Debunking The ‘War On Christianity’: The Dangers Of Out-Of-Control Spin
By Barry Lynn Americans United
Washington is full of “spin doctors,” people who get paid to put the best face on embarrassing or damaging incidents.
I’ve dealt with these people my whole career. I know that when spin doctors spin too much, they become something else: bald-faced liars.
Bald-faced liars operate under the theory that if you repeat something enough times, people will start to believe it. They continue to spread falsehoods and hope ideological media will run with it no matter how many times the information has been debunked by more objective sources.
I recently thought I’d have a chance to rebut some of these nonsensical claims as they came spewing right out of the horses’ mouths. I was scheduled to be on Sean Hannity’s radio show and to do an interview with Glenn Beck’s internet site The Blaze. Alas, the Hannity appearance and the Beck interview were both scrubbed.
Simon Brown in our Communications Department took the initial call from Hannity’s people. They said Hannity wanted to talk about a New Jersey teacher who was allegedly fired for handing a student a Bible, a track team disqualified after one of its runners publicly praised God and a supposed anti-Christian “bigot” who had been hired to advise the Pentagon on religious freedom issues.
These tales were offered up as evidence of a “war on Christianity.” Are they? Nope. It’s just more of that spin that lurches into lies.
I knew about the “fired teacher” story from an earlier interview I did with Fox News. He was a substitute social studies teacher – and a member of the Gideons, a group that often tries to distribute Bibles to kids in public schools.
Allegedly, a student asked him about the phrase “The last shall be first and the first last.” The teacher said it was from the Bible. If he had left it at that, there would have been no problem, but he then gave the student a copy of the Bible to take home. The school system decided not to have him back.
The teacher is now in court claiming religious discrimination. The school says he clearly violated a district policy that forbids school employees from distributing any religious materials. Employees are assumed to know personnel policies, and this fellow just chose not to comply.
Employees don’t make the rules for government agencies. Teachers aren’t supposed to supplant parental decisions about religious instruction by giving kids religious material.
Next up, the disqualified athlete. A relay runner on a high school track team from Columbus, Texas, made some type of gesture after crossing the finish line. As a result, his team was disqualified. Initial reports were that the student, Derrick Hayes, had raised his arm to give thanks to God – but the gesture might have been something else.
The University Interscholastic League, which sponsored the meet, investigated and reported that it found “no evidence to suggest that the disqualification took place as a result of the student-athlete expressing religious beliefs. The basis for the disqualification was due to the student-athlete behaving disrespectfully, in the opinion of the local meet referee.”
Hayes’ parents later issued a statement that read in part, “After discussing this with our son, we have come to the conclusion that his religious rights were not violated.”
Finally, my friend Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been much in the news lately because of claims that he is serving as an adviser to the Defense Department on religious discrimination. He’s not. He merely had a one-time meeting with some Pentagon officials.
The headline of an article by Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice read: Who Would Describe Christians In the Military as ‘Monsters Who Terrorize’? Jay’s answer: Mr. Weinstein.
Weinstein did use the word “monsters” in an op-ed that ran on Huffington Post. But he was hardly characterizing all Christians in the military that way. He was making the point that it’s not uncommon for Christians of one type to feel pressured by others. The vast majority of the Foundation’s clients are Christians who resent pressure from fundamentalists to convert to the “right” version of that faith.
In military law, there has been a longstanding recognition of something called “undue command influence” where a superior uses his or her rank to cause another person to respond in a particular way. This pressure can be exercised inappropriately for sexual favors, religious conversions or other activities.
It’s always a good idea for government officials at all levels to spell out for employees just what is and is not permitted when it comes to discussing religion, displaying religious materials, taking time off for religious activities, etc. The goal is to avoid things that, if inappropriately done, could send the signal that the governmental body is “blessing” one faith over another or giving a benefit to religion that secular employees will not receive.
When there are clear guidelines, it makes it easier for all of us to dismiss the spin doctors’ phony claims of “bigotry,” religious discrimination and unequal treatment so we can focus on the real ones.
