Removal of Petraeus Endorsement from "Spiritual Handbook" Not Enough
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Aug 21, 2008 at 03:47:01 PM EST
As a result of the exposure by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) of endorsements by Gen. Petraeus and Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling on the cover of Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel -- a book promoting Christianity and denigrating non-theists -- it appears that these endorsements are going to be removed from the book, and that the book's author, Army chaplain Lt. Col. William McCoy, is going to take the fall for the constitutionally impermissible conduct of the two generals. Here's what's happened in the few days since my initial post about Petraeus's endorsement of this book appeared.

UPDATE: Petraeus's endorsement of this book earned him the distinction of runner-up "Worst Person in the World" for August 21 on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Watch video.

On August 19, Chaplain McCoy posted the following on his blog, calling it a "Correction."

"The endorsements which appear on this book are solely reflective of the author's writing and not an endorsement of the content of the work. The content is solely the author's responsibility. I apologize for any misunderstanding this might have created. A corrected back cover is in the process of being designed."

And, after Bryant Jordan of contacted Gen. Petraeus's office with questions about his endorsement, Chaplain McCoy responded with the following "Statement on Endorsement," sent to both and myself:

"I am the author of 'Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel.' During its second printing, I requested recommendations from respected military leaders for whom I worked. I received comments from General Petraeus and General Hertling. In the process of securing their comments for recommending the book I believe there was a basic misunderstanding on my part that the comments were publishable. This was my mistake. Their comments were intended for me personally rather than for the general public.

"Under Orders is a 'handbook' to assist service members not a field manual, and it is not doctrine for Chaplains in the U.S. Military. In my book, I expressed my personal opinions and it made it clear that they were my opinions. My writing never disparages any religion or spiritual preference but seeks to encourage service members to find faith -- of any sort. I have served Soldiers of all faiths and religious dispositions for nearly 20 years and believe that military chaplains support soldiers through the principle of the 'Free Exercise of Religion.' This book is a personal work and neither General Petraeus' nor Major General Hertling's comments should be misunderstood as an endorsement of my work but rather as an enthusiasm for helping Soldiers with their lives."

Chaplain (LTC) Bill McCoy
21st Theater Sustainment Command
Deputy Command Chaplain

Nice try, Chaplain, but MRFF has no intention on letting Gen. Petraeus or Maj. Gen. Hertling off the hook that easily. MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein isn't buying the preposterously far-fetched notion that Petraeus and Hertling were somehow oblivious to the fact that their endorsements were being used to publicize and sell your book, and has issued the following response to your statement:

"Making matters inestimably worse now, and only after first being publically caught red-handed by MRFF, Petraeus literally strains credulity by claiming that he 'never knew' that his 'private' written endorsement of this evangelizing book was being seen in the public domain? Note well that there's no denying he said it; oops, just that he had no idea the public would ever find out? He actually expects us to just blindly accept that such absurd, blissful ignorance is possible when that book was written by a well known, subordinate Army officer/chaplain and heavily and regularly advertised -- for many, many months -- in the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Times? Next, Petraeus will be telling us that he just found massive WMDs all over Iraq. Let's let the judge decide. MRFF is now officially putting both Army chaplain Lt. Col. William McCoy, Maj. Gen. Hertling and Gen. Petraeus on direct notice not to destroy any of the written or electronic records of their communications about this endorsement as we fully intend to comprehensively introduce this entire sordid affair into our ongoing Federal litigation against the DoD (in Kansas City, Kansas), where MRFF is irrefutably establishing the DoD's pervasive and pernicious 'pattern and practice' of massive Constitutional religious liberties violations. Actions have consequences; completely irrespective of whether Petraeus or Hertling made dubious 'private' or intentionally public written comments. Petraeus's immediate dismissal and trial by General Courts-Martial under Article 134 is not merely warranted but demanded! Lt. Col. McCoy and Maj. Gen. Hertling deserve absolutely the same swift punishment."

The extreme punishment of Petraeus called for by Weinstein is about more than just a book endorsement. As Commanding General, Multi-National Force - Iraq, Gen. Petraeus must be held responsible for the epidemic of constitutional and military regulation violations occurring on his watch -- from the violations of military chapel regulations at the military chapels in Iraq that sport permanently affixed crosses and Christian stained glass windows to the grave security threat posed by our military personnel evangelizing Iraqi citizens in violation of General Order 1A. Endorsements of Christianity from the highest ranks of our military, whether in the form of religious speech at command functions or through a book endorsement, send an implicit message to the evangelical enthusiasts among our troops that the military will turn a blind eye to these violations.

