Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has written a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, urging him, according to a press release about the letter, “to protect religious freedom within the Department of Defense after reports that the Army has censored military chaplains and harmed their ability to provide religious services during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Those reports referred to by Mr. Cruz came from fundamentalist Christian nationalist organizations such as the Family Research Council and First Liberty Institute, and Cruz obviously took these less-than-honest “Christians” at their word and didn’t bother to check the facts for himself.
Mr. Cruz’s June 9 letter, which follows a similar letter to Secretary Esper from twenty Christian nationalist members of the House of Representatives, attacks the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) for its efforts, and success, in stopping chaplains and other military members from taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to foist their religion on unwilling audiences.
Mr. Cruz writes in his letter:
During this global pandemic, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has been waging a campaign against the chaplaincy, and frankly, against religious freedom in the military generally. In response, the Army has censored chaplains’ religious speech based on the flawed and arbitrary notion that military chaplains may not carry out their official duties outside of a religious ceremony that occurs within the four walls of a chapel. A number of concerning examples have been brought to our attention:
He follows with four examples, the first two of which were among MRFF’s string of successes in getting proselytizing COVOD-19 chaplain videos removed from command Facebook pages.
Mr. Cruz writes:
At Fort Drum, New York, chaplains assigned to the legendary 10th Mountain Division published a series of videos to a social media site inviting viewers to pray in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The MRFF demanded the videos be removed, and the Army quickly complied.
At Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, another Army chaplain published a video to social media in which he sought to encourage viewers with a message of hope during difficult times. Again, the MRFF demanded the video’s removal, and the Army again complied.
Mr. Cruz is apparently unaware that the Army Chief of Chaplains office has issued new social media guidelines for chaplains that not only completely agree with MRFF’s position that religious videos should be posted on chapel pages and not on command pages, but go even further than what MRFF was demanding.
Mr. Cruz’s next example is:
At Camp Humphreys, South Korea, an Army chaplain who sought to offer encouragement and hope sent an email to his fellow Christian chaplains recommending to them a Christian book he had recently read. The MRFF demanded that he be disciplined for his “deplorable actions,” and the Army undertook an investigation into the chaplain’s actions.
What the factually-challenged Mr. Cruz is apparently unaware of, since he gets his “facts” from less-than-honest fundamentalist Christians, is that MRFF’s clients, in this case, WERE CHRISTIAN CHAPLAINS! Twenty-two of them! And the book, which deeply offended these twenty-two chaplains, wasn’t some nice, feel-good Christian book. It was John Piper’s controversial “Coronavirus and Christ,” a book that claims the coronavirus is God’s judgment for sins, particularly the sin of “homosexual sex,” a book that twenty-two Christian chaplains found so offensive that they came to MRFF to advocate for them.
Mr. Cruz’s final example is his most factually-challenged of all:
At USAG Stuttgart, Germany, a chaplain hosted “Sunday Christian Porch Preaching” on the balcony of his apartment. The command at USAG Stuttgart unlawfully halted Lt. Col. McGraw’s services in response to demands from the MRFF.
The officer doing this “Sunday Christian Porch Preaching” WASN’T A CHAPLAIN!!! He was a line officer, and Air Force lieutenant colonel. Mr. Cruz’s assumption that it would have to be a chaplain hosting religious services just shows how completely out-of-line this non-chaplain Air Force officer was.
The situation there was that every Sunday during the COVID-19 lockdown at USAG Stuttgart, Germany, Air Force Lt. Col. David McGraw was forcing the other military personnel and their families in his on-base military housing apartment area to listen to his Christian worship services, delivered from his apartment balcony. His mission to have every resident, most of whom he out-ranked, participate was evident by his leaving song sheets at the door of every apartment. Twenty-eight families in the “porch preacher’s” apartment area — twenty-two of which were Christian families — came to MRFF for help in putting a stop to what was in effect a mandatory attendance at these worship services. After MRFF’s demand to his commanding officer, Lt. Col. McGraw delivered a letter of apology to his neighbors informing them that he would no longer be disturbing their Sunday mornings. Lt. Col. McGraw is still able to hold his religious services, but is doing so in an outdoor area away from the apartment buildings.
So, Mr. Cruz, the next time you get your knickers in a twist over what MRFF is doing, I’d suggest contacting us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org rather than embarrassing yourself by relying on your Christian nationalist chums. We’ll be happy to provide you with the FACTS.