Now is the time for Hagel to step to the plate and prove that friendship by eliminating all discrimination in the military.
“The armed forces are on the verge of falling apart,” Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, told me in an interview. Aside from proselytizing, he said, other problems include “sexual assault, suicides, lowering entrance standards and war weariness. They are in trouble, and the leadership is oblivious.” Sexual assault and proselytizing, according to Wilkerson, “are absolutely destructive of the bonds that keep soldiers together.”
Wilkerson was speaking to me in an interview with former ambassador Joe Wilson and the head of the private Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein. They were on their way to a meeting at the Pentagon on April 23 where they would discuss religious issues in a group that included several generals and a military chaplain.
The chaplain’s role, according to Wilson, “is to minister to spiritual needs. You don’t proselytize. It’s a workplace violation.”
Weinstein told me after the Pentagon meeting that military leaders need to understand that “there is systematic misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the military.” He said it is all part of the same culture.
“This is a national security threat. What is happening [aside from sexual assault] is spiritual rape. And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished.”
“The chain of command is compliant,” said Wilkerson. “Abuse of power is inimical to all military. Condoning of sexual assault or proselytizing is an abuse of command.” The idea of “zero tolerance,” he said, is “the most mocked phrase in the military. It camouflages a lot.”
The proselytizing they referred to is primarily from “dominionist” or fundamentalist evangelical Christians. Weinstein’s organization has 33,000 clients, and 96 percent are Christian. These clients come to him to complain about having their religious freedom undermined in some way.
The most recent outrage, he said, was reported by a West Point cadet who wrote to Weinstein to say that after the Boston bombings, an active-duty instructor said in class that he would “bet his life on the Muslims having been behind it like they always are. It’s always the Muslims and everyone knows it, and everybody is afraid to say it. Well, I am not.”
That’s just one or many complaints.
●Recently, an Army commander in Europe overturned a jury’s conviction of an officer for sexual assault, despite the fact that the decision was unanimous.
●So called “Jesus rifles,” with gun sights inscribed with Bible quotations, were used in battle by troops. The MRFF fought successfully to have the New Testament passages removed.