MIKEY’s OP-ED – First female Army Rangers graduate: 1 noble step forward, 2 shameful steps back

Published On: August 24, 2015|Categories: Mikey's Op-Eds, News|8 Comments|

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History was made last week at the elite U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 2 female soldiers graduated from one of the most arduous training programs within the entire U.S. military. 1st Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest will go down in the annals of U.S. military history as the two soldiers who irreversibly shattered one of many heretofore glass ceilings barring full female participation in legendary armed services combat training.

Only a misogynistic fool (of which there are many) would argue that the sui generis and truly remarkable achievements of these two pioneering soldiers represents anything besides a gigantic stride forward for gender equality in the profession of arms. However, I would be terribly remiss in failing to point out how the official Army ceremony of martial pomp and circumstance which greeted these newly minted young Rangers also represented a giant leap backwards over the wall separating church from state, perhaps landing these very same Rangers in the vicinity of Jesus Camp. Rather than a graduation ceremony, Haver and Griest (along with their male colleagues) were greeted with a quite literal and illicit “christening ceremony”.

Thanks to the presiding Army chaplain of the ceremony, apparently Brigade Chaplain (Major) Mark Winton, an event happily thought of by many as a “GI Jane”-style celebration of achievement instead bore the shameful marks of “GI Jesus Tourette’s Syndrome,”. The aforementioned disease being an all-too-common symptom of the evangelical, fundamentalist Christian cancer metastasizing throughout the broad totality of the U.S. Military.

Indeed, the Airborne Ranger Training Brigade chaplain’s opening invocation was distinctly disgraceful, brazenly unconstitutional and unapologetically fundamentalist in both tone and content making references to various exclusivist Christian themes, memes and motifs:

“I invite you to join me in prayer, and I will be praying in Jesus’ name.

Almighty God, it is right for us to thank you this morning, for you have created life in such a way, and demonstrated through the life of your own son that nothing worthwhile in life comes without a price. We know that this is true in our nation’s history and this is true for these Rangers today.

These Rangers have indeed persevered, and overcome obstacles such as scrutiny, illness, deprivation, and even lightning strikes. We praise you for creating these Rangers and sovereignly working in their lives, that you would knit within the very fabric of them, the attributes and competencies necessary to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission. Their mission has just begun: to be ready to lead American soldiers in combat. Keep them ever-dependent upon you and one another, that they might continue to live as more elite soldiers in every aspect of their chosen professions: physically, tactically, and morally.

We thank you for the Ranger cadre who did more than evaluate their performance, but exemplified and instructed what it means to live as a Ranger. We commit those Rangers who are fighting the good fight even now, and those Rangers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and all of their families, to your powerful and personal care.

I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.”

You can see the video here at the 40 minute & 40 seconds mark. It’s clear that the sectarian, fundamentalist Christian supremacist who delivered this invocation-cum-religious extremist screed belongs to the “Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger” school of chaplaincy.

It is an appalling fact that this very same brand of unrelenting, religious Christian extremism seems to flourish most in our military’s Special Forces; Green Berets, Delta Force, Navy SEALs, USMC Force Recon, USAF PJs, and Army Rangers.

The altogether scandalous, shameful and absolutely deleterious nature of this bigoted invocation was underscored by the fact that the entire globe, from the Arab world to the former Soviet Union, was eagerly watching. Indeed, even the new U.S. Army Chief of Staff (CSA), General Mark Milley, the 39th soldier to hold that titular warrior position in American history, was right there front and center in personal attendance. To those who watched the invocation, the takeaway was as clear as could be. To wit, on the one hand, the U.S. Army can ardently pat itself on the back for its gender-inclusionary policies. However, tragically, with its other hand, the Army was plunging a razor-sharpened cross of Christian triumphalism and exceptionalism through its very own soldiers’ precious First Amendment religious freedom rights, as well as their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection civil rights and the No Religious Test mandates of Clause 3, Article VI of the body of the United States Constitution. Indeed, the Army made it quite clear to the fervently observing world just how MUCH it craves and adores its unabashed drug addiction to militaristic Christian supremacy. The adverse implications for critical American national security should be obvious to all: this travesty is a propaganda bonanza bounty of unparalleled proportions for our Islamist foes, and a callous spit in the face of our Muslim allies.

