On Spiritual Rape and the Air Force
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Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 11:15:12 AM EST
Roger Williams fled the persecutions of Anglican Archbishop William Laud and landed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. Shortly after his arrival he was banished from the colony for telling the authorities that they "cannot without a spiritual rape force the consciences of all to one worship."

More Talk To Action stories on Christian supremacy and religious discrimination in the USAF
Williams made his way to Rhode Island where he founded the first Baptist church in America and obtained the first charter in the history of the world that secured "a free, full and absolute liberty of conscience" for all the citizens of his colony.

John Locke read Williams writings and found inspiration to write A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689).  Williams insisted that there should be "a hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world."  Locke contended that

"Whencesoever their authority (the clergy's) be sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of the church, nor can it in any manner be extended to civil affairs, because the church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth.  The boundaries on both sides are fixed and immoveable."  

Locke's letter exerted considerable influence on the thought of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others who founded a new nation on the American continent.  

Traces of the language on liberty of conscience from Williams' charter for Rhode Island can be found in Jefferson's Act for Establishing Religious Liberty (1779) and Jefferson's insistence that the First Amendment erected a "wall of separation between church and state" (1802) is an echo of Williams'"hedge or wall of separation" metaphor.  In 1819 Madison commented on the First Amendment saying that

"The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of Church from the State."

It should be fairly clear to anyone genuinely interested in discovering the intentions of those who founded our Constitutional Republic that they meant to prohibit anyone, lay or clergy, from using government authority to bully people into faith and worship.  

I doubt that Thomas Jefferson or James Madison would have any trouble deciding whether Air Force Brig. General Johnny Weida and others at the Air Force Academy have violated the Constitution and abused the powers of their offices by attempting to exert undue influence over the consciences of cadets under their authority.  Roger Williams would surely accuse them of attempted "spiritual rape."

In August 2005 it looked like the Air Force might put an end to the spiritual abuse at the Academy.  Lt. Gen. Robert A. Brady issued four pages of guidelines that appeared to be a step back toward the principle of separation of church and state.  At that time, Rob Boston wrote an official blog for Americans United that said,

Americans United says the guidelines are not perfect. A section on the uses of "non-sectarian" prayer is vague, and the document spells out no sanctions for those who violate it. Still, AU welcomed the guidelines as an important step toward increasing religious tolerance in the military.

On February 9, 2006 the Air Force issued a single page revised guideline that is clearly a step away from separation of church and state.  Obviously, the Religious Right's lawyers for the defense of spiritual rape and conscience abuse have been at work.  As the latest Americans United Press Release notes:

In the first set of guidelines, the Air Force stressed that, "Chaplains are commissioned to provide ministry to those of their own faiths, to facilitate ministry to those of other faiths, and to provide care for all service members, including those who claim no religious faith."

The revised guidelines dated Feb. 6 contain no such language. Instead they declare that the Air Force "will respect the rights of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their religious faiths and they will not be required to participate in religious activities, including public prayer, inconsistent with their faiths."

Lynn noted, "It is shocking that there is no similar provision for regular Air Force personnel who do not wish to participate in prayer or other religious activities."

If the Air Force's new interpretation of the First Amendment prevails, by 2031 America may once again be governed by the same system of theocratic law that banished Roger Williams from Massachusetts Bay Colony.

This blog is cross-posted from the Mainstream Baptist weblog.

would certainly be shocked that the citizens are being required to finance gangs of spiritual rapists.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 11:30:34 AM EST

That's a very descriptive term. I can't say I've heard it before. I like it even better than the term "Christian Supremacy" ( though it does somewhat different work ) .

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 03:13:43 PM EST

Williams also likened forcing religion on someone to "molestation."  The Charter of Rhode Island says no one "shall bee any wise molested" on account of religion.  

Jefferson picks up the term and uses it in his Act for Establishing Religious Liberty saying no one should be "enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods,nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief;"

I came up with the phrase about "conscience abuse" on my own.

by Mainstream Baptist on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 10:15:28 PM EST

in the context of government or other instutions in which religious coercion takes place. Particularly given the historical and constitutional significance of the terms.