Barry W. Lynn is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
A Father’s Love for Son and Country — how the ‘false prophets’ are deceiving good Christians about military religious freedom http://www.goddiscussion.com/109434/a-fathers-love-for-son-and-country-how-the-false-prophets-are-deceiving-good-christians-about-military-religious-freedom/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Accommodating Faith in the Military, PEW Forum http://www.pewforum.org/Church-State-Law/Accommodating-Faith-in-the-Military.aspx
Air Force Academy Cites Progress In Tackling Religious Intolerance, Whitney Jones http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/02/air-force-academy-cites-p_n_777937.html
Air Force Academy Leader Admits Religious Intolerance at School http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/04/national/04airforce.html
Air Force rules limit size of tattoos, role of gospel, Kari Huus http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/22/13397843-air-force-rules-limit-size-of-tattoos-role-of-gospel?lite
Air Force Statement on Religious Proselytizing and Religious Materials on Desks http://wthrockmorton.com/2013/05/air-force-statement-on-religious-proselytizing/
Anti-Jewish, Anti-Gay Comic Book Distributed By U.S. Military Chaplains?, Bruce Wilson http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/anti-jewish-anti-gay-comic-book-distributed-by-u.s.-military-chaplains
Backward Christian Soldiers: Jesus Not Only Saves, He Shoots, Nina Burleigh http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/backward-christian-soldiers-jesus-not-only-saves-he-shoots
Bloggers say Pentagon may court-martial Christian soldiers http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/may/06/blog-posting/bloggers-say-pentagon-may-court-martial-christian-/
Catholic soldier says her Muslim-sounding name made her a target for harassment in US Army http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/05/08/catholic-soldier-says-her-muslim-sounding-name-made-her-target-for-harassment/#ixzz2Spkzk52N
Christian Right Default: Blame the Jews, Frederick Clarkson http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/04/1206743/-Christian-Right-Default-Blame-the-Jews
The Crusaders : “The Christian Taliban Is Running the Department of Defense”, Robert Koehler http://www.truthout.org/article/robert-koehler-the-christian-taliban-is-running-department-defense
Deconstructing hysteria: how the ongoing misstatements of military policy began, Charles McCalpin http://www.examiner.com/article/deconstructing-hysteria-how-the-ongoing-misstatements-of-military-policy-began
Deconstructing hysteria: the witch hunt rumor cycle, Charles McAlpin http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/must-read-deconstructing-hysteria-the-witch-hunt-rumor-cycle
Deconstructing hysteria: how the ongoing misstatements of military policy began, Charles McAlpin http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/must-read-deconstructing-hysteria-how-the-ongoing-misstatements-of-military
Department of Defense Statement on Religious Proselytizing http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-warren-throckmorton/can-christians-in-the-military.html
Do Bible Verses on Military Rifle Scopes Represent Christianity?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/bible_verses_on_rifle_scopes
Evangelical Christian missionaries embedded with American combat troops in Afghanistan, Mikey Weinstein http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/evangelical_christian_missionaries_embedded_with_american_combat_troops_in_/
Federally Mandated National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/national_day_of_prayer
The First Casualty of Religious Wars Is Truth , Tom Carpenter http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-carpenter/the-first-casualty-of-religious-wars-is-truth_b_3220945.html
Fox News falsely blames Obama for Pentagon rule against religious proselytizing in the military http://www.augustagazette.com/article/20130504/BLOGS/305049984
Sean Hannity Validates Todd Starnes’ Bogus War On Christians Whine http://www.newshounds.us/20130507_sean_hannity_validates_todd_starnes_bogus_war_on_christians_whine
Hearing set on motion to stop USAFA’s Unconstitutional National Prayer Luncheon http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/hearing_set_on_motion_to_stop_usafas_unconstitutional_national_prayer_
Intolerance Found at Air Force Academy, Josh White http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/22/AR2005062200598.html
Is it treason for soldiers to share their faith? Uh, no., Kay Campbell http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/05/military_religion.html
Is the American Military Too Christian? http://www.aolnews.com/2010/02/19/religious-incidents-raise-concern-about-military-proselytizing/
Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military, Jeff Sharlet http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488
The Lies You’ll Probably Be Hearing About MRFF and the Military Bibles, Chris Rodda http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the-lies-youll-probably-be-hearing-about-mrff-and-the-military-bibles
