8/21/10, 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

This use of my tax dollars to support religious indictrination is offensive. Calling Ground Zero hallowed ground (as Pres. Obama and many others have done) also offends me.

8/26/10, 3:45 AM  

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