U.S. soldiers launch campaign to convert Iraqis to Christianity
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jun 2, 2008, 00:17
Some U.S. military personnel appears to have launched an
initiative to covert thousands of Iraqi citizens to Christianity by distributing
Bibles and other fundamentalist Christian literature translated into Arabic to
A recent article published on the website of Mission Network
News reported that Bible Pathway Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian
organization, has provided thousands of a special military edition of its Daily
Devotional Bible study book to members of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort
Campbell, Kentucky, currently stationed in Iraq, the project "came into
being when a chaplain in Iraq (who has since finished his tour) requested some
books from Bible Pathway Ministries (BPM).�
�The resulting product is a 6"x9" 496-page
illustrated book with embossed cover containing 366 daily devotional
commentaries, maps, charts, and additional helpful information," the Mission
Network News report says.
Chief Warrant Officer Rene Llanos of the 101st Airborne told
Mission Network News, �the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets
are taking along this copy, and they're using it to minister to the local
"Our division is also getting ready to head toward
Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading out with the soldiers,"
Llanos said. �We need to pray for protection for our soldiers as they patrol
and pray that God would continue to open doors. The soldiers are being placed
in strategic places with a purpose. They're continuing to spread the Word.�
Karen Hawkins, a BPM official, said military chaplains
"were trying to encourage [soldiers] to be in the Word everyday because
they're in a very dangerous situation, and they need that protection."
That would appear to violate the Establishment Clause of the
First Amendment prohibiting government officials, including military personnel,
from using the machinery of the state to promote any form of religion. The
book�s cover includes the logos of the five branches of the armed forces giving
the impression that it�s a publication sanctioned by the Pentagon.
The distribution of the Bibles and Christian literature
comes on the heels of a report published Wednesday by McClatchy Newspapers
stating that U.S. Marines guarding the entrance to the city of Fallujah have
been handing out �witnessing coins� to Sunni Muslims entering the city that
read in Arabic on one side: "Where will you spend eternity?� and on the
other side: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten
Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John
A Pentagon spokesman said he was unaware of the issue
involving the distribution of coins and Bibles and declined to comment.
The issue comes at a particularly sensitive time for Sunnis
who recently clashed with U.S. military in an area west of Baghdad a week after
an American soldier was found to have used a Koran, the Islamic holy book, for
target practice. Following a daylong protest by Iraqis that threatened to turn
violent, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond issued a public apology to Sunnis in the
"I come before you here seeking your forgiveness,"
Hammond said. "In the most humble manner I look in your eyes today and I
say please forgive me and my soldiers."
The soldier who shot up the Koran was disciplined and
removed from duty in Iraq.
Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the watchdog
agency, The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), said the religious
intolerance among U.S. military personnel calls for a federal investigation.
"The shocking actions revealed just last week of
American soldiers in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan callously using
the Koran for automatic weapons 'target practice' is absolutely connected to
the same issues of national security breach wrought by our United States armed
forces proselytizing the local populations via the distribution to them of
fundamentalist Christian coins, bibles, tracts, comics and related religious
materials written in Arabic," Weistein said.
"The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been
acutely aware of such astonishing unconstitutional and illicit proselytizing in
Iraq and Afghanistan for over three years now and knows how massively pervasive
it really is. These proselytizing transgressions are all blatant violations of
the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and MRFF is now demanding that any
and all responsible military personnel be immediately prosecuted under Failure
to Obey an Order or Regulation," Weinstein added.
Members of the U.S. military first started actively
proselytizing Iraqi Muslims soon after the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003.
In a newsletter
published in 2004 by the fundamentalist group International Ministerial
Fellowship (IMF), Capt. Steve Mickel, an Army chaplain, claimed that Iraqis
were eager to be converted to Christianity and that he personally tried to
convert dozens of Iraqis, which is also an apparent constitutional violation.
"I am able to give them tracts on how to be saved,
printed in Arabic," Mickel said, according to a copy of the IMF
newsletter. "I wish I had enough Arabic Bibles to give them as well. The
issue of mailing Arabic Bibles into Iraq from the U.S. is difficult (given the
current postal regulations prohibiting all religious materials contrary to
Islam except for personal use of the soldiers). But the hunger for the Word of
God in Iraq is very great, as I have witnessed firsthand."
Mickel evangelized Iraqis while delivering leftover food to
local residents from his unit's mess hall. He handed out Bibles translated into
Arabic in the village of Ad Dawr, a predominantly Sunni territory where Saddam
Hussein was captured.
"Such fundamentalist Christian proselytizing DIRECTLY
violates General Order 1A, Part 2, Section J issued by General Tommy Franks on
behalf of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) back in December of
2000, which strictly prohibits 'proselytizing of any religion, faith or
practice,'" said Weinstein, a former Reagan administration White House
counsel and former Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG).
In addition to coins and Bibles, there have been reports of
the distribution to Iraqi children of Christian comic books published by
companies such as Chick Publications. These inflammatory comic books, published
in English and Arabic, not only depict Mohammed, but show both Mohammed and
Muslims burning in hell because they did not accept Jesus as their savior
before they died
Chick Publications states on its website that its literature
"is desperately needed by Muslims, but getting it to them without
endangering our soldiers or enflaming the Muslim leadership will not be
Postal regulations prohibit sending bulk religious materials
contrary to Islam into Iraq, but allow religious materials to be sent to an
individual soldier for their personal use.
Sending more of these materials than would be necessary for
an individual's personal use, but not a large enough quantity to risk being
flagged by the postal service, is one way that these materials are making their
way into Iraq. Chick Publications advises those wanting to send their
literature to military personnel to first find out "just what tracts would
be most useful and how many they can effectively use," and "to find
out whether the tracts can be drop shipped from Chick Publications or if they
should be sent as personal mail from the soldiers' families."
A spokesman for Chick refused to comment for this story
about the comics handed out to Iraqis.
Meanwhile, members of the 101st Airborne stationed in Iraq
will continue their work evangelizing Iraqis unless it is told otherwise.
Llanos, the division's chief warrant officer, said about
2,000 copies of the military edition of the Bible provided to the 101st
Airborne will soon be distributed to Iraqis.
However, according to reports on the Bible Pathway
Ministries website, up to 30,000 of the Christian books have been distributed
to military personnel, some of which will presumably end up in the hands of
Leopold is the author of "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit
www.newsjunkiebook.com for a
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