Military Religious Freedom Foundation outrageously calls it ‘a proselytizing entity of Franklin Graham’
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
COLORADO SPRINGS, Col. — Air Force Cadets sworn to defend the United States Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic …” apparently are no longer afforded the freedom of religion guaranteed in that document’s First Amendment. At least that’s the case with those who recently decided to take part in Operation Christmas Child and invited their peers to do so as well.
After an announcement was made at the Air Force Academy dining hall and an e-mail sent to cadets telling them whom to contact if they wanted to participate, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Mikey Weinstein filed a complaint. And the Air Force retracted the e-mail saying it was “not sent to the proper audience” and that the Cadet Chaplain Corps would be resending it through the proper channels.
Weinstein said he would have had no problem with a secular toy drive, but called Operation Christmas Child, which expects to send more than 8 million gifts to underprivileged children in 100 countries, “a proselytizing entity of Franklin Graham,” whom he referred to as a “fundamentalist — a total enemy of the Constitution — an absolutely incredible Islamophobe.”
Jordan Sekulow, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice, told the media that the attack on OCC was “outrageous” and indicative of the cultural shift happening in the United States.
“This is a perfect example of how heartless these groups are when it comes to defending their anti-religion position,” he said. “… It’s about a real hatred of religious people and people of faith that they would go so far as to stop an assistance program like Operation Christmas Child.”
Brig. Gen. Richard Clark assured the public that the cadets can still volunteer for the toy drive so long as it is through the Cadet Chaplain Corps. He said only the Chaplain Corps can advertise faith-based programs.
However, God and Country, a news service ministry of Christian Fighter Pilot.com, says there is no military policy requiring a program that interacts with organizations which hold religious beliefs to “hand itself over to the chaplaincy.”
“Put simply, the Operation Christmas Child effort by cadets was never a chaplain’s program,” God and Country reported, further demanding. “Did the military hand aid delivery to Japan over to the Chaplains because Samaritan’s Purse — the same organization running Operation Christmas Child — was providing the blankets and bottled water?”
According to the Air Force Academy’s own Web site, cadets average some 30,000 hours of community service each year, working with hundreds of civic and non-profit organizations ranging from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to March of Dimes, the Humane Society and Colorado Springs area soup kitchens.
“The Air Force Academy’s decision to back down in the face of this ludicrous attack from Weinstein could set a new precedent that takes away cadets’ religious freedom,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The Academy seems to be saying that cadets can coordinate community service projects unless those projects have any connection to a religious organization. If that isn’t government prohibiting the free exercise of religion, I’m not sure what is.”
God and Country puts it like this: “Cadets can support a food bank run by the city council with an e-mail/announcement for volunteers, but they cannot do the same thing for a food bank run by the local Catholic Church.”
“This is beyond political correctness,” Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, told the media. “This is an anti-faith mode that we see over and over again coming from this administration and the people serving in it.”
Weinstein, who considers himself “at war with a sub-set of evangelical Christianity,” last year pressured the Army to retract its invitation to Franklin Graham to the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service.
Although OCC has apparently not issued any statement regarding Weinstein’s latest attack or his calling Graham an “Islamophobe,” the Samaritan’s Purse president had earlier clarified his beliefs regarding Islam when his comments about the “evil and wicked religion” drew fire in the wake of 9-11.
“I do not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith…. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith — including Christianity,” Graham wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary. He pointed out that his belief in the Bible leads him to “respectfully disagree with any religion that teaches people to put their faith in other gods” but said it is the teachings of Jesus that also prompts Christians to love Muslims.
“My concern is evidenced by the thousands of Muslims to whom our relief organization provides food, clothing, housing, supplies and medical care every day in many countries,” Graham wrote. “In fact, in recent years we have provided more relief to Muslim people than to any other group in the world — support valued at tens of millions of dollars in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq.”
Operation Christmas Child reports that some 60,000 churches and 60,000 community groups in the United States are taking part in efforts to fill boxes for impoverished children this year.
“Our prayer is that this attack on OCC will backfire and thousands more folks who had not necessarily planned to contribute will do so,” said Dr. Creech.
To find out more about Operation Christmas Child, log on to www.samaritanspurse.org.