At last, truth to power. As Mark Twain so presciently said, “A lie goes half-way around the world before truth gets its boots on.” The Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s (MRFF’s) (http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org) long diligence in requesting investigation has now resulted in the US Department of Defense Inspector General’s determination of misconduct on the part of high-ranking Pentagon personnel. For four years, MRFF Founder Mikey Weinstein has worked to ensure the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which all Americans are entitled.
In response to the DoD Inspector General’s Report (http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/press-releases/christian_embassy_report.pdf), the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Founder and President Mikey Weinstein released the following statement:
“This U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General’s (DoD/IG) report confirms the intentional dismantling of the Constitutionally mandated wall separating church and state by some of the highest ranking officials in the Bush Administration and the U.S. military. Embarrassingly feeble excuses proffered by senior U.S. Army and Air Force generals and other senior officers reveal long and deep collusion with a fundamentalist, religious missionary organization, the ‘Christian Embassy’. That these senior Pentagon officials control the world’s largest nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal should eviscerate the American public's trust and confidence in their military and civilian leadership. The shocking allowance of unrestricted Pentagon access to fundamentalist Christian missionaries through the official ‘badging’ process is an outrageous national security breach of the highest order. Therefore, MRFF now demands immediate Congressional oversight hearings on this breach. Inexplicably, the DoD/IG failed to fault Secretary of the Army (and former Acting Secretary of the Air Force) Preston M.(‘Pete’) Geren, even though his role in the ‘Christian Embassy’ video clearly led the way for other senior officers’ participation. MRFF intends to file expeditiously a comprehensive Federal lawsuit that will rapaciously pursue legal remedies to the multitude of horrific Constitutional violations this DoD/IG report reveals.”
The 46-page report dated July 20, 2007 found that:
- Pentagon Chaplain Colonel Ralph G. Benson obtained limited approval for the non-profit, non-Federal religious organization “Christian Embassy” to film in the Pentagon by mischaracterizing the purpose and proponent of their new, fundraising video. He had stated that the video was to document the Pentagon’s own ministry rather than that of a non-Federal entity, when it was actually intended to attract new supporters.
- Benson thus provided “Christian Embassy” a selective benefit, including permission to film and unescorted access to Pentagon areas and personnel that other organizations would not have received.
- Seven high-ranking military officers, including major generals and brigadier generals were filmed in interviews with “Christian Embassy” during the duty day with rank clearly displayed in official and often identifiable Pentagon locations.
- None of the officers had sought or received approval to participate in official capacity or uniform.
- The officers’ remarks conferred approval of and support to “Christian Embassy”, and some officers’ remarks implied that they spoke for a group of senior military leaders.
- The officers defended their actions by asserting that “Christian Embassy” had become a “quasi-Federal entity”, since the Department of Defense had endorsed the organization to General Officers for over twenty five years. “Christian Embassy” is in fact affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ, a worldwide evangelical missionary organization.
- Chaplain Benson defended his actions by asserting a First Amendment Establishment Clause right in connection with his professional status.
- Mr. Robert Varney, Executive Director of “Christian Embassy”, testified that the new video was used for his organization’s fundraising; indeed the new video covered exclusively the non-Federal organization, but did not mention the Pentagon’s ministry.
- The new, 2004 video updated “Christian Embassy’s” prior promo video of 2001 and included endorsements of the organization and its “services” from supporters working on Capitol Hill, other Federal agencies and embassies, wholly unconnected with the Pentagon’s ministry.
- The non-DoD speakers on the video included six congressmen, two ambassadors, two ambassadors’ wives, as well as the Under Secretary of Benefits for Veterans’ Affairs and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who acknowledged in the video “Christian Embassy’s” international and federal-governmental evangelical outreach.
- The report concluded that Major Generals Peter Sutton and John Catton, Brigadier Generals Vincent Brooks and Robert Caslen “improperly endorsed and participated with a non-Federal entity while in uniform”. It recommends that the Air Force and the Army “consider appropriate corrective action…”.
- The report also concluded that the Pentagon Chaplain’s office authorized contractor badge status to 34 religiously affiliated volunteers, including “Christian Embassy” employees. Further, it noted that the Inspector General’s office is “unconvinced” that these passes were properly authorized and “suggests that a contractor badge is not appropriate for these individuals”.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation prompted this investigation into the “Christian Embassy” video project in 2006 by demanding that the US Department of Defense Inspector General’s office investigate this travesty. The demand was reported on in the Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/10/AR2006121000883_pf.html
And the full text was reported on Slate.com, http://www.slate.com/id/2155453/. This controversy was also discussed in the December 2006 issue of Harpers Magazine, http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/12/0081322. The "Christian Embassy" video can be viewed at
Americans have been unaware until now that their tax dollars have been used by the Pentagon for over twenty five years to further religious proselytizing.
ABOUT MIKEY WEINSTEIN
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein is Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org). He is an attorney and businessman who spent over three years as a White House counsel in the Reagan White House. He was formerly General Counsel for H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. An Honor Graduate from the USAF Academy, he served on active duty in the USAF as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) for ten years. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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