On the heels of the recent story about Army Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver ignorantly issuing a proclamation for a day of fasting for the Army on the first day of Passover, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) began receiving complaints about Maj. Gen. Carver’s endorsement and promotion of an organization called American Defenders of Freedom (ADOF). MRFF receives countless complaints and reports about our military’s senior officers endorsing and facilitating the missions and activities of various para-church groups and evangelical organizations that clearly violate both military regulations and the Constitution these officers took an oath to uphold, but this one is just extra special.
ADOF is an evangelical Christian ministry that evangelizes and proselytizes military personnel by using the military’s chaplain corps to distribute prayer coins by the tens of thousands sporting the official U.S. military branch emblems — three out of the four branch emblems, that is. The Navy coin had to be redesigned last year because then Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, who stepped down last month after staying on through the Obama transition, denied ADOF permission to use the Navy emblem on this evangelizing tool. According to the ADOF’s January 2008 newsletter, Secretary Winter’s respect for the constitutional and military prohibitions on this government promotion of religion was the work of Satan:
“The Navy Prayer Reminder Coin was completely re-designed (an improvement) because the Secretary of the Navy would not give permission to use the official Navy seal on the Navy Prayer Reminder Coin – Satan is always at work.”
But, ADOF is heartily endorsed and promoted by the Air Force and Army. In fact, Maj. Gen. Carver currently has an ADOF “newsletter insert” download on the Chief of Chaplains Office website’s April 2009 newsletter. According to past ADOF newsletters, the promotion of this ministry to the military chaplaincies has been a regular occurrence each spring by both the Air Force and the Army.
ADOF has depended particularly on the Army and Air Force Chiefs of Chaplains to promote its ministry and materials:
“The demand for Prayer Tracts and Prayer Reminder Coins is high and will soon even be greater as the Army and Air Force are once again planning to publish the ministry in their Newsletters. The Navy and Marine Corps provides our information to the Chaplains in less formal ways.”
This official promotion of ADOF by the Army’s Chief of Chaplains led one chaplain, quoted in an ADOF newsletter, to think that the ADOF coins were actually coming from the Army Chaplain Corps, not a private ministry:
“My assistant had told me we could get free ‘CHAPLAIN COINS,’ and I told him to order 100. I thought the supply was from the Army Chaplain Corps. Two weeks ago, I found out the real source.”
So, what is so egregiously unconstitutional about the Army and Air Force endorsing and promoting ADOF?
Well, first and foremost, ADOF’s sole mission is to evangelize non-Christians. So serious is ADOF about adhering to this evangelistic mission that chaplains must “Describe how Tracts/Coins will be used for evangelism” on the order form for them. Only if the chaplain’s proposed evangelistic purpose for requesting the coins, each of which is accompanied by a Bible tract, is evangelistic enough for ADOF, can the chaplain get the materials free of charge.
According to ADOF:
“To obtain our materials without charge the Chaplain must describe in his/her order how our materials will be used in an evangelism process to share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Chaplains will be required to pay for Prayer Coins used for other than ministry purposes, such as awards, recognitions, remembrances, etc.”
“Prayer Tracts and Prayer Reminder Coins are provided without charge to Chaplains for evangelistic Christian Ministry to troops, sailors, airmen and marines. Coins may also be purchased for special uses other than ministry…”
And, ADOF clearly has very strict guidelines as to what type of evangelistic activities are evangelistic enough to be worth providing free materials for. This is evident in the following statement from one of its newsletters, in which it was reported that the number of back orders would be greatly reduced once they weeded out the unqualified orders:
“44,000 Coins and even more Tracts are currently on back order to the Chaplains. All orders are screened and qualified to insure they are directed toward a ministry of evangelism, this will result in reducing the current back orders to about 35,000.”
To obtain coins and tracts for purposes and events where they will be distributed to those who are already “saved,” the chaplains must pay for them. But, even if a chaplain’s evangelical mission doesn’t meet ADOF’s requirements for free materials, they can still get them — courtesy of the government. All they have to do is use their Government Purchase Card (GPC).
In their April 2008 newsletter, ADOF stated that they were working on making it possible for chaplains to order with their (GPC):
“We have made major changes to accommodate the government purchase card, and are yet to experience a single command that allows Chaplains to purchase ministry materials with government funds. This constraint on Chaplains is like requiring troops to provide their own guns and ammunition or find a benevolent arms supplier.”
The current FAQ page on the ADOF website indicates that it succeeded in this effort to have chaplains use their GPC:
Q6: As a Chaplain, can I use the Government pay card (GPC) to purchase on your website
The other major issue is the violation of military regulations, U.S. postal regulations, and the laws of Iraq and Afghanistan, which prohibit the shipping of bulk quantities of religious materials contrary to Islam into Iraq and Afghanistan. Only religious materials intended for personal use of the troops are allowed. In other words, you can send a religious tract to an individual soldier, but you can’t ship that soldier a case of that religious tract to hand out. ADOF’s mission is also a clear violation of the CENTCOM’s General Order 1A, a standing order prohibiting proselytizing by military personnel.
There is no question that ADOF’s mission is to evangelize non-Christians, and that the quantities of ADOF materials being shipped into Iraq and Afghanistan for this purpose would qualify as prohibited bulk shipments.
