May 25 2009
Yes, Bibles were burned, but not as portrayed
Average Number of Times Received Daily at MOAA: 5
Important Update – May 25, 2009
As reported by PolitiFact, the video and destruction of the Bibles took place over a year ago, making this story/email a clear distortion of fact. I’m changing it to mostly Bilge. This happened under the Bush administration, so any mention of Obama ordering it is pure inaccuracy. Here’s the relevant passage from PolitiFact:
The Pentagon under the Obama administration did “just acknowledge” that the Bibles were confiscated. But it’s important to note that the prayer meeting video was shot a year ago, and so the Bibles were confiscated and destroyed under the Bush administration. The clear implication of this advertisement is that soldiers aren’t allowed to have their own Bibles, but that’s just not true. The incident in question involved one soldier, not soldiers.
A true event takes on a life of its own on the web, when the Pentagon orders the destruction of a number of Bibles that were printed in languages native to Afghanistan and sent to a soldier by his church. The destruction order came just days after a damaging video was released by Al Jazeera showing a Chaplain urging soldiers to ‘hunt people for Jesus’ (a metaphor of course for souls). Some groups took the opportunity to lay the blame on President Obama and ‘Anti-Christian’ forces.
The Most Common Email
BREAKING NEWS: Pentagon Burns Soldiers Bibles – Military Chaplains Attacked
The Pentagon under the Obama Administration has just acknowledged seizing and burning the privately owned Bibles of American soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The Bibles had been printed in the local Pashto and Dari languages, and sent by private donors to American Christian soldiers and chaplains, for distribution to American troops on overseas military bases during optionally-attended Christian worship services. Had the Bibles not been seized and destroyed, they could have legally been given as gifts during off-duty time to Afghani citizens who welcome our troops in their homes, as an expression of American gratitude for Afghani hospitality, promoting the democratic ideals of freedom of religion and freedom of the press.
But the Muslim controlled Al Jazeera television network obtained video footage of the Bibles, held by American soldiers while listening to a chaplain on the Bagram Air Base (inside the base chapel) whose sermon encouraged outreach and personal evangelism. The American values of freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of Christian speech offended some extremist Muslim groups, and angered a small group of American atheists, who demanded the chaplain be punished for “proselytizing” because he simply repeated Jesus’ words to “Go and make disciples of all nations” in church.
IT’S NOT PROSELYTIZING, IT’S EVANGELISM:
The video proves the chaplain properly explained U.S. Central Command’s General Order Number One, which prohibits “proselytizing” (forcing religious conversions using military weapons) but fully permits soldiers of any religion to engage in non-threatening “evangelism” (voluntary conversations about their faith) and legally allows giving private gifts, including books, to Afghani citizens during off-duty hours in their unofficial capacity. The Al Jazeera film-maker Brian Hughes also admitted the Bibles could have been useful in helping soldiers learn the Pashto and Dari languages of the Afghan people.
Instead, the privately owned Bibles were confiscated and destroyed. Caving in to pressure from the Muslims and Atheist groups, the U.S. military spokesman Maj. Jennifer Willis told Reuters reporters, “I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera’s clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed.” When questioned about the authenticity of the Al Jazeera video, U.S. Army Colonel Greg Julian admitted the Al Jazeera reporting was biased against the American Christians: “Most of this is taken out of context … this is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism.”
Aggressive anti-Christian secularist Mikey Weinstein immediately demanded the chaplain in the video be court-martialed for encouraging voluntary evangelism in church, despite the Pentagon’s claim that same chaplain somehow assisted in confiscating the Bibles. …[T]he enemies of religious liberty won’t be satisfied until every Christian is silenced, and every chaplain booted from the military like I was, for the “crime” of worshiping in public.
Editors Note: I’ve removed some parts of the email that has been passed around due to calls to action and fund raising language (shown below) and for brevity and clarity.
The video from Al Jazeera (click here to watch on Youtube) was the spark that made this fire catch on, and the Reuters article was the first listing of what the military did in response to the Bible donations. Another contributing factor to the spread of the story was revelations regarding former SecDef Rumsfeld’s use of biblical quotations on daily briefings to the President, which is detailed here.
Evaluation & Comment
The reaction online has been surprisingly muted. While some groups are trying to twist the facts, like the email that seems the most prominent, most are taking this for what it is – an orders and regulations issue. The first line of the email above – “The Pentagon under the Obama Administration has just acknowledged seizing and burning the privately owned Bibles of American soldiers serving in Afghanistan.” is a gross misstatement as it makes it appear that the military is rounding up soldier’s personal Bibles and setting them in a heap to burn. This incident concerned just one soldier who received foreign language Bibles from his own church.
MOAA’s Directer of or Public Relations, Colonel Marv Harris, USAF (Ret), contacted the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and reported back the following:
OASD/PA says that an individual’s church sent Bibles translated into local languages to him for distribution. He went to his Chaplain asking what to do. The Chaplain, rightly so, counseled him about the rules against trying to convert people to another religion. Trying to convert Muslims to another faith is a crime in Afghanistan. Rather than ship the Bibles back to the donating Church and risking that they might get into civilian hands in that area, leadership elected to put them into a dumpster. Dumpster contents are burned in Afghanistan. The individual involved is not being punished. He did not ask for the Bibles and followed the chain of command in telling about them.
It is clear that the bibles in question were donated by an American church for the purpose of distribution by service men and women as ‘gifts’ to Afghans in their off duty time. What is also clear is that this is an attempt to circumvent DoD regulations on attempting to convert Muslims in Afghanistan, which is against Afghanistan laws. Another part of the email contained the following:
DONATIONS supporting public religious education CAN ALSO BE MAILED TO: [redacted]…Part of your donation will go toward shipping Pashto Bibles to Afghanistan.
It is usually a good idea to be weary of emails with explosive tones that then ask you to give money to an individual or a group, especially when that money is going to go towards shipping more Bibles to Afghanistan, which will only result in a repeat destruction. Additionally, the attempt to damage the reputations of military Atheists and of the President by using this incident as a catalyst – “…the enemies of religious liberty won’t be satisfied until every Christian is silenced, and every chaplain booted from the military…” – exposes the plain bias of the email.
All other issues aside, it is never a good idea to destroy books, especially holy ones. As many have pointed out, what if this story involved the burning of copies of the Koran? The outrage would be endless. Of course, the differences in probable reactions speaks volumes about how difficult this war is, not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq, Pakistan and all across the Muslim world.
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