I have long believed that many of the important stories involving modern Paganism are ultimately interconnected. We may not always see the pattern, but sometimes everything gets distilled in such a way that all becomes clear. Yesterday, Jason Leopold of The Public Record published an article that links the controversy over the National Day of Prayer to several other stories that have been reported at this blog.
“At least half-a-dozen active-duty military officials have been working closely with a task force headed by the far-right fundamentalist Christians planning religious events at military installations around the country to commemorate Thursday’s National Day of Prayer … the declaration signed by the military officials says that they promise to ‘ensure a strong, consistent Christian message throughout the nation’ and that National Day of Prayer events scheduled to take place at their military installations ‘will be conducted solely by Christians.'”
To comment on these troubling violations of church-state separation, Leopold talks to Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Weinstein has been targeted with extremist Christian death-magic, and is currently suing the Defense Department for widespread discrimination and hostility towards atheists and minority faiths.
“…please immediately note that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation fully intends to include this despicable collusion in our current Federal litigation against the Department of Defense as yet another stunning example of a pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice of unconstitutional rape of the precious religious liberties of our honorable and noble United States soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen.”
The “Christianization” of our (theoretically) secular military has been a hot topic for several years now. A consequence of this movement is the harassment and marginalization of religious minorities in the military culture. Which incorporates yet another thread into Leopold’s story: Don Larsen’s derailed quest to become the first Pagan military chaplain.
“Rodda said she and Weinstein were ‘surprised’ to come across the name of Chaplain Kevin L. McGhee of the Missouri National Guard. According to the NDP Task Force website, Maj. McGhee is scheduled to participate in the NDP Task Force prayer rally at Missouri State Capitol. This is the same Chaplain McGhee who, last year, came to the defense of Chaplain Bob Larsen, when Larsen converted from Christianity to Wicca and applied to be the first Wiccan chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces. When Larsen’s application was denied, and he was removed from the chaplain corps, McGhee, who was Larsen’s supervisor at Camp Anaconda in Iraq, said that a “grave injustice” had been done, and that “What happened to Chaplain Larsen — to be honest, I think it’s political. A lot of people think Wiccans are un-American, because they are ignorant about what Wiccans do.” MRFF informed Chaplain McGhee during a conference call last week of the discriminatory nature of the Missouri State Capitol event and the pledge on the part of its organizers to exclude non-Christians and asked him to reconsider his participation. McGhee has not responded to an email sent yesterday from MRFF asking if he still planned to participate.”
So it all comes together. A Christian “task force” that has hijacked the National Day of Prayer celebrations across our nation and in the military (with the help of groups like the Alliance Defense Fund), an organization that is fighting for a return to secular values within the military on behalf of men and women who aren’t conservative evangelical Christians (and receiving death threats because of it), and the ongoing struggle of modern Pagans to gain equal treatment within the military. An interwoven thread of people and organizations that point to a single problem: the improper influence of Christianity on our military (and, to varying degrees, our government).
The solution to this problem will most likely require a new president committed to “cleaning house” in our military forces (no clear answer on who that might be), and an ongoing grass-roots campaign to fight for the rights of minority faiths (both in the military and out). So on this National Day of Prayer, which happens to fall on May Day, why not say a prayer or perform a working to empower those fighting for us, and bind those acting against us.