April 2013 Church & State | People & Events


A new report asserts that the U.S. military remains unduly influenced by fundamentalist Christian groups.

The report, “For God and Country: Religious Fundamentalism in the U.S. Military” was authored on behalf of the Center for Inquiry by James Par­co, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel whose career includes stints as an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and time on the National Security Council of the White House during the Clinton administration.

Parco’s report lists a series of problems, among them:

• Institutional support for fundamentalist Christianity in the military has spread and entrenched since September 11, 2001, beginning in haste during the Bush administration and remaining unchallenged by the Obama administration.

• Many of the military’s civilian overseers, along with many in the military’s commissioned leadership – to include flag officers, speaking on duty and in uniform – have repeatedly couched the American military’s role, and American military operations themselves, in the language of Christian religious crusades.

• Through explicit leadership messaging, senior officers have created cultures and atmospheres of religious sectarianism in their commands and institutions, including the various service academies, even instructing subordinates to partake in actions for the express purpose of Christian proselytizing.

• Officers who raise concerns about fundamentalist Christian proselytizing, such as Air Force chaplain Captain MeLinda Morton – when not ignored completely – have faced reassignment and other punitive actions.

• Fundamentalist Christian organizations are given preferential access to numerous military installations, including the Pentagon and the various service academies, and have had their activities sanctioned and even promoted – in uniform and on duty – by religiously aligned military leadership.

• Fundamentalist Christian organizations have attempted to use the deployed U.S. military as international missionaries, providing units in Afghanistan with Bibles printed in the native Pashto and Dari languages, the distribution of which is in direct violation of standing general orders.

Parco’s report includes a series of 12 specific recommendations to fix things. Among them is a recommendation that the military adopt clear rules that bar proselytizing by officers.

“As a commander, this is the best advice to guide discussions of your own spiritual beliefs or those of your subordinates – stop assuming others think like you, and don’t ask if you suspect they don’t,” Parco writes. “What religious beliefs they may or may not hold do not matter, precisely because the Constitution and human decency says they do not.”

He also recommends reforms in the military chaplaincy.

The full report can be read here: centerforinquiry.net/parco.