But, alas, there is more hurt and danger to report here.

And by “more”, I mean we must also pay heed to the enormously corrosive impact that such “GI Jesus” prayer ceremonies, viewed on an international media scale of Jovian proportions, have on the distinctly tribal, adversarial, communal and ritualistic culture and esprit du corps of the armed services, which are as religiously diverse as American society itself. We at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) have long sounded the alarm bells on the ongoing fundamentalist Christian coup taking place within the armed forces, and if there’s anything that we have learned in our decade of necessarily brutal civil rights activism, it’s the truthfulness of the old proverb: “the fish rots from the head down.” Indeed, we are far MORE than merely troubled by the fact that CSA General Mark Milley was an on-the-spot, eye witness for this utterly disgraceful “Christian witnessing” invocation. One wonders if he had even a semblance of a Constitutional clue?  Was he just as furious as we and many others were about the “crusader”-style sectarian nature of the now despoiled graduation event? Does he even remotely understand the critical need for eliminating such rampant, unlawful and unauthorized proselytizing to a captive audience of otherwise helpless military subordinates on Uncle Sam’s time and the taxpayer’s dime? Does he appreciate in any meaningful way the need to swiftly, visibly and aggressively punish that heinous proselytizing chaplain and all others who either directly or indirectly were responsible for this ignoble national security breach and display of disastrous dishonor?

Indeed, leadership on the lofty level of the U.S. Army’s CSA requires an extremely intimate understanding of the Department of Defense’s Number One, compelling governmental interest in ensuring the maximal optimization of military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, good order, morale, discipline, health, and safety.

Period. End of sentence.

Now, dear readers, please put yourselves in the boots of the non-evangelical/fundamentalist Christian soldiers in the U.S. Army, in other words what we call “the majority”, who may have heard the chaplain’s invocation, or who have suffered one of the countless similar proselytizing crimes of “passion” committed throughout the four distinct service branches.

“I will be praying in Jesus’ name”? Really, Chaplain Winton? Excuse me, but exactly how’s that morale and unit cohesion thing going for you, General Milley & Company?

CSA General Mark Milley should prove to us all that he understands and embraces the leadership prerogatives required of his impressive command position. This Fort Benning Ranger School invocation was a despicable and asinine act of Constitutional defiance and criminality. Because of those two valiant first-ever female graduates, it was seen, and no-doubt fully internalized, planet-wide as never before. Pathetically, it made an absolute mockery of the countless Department of Defense rules and regulations relating to church-state separation in the U.S. military, not to mention the bedrock values of the United States of America. Let us NEVER forget that such values are recognized by the solemn oath sworn by all service members to sustain, protect and defend the United States Constitution and NOT some derelict chaplain’s personal version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Those essential and pertinent DoD directives, instructions and regulations, coupled with the Constitution and its construing case law, exist for a vast ocean of damn good reasons.

In America, The Great Constitution trumps The Great Commission.

It’s high time that the Army top brass shows the same intestinal fortitude and intrepid courage displayed by Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest.

The Army’s senior leadership MUST expeditiously punish those shameless religious zealots and extremists who enabled such a fundamentalist Christian invocation of insuperable dominion and dominance, which deliberately and permanently marred what would have been an otherwise immensely proud moment in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces.

One step forward into the light of equality, two steps back into the darkness of religious prejudice.

