MRFF Investigates OCF Neighborhood Bible Study Program at Fort Leavenworth
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 06:14:29 PM EST
As some of you may already know, in addition to my ongoing battle against Christian nationalist historical revisionism, I've also been working as a researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). A few weeks ago, after being alerted to the presence of anti-Semitic content in a Bible study guide on the Fort Leavenworth website, Mikey Weinstein, MRFF founder and author of With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military, launched an investigation into the base's Neighborhood Bible Study program, a program instituted by the Officers' Christian Fellowship. This investigation quickly revealed that the anti-Semitic tone and content of the study guides wasn't the only problem. The guides, as well as the instructions on the Chaplaincy pages of the Fort Leavenworth website itself, all but instructed the Neighborhood Bible Study leaders and members to violate the guidelines established by Fort Leavenworth and engage in an unconstitutional level of evangelizing among their fellow military personnel.
What follows is MRFF's initial overview of the religious activity at Fort Leavenworth, including examples from the content of both the Chaplaincy section of the base website and the OCF Neighborhood Bible Study guides. All pages referred to in this summary were found on the Combined Arms Center (CAC) and Fort Leavenworth website, in the "Special Staff > Command Chaplain" section. Although written in the present tense, these pages were removed by Fort Leavenworth last week after the appearance of Jason Leopold's article on truthout.org. For more on the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, also watch the video of Jason Leopold's interview with Mikey Weinstein.

MRFF Summary of the Chaplaincy Website and OCF Neighborhood Bible Studies at Fort Leavenworth 

The "Command Chaplain" section of the website consists of 30+ individual pages, plus numerous downloads for Bible studies.

With the exception a few pages devoted to the St. Ignatius Catholic Community, no other religion besides Evangelical Protestantism is given more than a single page containing the most basic information, (consisting of no more than a listing of facilities and/or a schedule, address, and phone number), accessed from a link on a "Worship Opportunities" page.

All actual theological content on the web pages themselves, as well as in the form of downloads, is Evangelical Protestant, with the exception of a single Catholic "Adoration" page. A "Links" page is provided for additional Catholic materials, but the links are to outside websites. The vast amount of Evangelical Protestant theological material, on the other hand, is part of the Fort Leavenworth website itself.

The entire content of the Jewish "Worship Opportunities" page consists of the following:

Jewish Program
500 Pope Avenue Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2332 Telephone: (913) 684-8983
Jewish Altar-Main Post Chapel Religious Services: 1st & 3rd Fridays at 1830
Cultural Activities: Special programs are conducted throughout the year.
Religious Education: Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation and Bris is available.
Contact the chapel at (913) 684-8983 for more information.

The entire content of the Muslim "Worship Opportunities" page consists of the following:

Muslim Prayer Room
1 Reynolds Drive Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-1352
Telephone: (913) 684-2210
Located in Bell Hall, Room 61.
(A key to the room is located in the International Officers' Support Office, Room 156).

There is a complete lack of any information about support services or activities that are not Evangelical Protestant. For example, the only family assistance and crisis services listed are from the "Family Life Center," described as follows:

"Family Life Ministry is an outreach of the Installation religious program providing marriage and family enrichment activities. These include a marriage enrichment retreat and a marriage and family Sunday School Class through the Protestant Adult Sunday School. Also included are parenting classes for the community, support groups, and individual, marital, and family counseling."

This page then goes on to suggest which Bible verses to read for specific personal and family problems.

Other pages and downloads all but instruct OCF Neighborhood Bible Study members to break rules.

The following, from the instruction page for "Becoming a Bible Study Leader at Fort Leavenworth," encourages Bible Study Leaders to violate Fort Leavenworth's guidelines, asking only that these guidelines be followed "as close as practical."

What do we ask of our Bible Study leaders?