Numerous statements like the following in ADOF’s newsletters indicate the quantity of materials being shipped:
“Our goal remains to reach 180,000 troops a year with the Gospel Message of Christ. The cost of doing this is $2.35 to get a Prayer Tract and Prayer Reminder Coin in the hands of a troop any where in the World. The cost – insignificant – the value of eternity with Christ – priceless.”
“Friday, the last of the 58,000 Prayer Coin inventory was shipped. The impact on so many lives is a blessing!! Angels are rejoicing, Satan is furious and our Eternity populated with more joyous souls.”
The military also appears to be involved in the shipping of the materials, providing “staging bases” for shipping:
“Packages have already been received – Chaplains are thanking us [ADOF] from the Pentagon, our staging bases in the States and overseas and in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.”
Countless testimonies from chaplains in the ADOF newsletters prove that the purpose of their use of ADOF materials is to evangelize ALL of the non-Christians they encounter.
“I want to personally send a thank you for your service to all our Freedom Fighters in America’s military and to thank you for your donation to American Defenders of Freedom Christian Ministry organization. With your gift I will be able to show God’s love and mercy to those who hear the Gospel and accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.”
“On behalf of every Soldier’s hand I will shake, leaving an Army Prayer Coin and Tract as a witness for our Lord Jesus Christ – I thank you for the coins and tracts, and particularly your partnership in Gospel ministry. I had been given a handful of coins by an Air Force Chaplain and immediately began giving them out to convoy commanders when we prayed. As a result of your ministry I will now be able to have a much broader witness.”
“James says the Tracts and Coins provide a way to ‘share the good news of God’s saving grace’ with every departing convoy.”
“A battalion Chaplain relates how he uses our Tracts and Coins in his training command. He describes that he gives the graduation invocations and benedictions at which time he introduces our Prayer Tracts and Jesus Christ to all the graduates. The Chaplain reminds the graduates that before they deploy they need to search and know God. He stresses to the graduates the urgency of taking care of this business with God and ends his message with a prayer referring to Isaiah 41:10, which is appropriately engraved on the Coin. We provide this Chaplain with Prayer Tracts and are currently in the process of supplying Coins to all who pray to receive Jesus as personal savior. He is one of hundreds of Chaplains using our materials to reach Troops for Christ.”
“Chaplain Gene writes from Kosovo, “I had the opportunity to give a Coin to the Serbian Colonel commanding the Serbian forces on the other side of the border.”
“…the ministry of American Defenders of Freedom touches the far reaches of the World for the cause of Christ because He has trusted the Gospel message to be spread by his faithful Chaplain servants.”
“I am very excited about the arrival of the Prayer Tracts & Prayer Coins. You have gifted us with a powerful, Gospel energized tool to further help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to men, women, families of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force here in Korea. Your awesome ministry is a spiritual uplifting to our efforts to preach, teach the love of Christ to our Military.”
Statements in the ADOF newsletters from 2007 reveal who ADOF’s founder, Bill D. Hunter, met with to become the quasi-official ministry it has become. These meetings included not only the top military chaplains, but the Chaplain of the Senate and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ).
From the April 2007 newsletter:
“The week of 23 April I will be attending the annual Air Force Chaplain’s Conference in Washington. I have also planned multiple office visits while back there. I’ll be staying in the home of Mark and Nancy Petersburg. Mark, for many years was a head of The Christian Embassy and has been a great help in starting this ministry.”
From the May 2007 newsletter:
“Two weeks ago in Washington I met with the Army, Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force Chief Chaplains, Chaplain of the Pentagon, Executive Director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate and had a meeting in Senator Kyl’s office.”
And last, but certainly not least, the ADOF newsletter published five days after the election of Barack Obama contained the following statement:
“Our government seeks to emulate Europe in many ways including independence from God. We witness these anti-God forces attempting to remove, ‘In God We Trust’ from our buildings and currency. Likewise there is pressure to prevent Chaplains from using the name of Jesus in their ministry.”
MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein recently called for the removal and punishment of Maj. Gen. Carver when MRFF’s investigation into his fast day proclamation turned up that he had also, as reported by the Associated Press, endorsed another ministry, one whose mission is to turn U.S. troops into “ambassadors of Christ” and is illegally shipping Bibles in various languages into Iraq, including Swahili Bibles to evangelize the Ugandan workers employed by the U.S. military. Upon the discovery of Carver’s endorsement and promotion of ADOF on the official Army Chief of Chaplain’s website, Weinstein repeats his call for removal and punishment.
“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation now fairly asks what will it EVER take for the U.S. Army to punish ANYone for unconstitutional religious actions of illicit proselytizing and evangelizing? Chaplain (Major General) Carver is a literal poster child of wretched, unconstitutional religious supremacy and fundamentalist Christian promotion. MRFF now demands his immediate removal and trial by General Courts Martial. The chances of Carver receiving any form of even remote admonishment for this shameless betrayal of his oath to the United States Constitution is as likely as the Somali pirates being named to head the New York Port Authority. Army Secretary Geren will more likely nominate Carver for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Travesty upon travesty upon travesty”
Chris Rodda is the senior research director for the nonprofit government watchdog organization The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and author of the book Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
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