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  1. watchtower August 24, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Well, until and unless our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines tell the powers that be to cease and desist their relentless proselytizing NOTHING will change. Our young military members will not publicly out themselves to leadership that they do not want to hear “forced” prayers because the are “forced” to participate in these events. Not withstanding, the actual number of military members who are of the christian persuasion or ambivalent to this non-sense and just go-along-to-get-along. Their only hope is YOU Mikey and the MRFF. However, it appears JD and his blog constantly throws you under the bus and may have the ear of leadership more so now that he is a military officer, pilot and speaks for the masses of the almighty military industrial complex on all religious matters. Just say’in.

  2. A.L. Hern August 24, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    I was watching “Patton” the other night, a truly great film , and one of my favorites. Those who’ve seen it surely remember the scene in which General Patton (a notorious anti-Semite, but no matter as to the point I wish to make) asks a puzzled and doubtful Third Army Chaplain to compose a “weather” prayer to — in the words he ultimately chooses, petition god to “restrain [the] immoderate weather” denying the Army Air Force the clear skies it needs to attack German positions in the Battle of the Bulge.

    The Chaplain’s prayer does just that, asking for divine intervention if god truly believes that its their enemies who are wicked, and the Allied cause just. At no time does the text assume or declare that to be the case; neither does the Chaplain invoke any sentiments specifically Christian in nature (as is true the film as a whole, the scene is basically accurate historically).

    The next day, the weather indeed clears, Patton received his air support and the U.S. Army relieves the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne,” and turns back the last great German counteroffensive of the war.

    It’s too bad, then, that Brigade Chaplain Winton has, apparently, not seen “Patton” or, at least not learned anything from the above-described scene. Had Maj. Winton merely asked, in non-sectarian language, his god to watch over the new graduates of Ranger School in their future missions, I should think all would be well as regards the the Constitutionally mandated Separation Between Church and State. There’s no Triumphalism in simple, honest requests to the Divine. But let him not assume that his god, and the son of said god he believes in, take up swords in support of whatever missions the Armed Forces of the United States may engage in.

    Military Chaplains, and chapels erected on military bases are there to minister tor personnel who seek them out for spiritual guidance and comfort, and no one, least of all the MRFF, wishes to abridge their ability to do this. But when their own mission mutates into one of proselytizing and exclusion of all those who choose NOT to seek their services, it crosses the line into actions the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution would not recognize as consistent with the very reasons they fought to form a new nation two-hundred and forty years ago.

    If people like Maj. Winton truly believe that their religion is the ultimate truth in this universe, they would be content to let people discover and come to it in their own way, and in their own good time. Like an all-volunteer military, in which it is assumed that those under arms serve willingly, accepting the chain of command and the missions to which they are assigned, an “all-volunteer” faith, as it were, increases the likelihood that it’s not made up of those who have been made promises no faith can reasonably expect to keep, and are little more than warm fannies in the pews.

    In short, if they have faith in their Faith, those such as Maj. Winton will save their ministering for those who took it upon themselves to walk in the door — literally and figuratively — under their own power and of their own volition.

  3. John Schuster August 25, 2015 at 6:48 am

    I think Mikey has made a brilliant observation (again) regarding how “this very same brand of unrelenting, religious Christian extremism seems to flourish most in our military’s Special Forces; Green Berets, Delta Force, Navy SEALs, USMC Force Recon, USAF PJs, and Army Rangers.”

    The more isolated and insular the group, the greater the prospect for extremism to flourish.

    I’m just speculating but I’d guess that in addition to fighting brush fires there is a need to fight the pyro-maniacal tendencies from the top down. As attention is drawn to this entrenched threat to our democracy – “dominionism” – it needs to be made clear to our political and military leaders that THEY need to fight this from the top down as MRFF can only fight so many brushfires at once.

    I am an atheist and I see many other domains where theism intrudes upon our civil lives, but military life is quite different by necessity. Religious activity of the dominionist sort is not what is needed in our military. It is what should be excluded from our military.