We ask you to commit to serve under the influence of the Holy Spirit. That must include time for personal prayer and devotion to the scripture. We ask that you follow as close as practical the guidelines established at Ft. Leavenworth. I ask that each leader regularly attend our Discipleship training sessions as well. If you maintain a reasonable balance in your lifestyle, none of these should be too difficult.

The Bible Study guides themselves clearly show that the goals of these study groups, often posed in the form of questions, as in the following example, would require an unconstitutional level of evangelizing of fellow military personnel by the group members.

From the Bible Study Guide on Nehemiah:

Do you know how long it would take to win the world to Christ if every Christian won one person to Christ per year? 33 years.

Do you think it is possible for you to win one person to Christ this year?

How would you proceed to accomplish that? 1. By making a commitment to do that, 2. By learning how to present the gospel in such a way as to challenge someone to accept Christ as Lord, 3. By bathing my goal in prayer, 4. By praying for some specific person to accept Christ, 5. By inviting and encouraging a specific person to come to this Bible study and continuing to pray for their salvation and/or spiritual growth.

What effect could our group have on the population at Fort Leavenworth if we deliberately embarked on such an effort and prayed for each other daily?

In addition to anti-Semitic content found in the study guide on "Galatians," another study guide, on "Gradual Revelation," actually seems to imply that it is not as bad for a superior to abuse their authority over non-Christian subordinates as it is to abuse their authority over fellow Christians of other denominations, by asking if there is "likely to be special judgment on Christian leaders who do such things to Christians under their authority?"

The following is found in the Nehemiah study guide. Obviously, referring to any situation, even in the context of a Bible story about a king who had a problem with the Jews, as the "Jewish problem," especially in quotation marks as they do in this study guide, is completely inappropriate and offensive.

Do you see any similarity in the problems and attitudes that confronted early Zionism, 24 centuries ago, and the conflict that exists today between the Jews who have returned to their ancient homeland to re-establish Israel and the long-time Arab inhabitants of that same land?

How do you interpret Sanballat's reaction to the Jews progress (vv1& 2)? Angry suspicion and bitter mockery. Genuine anxiety and fear. As governor of Samaria, he apparently was at a meeting of Samaritan leaders, including military leaders, discussing the "Jewish problem."

In light of what we know about the Jews performance today, were his fears reasonable?

These Bible Study guides were written by Maj. George Kuykendall, a former chaplain at Fort Leavenworth, who died in 1998. The other chaplain who worked closely with Kuykendall to establish the current Fort Leavenworth programs, however, Col. Jim Ammerman, although long retired from active duty, still wields a significant influence over the placing of military chaplains, as Director of Chaplaincy, Full Gospel Churches, Inc., a Dallas, TX based endorsing agency recognized by the Pentagon for the Armed Forces Chaplaincy.




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fantastic that this was found out, though it's horrible that it's occuring. the infiltration of the religious right into the US military continues to be an alarming and under-reported reality

by IseFire on Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 01:44:00 PM EST

I have been in the air force now for nearly 11 years and haven't come up against any serious attempt at evangelizing towards me from people in positions of authority.  I only had one problem early on in my career with a group of fellow airmen who tended to badger me about my non-belief and my faith in science.  I use the term faith for lack of a better word.  After a while I think they tired of the game, mainly because I didn't back down.  Perhaps I've just been fortunate so far in not having had any senior NCOs or officers above me who would abuse their positions in order to foist their religious beliefs on subordinates.

Still, I have noticed an increase lately in the number of announcements during staff meetings about various church related activities such as bible studies, christian singles nights, retreats and other things.  Now, it may just be due to having a new chaplain being more pro-active than our last one.  If so, good on him.  In all fairness, the last base chaplain seemed to be pretty detached from the daily goings on here and it showed in his subordinate chaplains.  

Still, I will definitely be keeping an eye out to see if things start to rise to the level of coercion.  I don't think there is much to worry about as this base is not in the so called "bible belt."  

by Ross Raymond on Fri Jun 22, 2007 at 05:42:55 PM EST



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