World, Life, Americas

Expert warns of military 'religious oppression' in US

Rising evangelizing and religious bigotry in military since Trump's election is national security issue, argues expert

Selin Çalık Muhasiloviç   | 14.08.2018
Expert warns of military 'religious oppression' in US

Istanbul

By Elif Selin Calik Muhasilovic

ISTANBUL

The steep rise in fundamentalist Christian evangelizing and religious bigotry in the U.S. armed forces since President Donald Trump took office constitutes a “national security threat,” according to an expert on religious liberty in the military.

Mikey Weinstein, founding chair of U.S.-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a U.S. Air Force veteran, says that applications to his group -- which provides legal counsel to victims of religious freedom violations in the U.S. armed services -- have doubled since November 2016, the month Trump was elected.

"Donald Trump’s election has caused such a steep rise in fundamentalist Christian evangelizing and religious bigotry in the U.S. armed forces that the matter is reaching the level of a national security threat," said Weinstein.

According to Weinstein, the U.S. military has long been under the influence of Islamophobic religious fundamentalist groups – the Christian Dominionists and Christian Reconstructionists – and their conception of "Warrior Jesus,” who they believe is waging war against Islam.

Weinstein describes these groups as “radical Christian fundamentalists groups ... who penetrated the U.S. military, and believe that they are establishing a ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth.”

Weinstein says the proselytizing efforts of fundamentalist evangelists are not limited to members of the military. Such members acted as missionaries in Afghanistan, distributing bibles in Pashtun and Dari, the local languages, to the local soldiers.

Weinstein stressed that such actions violate the U.S. Centcom rules that strictly forbid “proselytizing or attempting to win converts of any religion, faith or practice," and it is unprofessional and inappropriate behavior for the U.S. military.


Help against bigotry

According to Weinstein, the foundation has provided legal counsel to over 50,000 complainants in the military, most of them Christian Protestants who object to their faith being portrayed as radical and oppressive.

Weinstein said he founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in 2005 to counter the spread of bigotry and advocate for broad religious freedom and freedom from religion within the military. 

According to the Rev. Russell L. Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches: "This Dominion theology now commands more attention and underlies many of the religious assumptions about politics that Evangelicals express. 

Meyer says that the U.S. military strictly forbids proselytizing for any religion, adding: "Such actions violate the Constitution, federal laws, and the U.S. code of military justice."

Meyer argues that the U.S. is experiencing major demographic shifts and that by 2050 there will be no majority population group.

“Generation Z” -- those born since 2000 -- “are already a pluralistic population and are the most religiously non-affiliated. The foundations of evangelicalism are eroding,” he said.

Some groups are seeking to revive “Dominion Theology”, which was propagated by Philosopher R.J. Rushdonny in the 1960s.

“The days of their political power, however, are numbered because even among their own children is a growing distaste for divisive and mean-spirited practices that put profits over people and caring for the earth.”

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