  4. Marshalldoc August 25, 2015 at 10:31 am

    The fact that, after years of less than reticently voiced outrage and legal actions by Mikey Weinstein & the MRFF in response to blatant 1st Amendment violations by Christan nationalists in the military, these events continue to happen, not just in isolated, out of the way, military posts, but at major military events and under the noses, literally, of the military’s highest ranking officers, who know better, or if they don’t should be cashiered as incompetents.

    Grey’s Law states “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice”. And so it is.

    At present, the American project is in danger of subversion by those who would turn back the clock from the time of the 1st Amendment, to the time of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Puritanical (literally) theocracy it represented (they didn‘t flee to America to establish democracy!). This charge from modernity into the past is being led by fanatical Christian Domionists (the Christian ‘flip-side’ of the Islamic State coin) who put their faith ahead of the Constitution, in all aspect of their lives… just ask the gaggle of GOP Presidential nomination contenders; they’re very open about the primacy of their faith. For them, LaHaye & Jenkins‘ novel ‘Left Behind‘ isn‘t fiction, it‘s ‘future history‘, And while our Constitution defends the right of any citizen – outside the military – to believe what they wish and say what they believe, those inside the military (or employed by the State to minister to all comers regardless of faith) can bully their subordinates (intentionally or not) into behaving in a manner contrary to their own beliefs because to do so may put them into their superior’s ‘bad graces’ or, worse, subject them to charges ranging from ‘disrespect’ to mutiny. And, while the American public has the choice of whether to vote for someone who’s concept of the future embraces fomenting an Armageddon they feel they must bring about to usher in their messiah’s next ‘coming’, or not, such fanatical personalities in the military have access to the most destructive weapons in the history of mankind and the worldview (aka: ‘faith’) that makes it possible for them to bring it about. Hence Mikey & the MRFF’s battle to insure that the military adheres strictly to the provisions of the Constitution and not the ‘Great Commission‘. Those who feel they cannot must leave for civilian life. Those who, in civilian life, advocate against American values (as set forth in the Constitution; not a so-called ‘divinely inspired sacred text’) must be called out as the theocratic crypto-fascists they are to insure the public is not misled into voting for the next inquisition by subversives masquerading as Americans and into a Christian version of the so-called ‘Islamic’ State.

  5. Shawn August 26, 2015 at 5:41 am

    As an Army veteran, Soldier of God and a father of a son with Tourette Syndrome, I am very offended at your use of a disorder. It is not a disease and it is not contagious. It is not some cussing disease. It is real and debilitating, painful and harmful to the body. Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. It is not, simply put a cussing disease.
    Learn about it and learn about the reality of how using the term “GI Tourette Syndrome” is hurtful, misleading and lies. You sir need to understand that making fun of a disorder is short sighted and leaves you with a lack of intelligence.
    Read http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tourette/detail_tourette.htm and learn something today, unlike any other day of your life. Respect and refrain from hurting people with your words in this article.

  6. Yeshua Warrior August 31, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    You preach it Shawn!! If there is anyone who has a cussing disease it is MIkey Weinstein, blurting out expletitives left and right! I also keep emphazing that Mikey is not an atheist, he is an agnostic Jews, boy what an oxy moron that is. More aptly put, he is a self hating Jew and only Jewish when it serves his cause! I read the chaplains prayer and it is interesting that those associated with MRFF love to read into things that simply not there like prosletizing , and calling Jesus a Ranger. He was praying simply according to his faith tradition. So, MIkey and all the other MRFF people just need to shut their pie holes and get over it, Christians are not going anywhere unless you want to be like the Jews and Romans of Jesus’s time and crucify all of us on a cross!!

  7. G September 8, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Gee how come, Field Marshall Montgomery and General Eisenhower, did not pray for clear weather during Operation Market Garden when the fog was causing problems back in England?

  8. G September 8, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Marshalldoc, Yeshua Warrior, and Shawn, you guys need to shut your mouth and organizations like MRFF, and the ACLU and people like Weinstein are not going to go away and they are here to stay.

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