Military Disservice: Fundamentalists On The March In America’s Armed Forces, Rob Boston https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/military-disservice-fundamentalists-on-the-march-in-americas-armed-forces
Military Mistake Mitigated: Recruit Processing Centers Told To Discontinue Gideon Evangelism https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/military-mistake-mitigated-recruit-processing-centers-told-to-discontinue
Military winks at religious intolerance, Robyn Blumner http://www.adn.com/2008/05/02/393576/military-winks-at-religious-intolerance.html
The Military’s Policy on Proselytizing Is Not New and Is Consistent with Federal Law http://wthrockmorton.com/2013/05/the-militarys-policy-on-proselytizing-is-not-new-and-is-consistent-with-federal-law/
MRFF Advisory Board Member Rev. Dr. Jonathan J. Etterbeek on the Importance of MRFF’s Fight http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/mrff-advisory-board-member-rev-dr-jonathan-j-etterbeek-on-the-importance-of-mrffs-fight/
MRFF and the Center for Inquiry Send Joint Demand Letter to the Pentagon In response to the recent incident at Fort Eustis in Virginia where soldiers were punished for not attending an Evangelical Christian concert http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/mrff_and_the_center_for_inquiry_send_joint_demand_letter_to_the_pentag
MRFF Commends Long-Overdue U.S. Military Order to Eliminate Anti-Islam Training Materials http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/mrff-commends-long-overdue-u.s.-military-order-to-eliminate-anti-islam-trai
MRFF Demands Immediate DoD Corrective Action on Anti-Semitic “Manga Messiah” Comic Books http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/mrff-demands-immediate-dod-corrective-action-on-anti-semitic-manga-messiah
Not God’s Army: The Front Lines of the Fight Against Proselytizing in the U.S. Military, Candace Chellew-Hodge http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/6364/not_god%E2%80%99s_army%3A_the_front_lines_of_the_fight_against_proselytizing_in_the_u.s._military/
Not so fast, Christian soldiers, Mikey Weinstein and Reza Aslan http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-oe-aslan22aug22,1,2971273.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=5&cset=true
Onward Christian Soldiers, Max Blumenthal http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2003/04/15/in_touch/index.html
The Pentagon Most Certainly is Listening to Mikey Weinstein, Chris Rodda http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the-pentagon-most-certainly-is-listening-to-mikey-weinstein
Questionable Quiz: Why The Military’s ‘Spiritual Fitness’ Test Flunks, Rob Boston https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/questionable-quiz-why-the-military%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98spiritual-fitness%E2%80%99-test-flunks
The Rapture Came on Groundhog Day: News of Pentagon Meeting Prompts a New Threat of Armageddon, Blake Page http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blake-page/military-christian-persecution_b_3216533.html
Religion and Its Role Are in Dispute at the Service Academies, Neela Banerjee http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/us/25academies.html?fta=y
Religious Civil Rights: Why Have the Washington Times and the Air Force Academy Savaged Them?, Mikey Weinstein http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/religious_civil_rights_why_have_the_washington_times_and_the_air_force
Religious discrimination in the military http://secular.org/issues/chaplains/position
Religious intolerance is rampant in today’s Army, Air Force and Navy, Mikey Weinstein http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/religious-intolerance-is-rampant-in-todays-army-air-force-and-navy/2012/02/08/gIQAAwAxzQ_blog.html
Soldiers in Afghanistan given Bibles, told to “hunt people for Jesus” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/04/soldiers-in-afghanistan-g_n_195674.html
Todd Starnes Gets His Persecuted Christian Story Facts Wrong - Again! http://www.newshounds.us/20130509_todd_starnes_gets_his_persecuted_christian_story_facts_wrong_again
Thou shalt not bear false witness http://www.capecodtoday.com/blogs/quigley/2013/05/08/18643-thou-shalt-not-bear-false-witness
USAF Academy Promotes Reprehensible Homophobic Website as Source for Jewish Holiday Information http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/usaf-academy-promotes-reprehensible-homophobic-website-as-source-for-jewish
Video Proves Proselytization Rampant at U.S. Military Bases, Mikey Weinstein http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/video_proves_proselytization_rampant_at_us_military_bases/
West Pointer Quits Over Proselytizing http://www.military.com/daily-news/2012/12/04/west-pointer-quits-over-proselytizing.html
Where is the U.S. Government Getting It’s Information on Islam and Muslims?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/where_is_the_u.s._government_getting_its_information_on_islam_and_musl
Wingnut Persecution Complex of the Day: The Military Is Threatening to Court Martial Christians!, Charles Johnson http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/41948_Wingnut_Persecution_Complex_of_the_Day-_The_Military_Is_Threatening_to_Court_Martial_Christians!