Baseball, Jesus, and Alaska's Military Bases
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 11:51:13 PM EST
After reading about Sarah Palin's "coincidental" promotion of Alaska National Guard Adjutant General, Craig E. Campbell, from Major General to Lieutenant General as soon as he changed his tune about her involvement as commander-in-chief of his troops, I decided to take a look at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) files on Alaska's military bases to see if anything of concern is going on up there religious freedom-wise.

First on the list was the website of the U.S. Army, Alaska (USARAK) Command Chaplain's Office "Ministry Team," which serves Fort Wainwright, Fort Greely, Fort Richardson, and their tenant units, which include the Alaska National Guard, whose headquarters is located at Fort Richardson. The USARAK Command Chaplain's Office is blatantly and exclusively Christian, not even providing information for soldiers of other religions. Even the worst of the other military installations that provide no non-Christian services or programs at least provide contact numbers or listings of off-base houses of worship for non-Christians to find services of their faith.

This is the image that greets soldiers who go to the USARAK Command Chaplain's Office "Mission Statement" page:

Photobucket

In March 2007, Fort Wainwright hosted an Army "Strong Bonds" retreat, contracting an organization called Unlimited Potential, Inc. to provide "social services." Unlimited Potential, Inc. is an evangelical baseball ministry with a military ministry whose mission is: "To assist commanders and chaplains in providing religious support to military service members and their families by sharing the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ through the medium of baseball..." and "to use our God-given abilities in baseball to reach those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and to also encourage and challenge those who do.

I should back up here and explain exactly what Strong Bonds, a program currently being investigated by MRFF, actually is. Plain and simple, it's an evangelistic Christian program operating under the guise of a pre-deployment and post-deployment family wellness and marriage training program. A few years ago, Strong Bonds replaced a decade old, proven program called Building Strong and Ready Families (BSRF), which was a collaboration between the Army Nurse Corps and the chaplains. Strong Bonds cut out the Nurse Corps, creating a program run entirely by chaplains, eliminating the important physical and mental health aspects provided by public health nurses, and turning the whole thing into a program of Christian religious retreats -- paid for with your tax dollars. A lot of tax dollars.

It began with the Department of Defense (DoD) paying an advertising agency $100,000 to "sell" the Strong Bonds program to Congress. The result of the DoD's ad campaign was an unprecedented amount of funding, now being spent liberally on religious retreats, typically held at ski lodges, beach resorts, and other attractive vacation spots, luring soldiers who would never attend a religious retreat to sign up for the free vacation. MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein sums up this form of coercion with the following analogy:

"It's like a time share sales promotion. You get an all expenses paid vacation at a great resort -- the only catch is you have to sit through a sales pitch for Christianity paid for by the United States armed forces, courtesy of the American taxpayer. The Strong Bonds program is nothing less than an unconstitutional scandal and an outrage."

MRFF has already amassed quite a collection of DoD contracts for Strong Bonds retreats, which include funding for travel and accommodations, training materials, outside trainers, child care, and, of course, Christian entertainers. That one Unlimited Potential baseball ministry thing at Fort Wainwright, for example, cost taxpayers $38,269. And, this same ministry has been "Serving Christ Through Baseball" at number of other Army bases in the United States, including Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, and Fort Drum, as well as many bases overseas, presumably at a similar cost per event.

But, of even greater concern than the clear constitutional violation of the spending of tax dollars on this scheme to promote Christianity, qualified health professionals like the Army Nurse Corps are being edged out of programs dealing with issues like PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide prevention in favor of a religious approach. And, Strong Bonds isn't the only place this is happening. MRFF has uncovered that suicide prevention in the military now often includes materials such as the teachings of Rick Warren and, completely unbelievably, the teaching of creationism.




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by trog69 on Wed Sep 10, 2008 at 11:10:27 AM EST


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