Phrases like religious or Christian supremacism are characterists or values, not acts. They are also terms with contemporary meaning, and have no historical resonance.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 11:52:36 PM EST

Lynn noted, "It is shocking that there is no similar provision for regular Air Force personnel who do not wish to participate in prayer or other religious activities."

When I was in the USAF in Basic training, there was no provision for flight members who did not wish to attend church. They could either march to a church service (Catholic or Protestant) or have a "GI Party" in the barracks, or police litter on the parade grounds. After freezing my hiney off picking up gum wrappers and cigarette butts in the San Antonion November, I chose to endure (more like snooze through) the Catholic mass.

It is interesting how the culture has changed- our chaplain at Sunnyvale held regular midnight breakfasts, but it wasn't mandantory to go- but they sure had good food, and no religious program. The midnight breakfasts were for fellowship and appreciation as military members, not for promotion of religion. The Chaplain was taking care of his USAF family, not his religious family, and we appreciated that- and him.

Chaplains like Chaplain Rowell are becoming rare in today's secterian military atmosphere. The increase in aggressively evangelical sects has made religious practice a prickly thing. Pagan members do not have chaplains, and if the more aggressive evangelicals are now permitted to prosetylize and 'molest' the unchurched, they will be much more overt about it. This was apparent in the final years of my enlistment, when it was clear that my own religion, although legally recognized, was considered not compatible with continued military service. I was honorably discharged after 13 years of flawless service.

The USAF should be ashamed for caving in to the demands of the aggressive Christian element. This will corrode the esprit de corps of the USAF, and further promote the false legitimacy of a Christian majority. It could also be instrumental in a religious coup of our government, which is growing increasingly possible. This is a terrifying thing to think about it, but it is a real threat.

by Lorie Johnson on Sun Feb 12, 2006 at 03:03:32 PM EST

A 2/10/06 communication from the Family Research Council talks about the revised guidelines - and, of course, how happy they and their partners are about the change, especially Ted Haggard...

A notable quote by Tony Perkins:

Dr. Haggard sees the new Air Force policy as fully respectful of minority rights while not infringing on the rights of majorities.

Umm... the majority and minority have different rights in this country??  And here I thought we were all Americans and all had the same rights and responsibilities...


by EmilyWynn8 on Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 06:08:20 PM EST

I actually like this term for what goes on in dominionism and in particular the spiritually abusive churches at the heart of the dominionist movement.

"Spiritual Rape" is a very apt term.  Not only does it cause harm to people psychologically, spiritually, and often physically...much like rape, it can make one very much avoidant of anything remotely like what one went through, it's the use of something normally associated with caring as a weapon of hate, and leaves permanent scars.

I left the spiritually abusive Assemblies of God church I grew up in a good six years ago, and I still have the scars.  I'm not sure I'm ever going to be comfortable in any kind of church or formal religious setting ever again (not even the Unitarian Universalists--some of my own church anxiety has kept me from being involved with them).  I consider myself doing well for finally (after six years out of that mess) not twitching when someone mentions the Bible or Jesus (and actually consider a post I have done mentioning examples of scripture-twisting by dominionist groups a major step in that I didn't run screaming from the base material!)--yes, for a long time I couldn't even hear someone mention God because it reminded me too much of the hell I went through.  I still don't like to watch the news too much because some of the things like codewords used in Presidential speeches I still find intensely "triggering" of very, very bad memories.  I am ashamed to admit that when Bush was elected for a second term I had a literal panic attack (and sometimes I still do on bad days).

This is something I'm probably going to have to deal with for the rest of my life--longterm consequences of what is called "complex post traumatic stress disorder".

Two of the most common causes of complex PTSD are sexual abuse (especially in childhood) and--as it turns out--spiritual abuse.

No, "spiritual rape" is not an exaggeration at all.  I'm probably going to be always a little leery of Christian evangelicals (even non-dominionist ones) because quite frankly too much reminds me of what I went through literally having the Bible used as a tool of abuse for 26 years of my life. :(

by dogemperor on Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 08:22:07 PM EST

I think a lot of us are recovering from some kind of "spiritual abuse" at the hands of fundamentalist Christians.  

Some more so than others.

I'm praying for you.  You've got a very important story to tell -- painful as it is.

by Mainstream Baptist on Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 10:01:52 PM EST

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