Chaplain McCoy is also breaking that pesky no lying commandment when he claims in his statement that he received the endorsements -- umm, "comments" -- from both Petraeus and Hertling during the book's second printing. The endorsement of then Brig. Gen. Hertling appeared on the cover of original 2005 edition of the book, along with those of Chaplain (Col.) Kenneth Leinwand and an Army specialist. Petraeus's was the only new endorsement to be added during the printing referred to by McCoy. The claim that McCoy made a mistake and that these "comments were intended for [him] personally rather than for the general public" is also a bit hard to believe. Are we really to be persuaded that Maj. Gen. Hertling began a personal comment to McCoy about his work with the words "Chaplain Bill McCoy's work is inspirational...?" Wouldn't he have referred to it as "your" work if this had been the case?

Patraeus spokesman Col. Steven Boylan eventually responded to, sticking to Chaplain McCoy's claim that Petraeus didn't know that his endorsement was on the book or being used to advertise the book. Col. Boylan's flimsy excuse for Gen. Petraeus not being aware of the book's regular advertisements in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Times was, "We don't get the stateside papers in Baghdad." Col. Boylan's going to have to come up with something better than that because MRFF has confirmed that these "stateside" military newspapers are distributed to U.S. military installations worldwide -- including all U.S. military bases in Iraq.

In addition to the "correction" on his blog and his statement, Chaplain McCoy quickly made changes to his Under Orders website, removing from it the endorsements of Petraeus, Hertling, and Col. Leinwand, as well as the official U.S. Army logo, which had appeared on the site as a link to the page about a career in the Army Chaplain Corps -- a page that starts with an exclusively Christian video consisting of a series of images of Christian chaplains, crucifixes, and soldiers with Bibles, ending with an image of a group of chaplains running with a Christian flag. Of course, even though the link to this official U.S. Army website has been removed from Chaplain McCoy's website, this crap is still on the official U.S. Army website he was linking to.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that this video will be scrubbed from the site once this post appears, but, have no fear, clicking on the image below will take you to a copy of the video that we saved and put on the MRFF website.


It should be noted here that the chaplains running with this flag were in violation of Army Regulation 840-10, Chapter 7, Section 5 when they did so. The flag is the Army chaplains flag, a smaller "field" version of the Army chapel flag, a full size flag authorized only for display inside Army chapels. There are only two authorized uses for the Army chaplains flag -- "to designate the time and place of religious service and in the field to indicate the chaplain's quarters or office." But, although running with this flag is a clear violation of AR 840-10, this photo appears on the website not only in the video, but also as a still image at the top of the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course page.

As for Chaplain McCoy's claim in his statement that Under Orders encourages service members to find faith "of any sort," MRFF isn't buying that either, and neither would anyone else who'd read the book. As I wrote in my previous post, this book is an unabashed promotion of Christianity. The last sentence of the book's introduction is: "Ultimately, I hope we will bring the good news to our world, not my good news, but the good news of the Gospel!" And, while throwing in the occasional assurance that he's not telling his readers what to believe, these assurances are sandwiched between Bible quotes and and a far greater number of statements about the "truth" of the Bible and superiority of Christianity. Clearly, despite Chaplain McCoy's incessant claims that he is merely encouraging soldiers to find faith "of any sort," he is very transparently pushing faith of a particular sort -- his. But, worse than this are the book's insinuations that non-theists are somehow deficient human beings, and that a soldier's lack of spirituality or religion can negatively affect their ability to be an effective team member and can cause the failure of their unit.

Also removed from the Under Orders website was the following audio file of Chaplain McCoy reading an excerpt from the introduction of his book, explaining where the "under orders" idea came from.

Also removed from the Under Orders website was an audio file of Chaplain McCoy reading an excerpt from the introduction of his book, explaining where the "under orders" idea came from.

There was no need for Chaplain McCoy to remove this audio file from his website. It had nothing to do with the book's endorsements. It was just a two paragraph excerpt from the book. It wouldn't have been the four mentions of Jesus' name in these two paragraphs -- in this book about finding faith "of any sort" -- that led McCoy to remove this file, now would it?

UPDATE: Chaplain McCoy's Under Orders website -- which was at -- has now been completely removed.

...every avenue I tried to use to get the military career I had dreamed of since junior high was blocked. I finally gave up about 3 years ago when an Army Chaplain recruiter told me (yet again) that my eyesight isn't within waivable limits. But perhaps that has been God's way of protecting me as a liberal thinking and believing UCC minister from the blatant expectations for proselytizing for Christ among hurting soldiers that some chaplains hold.

I am saddened to know that the wonderful, life-saving work done by so many attentive, pastoral chaplains throughout the military, often as the only form of mental health care our troops receive, has been tarnished by these chaplains who take an oath to show God all-loving to every soldier as an excuse to force Christ all-victorious down their throats.

by RevRuthUCC on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 06:19:32 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (367 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (190 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (109 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (98 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (113 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (144 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (125 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (113 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (236 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (62 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (159 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (56 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (62 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (216 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (252 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (107 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (190 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (154 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (159 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (164 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (153 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (126 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (262 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (144 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (85 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (208 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.