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Anatomy of a Murder: The Pentagon, Capitol Hill and Religious Liberty

What would you do if you found out that a shocking murder plot was unfolding silently?

What would you do if you found out that a shocking murder plot was unfolding silently? What if this wasn’t just any murder, but the premeditated and carefully plotted unfolding of a terrifying scenario with nightmarish repercussions for every American citizen? What if the innocent victim was of vital importance to you, your family, and your country? Would you come to the protective defense of the victim? Or would you shrink back into the shadows marinated in trembling fear of possibly being harmed while dutifully standing up to such an injustice?

Unfortunately for all citizens of America, the murder victim in this case is the bedrock democratic guarantee of religious freedom rights, as mandated by the Constitution of the United States of America. In relation to the United States military, the deceased include numerous relevant Department of Defense (DoD) directives, regulations and instructions. Where are the lairs of those sinister perpetrators who are clearly complicit in this nefarious act of murder? Nowhere else but the United States Congress and the Pentagon.

What we’re referring to here is the planned participation and endorsement of a sectarian, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian “National Day of Prayer” event held this past May 1st on Capitol Hill in the Cannon House Office Building. The event is being sponsored not only by Congressional legislators, but also by uniformed American military personnel… and the Pentagon has shown no sign of relenting in its shameful support of this fundamentalist Christian, big tent revival circus.

Despite all of the disingenuous criticism regarding “Obama’s war on religion,” the present administration can hardly be considered pristine guardians of religious liberty, especially not with respect to the United States military. Indeed, its approach can best be described as egregiously lackadaisical and, at worst, criminally complicit. Proof positive of this “homicidal” fiduciary failure is its deplorable allowance of the American military’s prominent participation in a Congressional “National Day of Prayer Task Force” (NDP Task Force) event.

Curious readers may be wondering: What actually is this “‘National Day of Prayer’ Task Force”? Well, my friends, let me explain. The National Day of Prayer (NDP) has been an annual observance of faith since 1952 when President Truman started it. One can be more than generous and say it is a “secular holiday”, as it is celebrated by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Baha’i, pagans, Satanists… or one can call it “abhorrently unconstitutional,” as my dear colleague and Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) Senior Research Director Chris Rodda called it. Loosely construed, NDP is, arguably, supposed to be propagating a celebration of religious liberty and the freedom of Americans to pray or meditate in any manner that they see fit. Whatever NDP is, it most certainly is NOT a day to celebrate one religious tradition, to the exclusion of all other concepts spiritual or temporal.

Enter now that trojan horse of religious freedom-murdering criminals, the NDP Task Force. The NDP Task Force is the group organizing and broadcasting this garish Capitol Hill event under the following banner: “So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Getting the picture now, my friends? The NDP Task Force’s reasons for existing can be summed up as the following: (1) evangelical, fundamentalist Christian proselytizing, (2) latter day “crusader”-indoctrination (3) theocracy-building in the U.S. armed forces, (4) federally-funded “spirituality molding,” (5) anti-LGBT discrimination, and (6) seethingly sectarian triumphalism and expectionalism on a universal scale of magnitude. This narrow, parochial, and sectarian purpose is irrefutably contemptible from the standpoint of the gentle religious tolerance and respect that was meant to be the mantra of the Truman-created NDP (sans the “Task Force” suffix).

Thus, the NDP Task Force is as markedly different from Truman’s NDP as, well, gunpowder is from baby powder.

This duplicitous Task Force is headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of anti-gay zealot and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. The NDP event she has organized is despicably discriminatory, as its itinerary and organizing team is brazenly bereft, by specific design, of any role played by non-Christians. In fact, all NDP Task Force volunteers are mandatorily required to provide on their formal, official applications their “testimony” of their “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Thus, for example, the only Jews permitted to participate in the NDP Task Force’s so-called “Judeo-Christian” events are Messianic Jews, or the so-called “Jews for Jesus” who share the NDP Task Force’s singular goal of converting all “disbelievers” by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their fellow Jews, as well as other non-fundamentalist Christians.

(Incidentally, just as this Op-Ed was going to press, the Dobsons appeared on Fox News’ “The Kelly File” to impotently rant about the tireless constitutional advocacy that MRFF has undertaken, to their dismay.)

Of course, these avariciously proselytizing, private Christian religious organizations are free to do whatever they’d like, where they like, provided it transpires in a time, place, and manner which wholly honors and complies with the law of our land. Of course, none of that bothers me, nor does it bother MRFF, the national civil rights organization of which I’m Founder and President. However, let me tell you what DOES bother the hell out of all of us. We do prepare to throw down and fight when Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt officially sponsors this “Christian-only” proselytizing spectacle, and when good faith protests demanding Constitutional compliance at the Pentagon and Congress fall on absolutely deaf ears. These protestations only came, keep well in mind, AFTER 27 senior military and civilian officials at the Pentagon contacted our foundation for help to stop this utter travesty. They expressed shock, disbelief and alarm at this scandalous collaboration between the fundamentalist Christian NDP Task Force and the Pentagon.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (“Who will guard the guards?”). This quintessential and formidable question confronts us yet once again now that it’s long been clear that a cunning cabal of Congressional legislators, numerous fundamentalist Christian parachurch organizations (like the NDP Task Force) and a nontrivial number of top brass in our nation’s armed forces illicitly act on behalf of a theocratic-lusting fifth column which seeks to hijack our United States military. Needless to say, every American citizen should consider it their solemn duty to stand up and speak out against these bible-thumping bigoted bullies. They are on an unobstructed road and relentless campaign to erode, undermine, and raze to the ground our foundational Constitutional protections in the name of their twisted, supremacist, dominionist conception of so-called “religious liberty.”

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me and MRFF stop this murder of our priceless civil rights.

Don’t let our Pentagon and Congress assassinate our precious religious liberties by allowing this specious, sectarian pageant of fascistic, fundamentalist Christian hegemony, primacy and sovereignty to fatally stain our precious Constitutional freedoms.

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