How Much Money Could The Defense Department Save If It Stopped Trying To Save Souls?

The Public Record, By Chris Rodda, August 19

When the average American thinks of military spending on religion, they probably think only of the money spent on chaplains and chapels. And, yes, the Department of Defense (DoD) does spend a hell of a lot of money on these basic religious accommodations to provide our troops with the opportunity to exercise their religion while serving our country. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the DoD’s funding of religion. Also paid for with taxpayer dollars are a plethora of events, programs, and schemes that violate not only the Constitution, but, in many cases, the regulations on federal government contractors, specifically the regulation prohibiting federal government contractors receiving over $10,000 in contracts a year from discriminating based on religion in their hiring practices.

About a year ago, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) began an investigation into just how much money the DoD spends on promoting religion to military personnel and their families. What prompted this interest in DoD spending on religion was finding out what the DoD was spending on certain individual events and programs, such as the $125 million spent on the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program and its controversial ”œSpiritual Fitness” test, a mandatory test that must be taken by all soldiers. The Army insists that this test is not religious, but the countless complaints from soldiers who have failed this ”œfitness” test tell a different story. The experience of one group of soldiers who weren’t ”œspiritual” enough for the Army can be read here. But the term ”œSpiritual Fitness is not limited to this one test. The military began using this term to describe a variety of initiatives and events towards the end of 2006, and this ”˜code phrase’ for promoting religion was heavily in use by all branches of the military by 2007.

Although it was clear from the start of MRFF’s investigation that determining the total dollar figure for the DoD’s rampant promotion of religion (which is always evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christianity) would be next to impossible, as this would require FOIA requests to every one of over 700 military installations to find out how much each is spending out of various funds at the installation level, one thing we could look at was DoD contracts, so that’s where we started. What we’ve found so far is astounding.

Even though this is still an ongoing project, and we’ll certainly be finding much more, I thought that given all the current brouhaha over what should be cut from the federal budget, people might be interested to see some of examples of how the DoD is spending countless millions of taxpayer dollars every year to Christianize the military.

As mentioned above, what MRFF is looking at does not include chaplains or chapels ”” not even the excessive spending on extravagant ”œchapels” like the $30,000,000 mega-church at Fort Hood, or the ”œSpiritual Fitness” centers being built on many military bases as part of what are called Resiliency Campuses. The examples below are all strictly from DoD contracts, with the funding coming out of the appropriations for things like ”œOperations and Maintenance” and, somehow, ”œResearch and Development.” (Summaries of all contracts referenced below are publicly available at


For more details on these and other taxpayer funded schemes to Christianize the U.S. military, see ”œAgainst All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic,” [PDF] the chapter I wrote for the 2010 book Attitudes Aren’t Free: Thinking Deeply about Diversity in the US Armed Forces, published by Air University Press, the publishing arm of the Air Force’s Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.

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  • A Spiritually Transformed Military with Ambassadors for Christ in Uniform

    Talk2Action, By Chris Rodda, August 25

    Throughout the U.S. military, with chapters on virtually every military installation worldwide, lurks an organization of over 15,500 fundamentalist Christian military officers who think their real duty is not to protect and defend the Constitution, but to raise up “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.” These officers belong to an organization called the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), and range in rank from future officers in ROTC and at the U.S. military’s service academies to generals and admirals.

    Unlike the other fundamentalist Christian para-church military ministries, which employ retired military personnel to be their “insiders,” about 80 percent of OCF members are true insiders. They are current military officers, many of them commanders with authority over large numbers of service members and even entire bases and larger commands.

    When people ask why our service members don’t just complain through military channels about religious issues, and instead come to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) for help, our answer is usually just to say that these service members are afraid to go to their military superiors. Most people, however, probably don’t understand why so many service members have this fear of going to their superiors and filing formal complaints, so I thought a little more of an explanation might be helpful, and explaining a bit about OCF is a good place to start.

    Imagine for a moment that you’re a service member whose entire unit just received an email blast from your superior officer on your official military email, with the subject line “Why We Serve.” You open that email to find a lengthy religious message that ends with the following:

    “We are blessed to be able, through our lives in the military, to demonstrate the message of salvation to those who have not heard or received it. It was by God’s grace through faith that we were brought fully into His family and presence. Our love for Him motivates us to serve Him in our military, to serve and work for our families, and to serve and work to enable the message of salvation to reach those who have yet to accept Him as Lord and Savior. As Jesus spoke in the Gospel of John.

    “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him (John 14:21).”

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • Air Force Academy’s Orwellian “Religious Respect Conference” Indicates Clear Bias Against the Non-Religious

    Alternet, By Mikey Weinstein, November 7

    The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado is an institution of inestimable worth to the United States military. In addition to being a service academy graduate and son of a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, I’m also the father of two sons, a son-in-law, and a daughter-in-law, each of whom are proud alumni of USAFA. Even my brother-in-law is a proud alum of USAFA. As such, I know well the top-notch standards of stellar professionalism to which most faculty and staff adhere. Unfortunately, I’m also intimately aware of the nightmarish side of USAFA – one that entails ongoing ordeals of blatantly unconstitutional marginalization, humiliation, degradation and abject brutality for large segments of the military personnel on the academy’s installation. The stomach-turning knowledge of this grim reality is backed up by the testimony of literally hundreds of cadets and staff at USAFA spanning a period of at least a dozen years now. My own family’s torment at the hands of the sickening fundamentalist Christian presence at the academy was pivotal in compelling me to establish the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF: Thus, it was with great skepticism and no small amount of disgust that we greeted the latest “Religious Respect Conference” at USAFA. Clearly this event was to be a proverbial “dog-and-pony show” foolishly meant to assuage those of us who have been blowing the whistle on the ongoing religious civil rights abuses at USAFA for many years now. Sadly, our expectations of the dubious nature of the “Conference” were fully realized even before it began. One would need to hire a seasoned private investigator to decipher the Byzantine complexity and bureaucratic camouflage of the USAFA e-mails and related “public” announcements of this stealth “Religious Respect Conference.” George Orwell’s dystopian society of Oceania, and its lexicon of duplicitous “doublespeak,” could not possibly be more accurately portrayed than in the reprehensible manner in which USAFA designed, announced, and conducted this specious spectacle.

  • “It’s Great to be a Government-Paid Missionary”

    Talk2Action, By Rachel Tabachnick, May 10

    These are the exact words of Maj. Douglas W. Duerksen, a military chaplain, which you can hear for yourself in the embedded video below.

    Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has written an op-ed describing why he joined the advisory board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and why MRFF’s mission is important to the future of the military. MRFF is in the “forefront in calling public attention to what they believe is the military’s violation of the separation of church and state mandated by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, otherwise known as the Establishment Clause,” as stated on MRFF’s webpage. Wilkerson joins Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Interfaith Alliance in coming to MRFF’s defense. Over the last couple of weeks MRFF and its founder, Mikey Weinstein, have been under fire from several right wing blogs, publications, and organizations like the Family Research Council, falsely claiming that Weinstein is working as an advisor with the military on a plan to court martial Christians who share their faith.

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