Washed-Up Action Star Aims Geriatric Karate Chop at the Constitution
When combating fundamentalist Christian religious supremacists like Chuck Norris, you don't need to be a martial arts black belt. You only need to consider the telling attributes of the pathetic source of the hatred. Then you need to let the people know about it all.
We at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) pride ourselves on being the decisive bulwark in the fight to safeguard the religious liberties and civil rights of United States armed servicemembers who have encountered a panoply of grotesquely acute abuses visited upon them for their choices of religious preferences (or lack thereof). As anyone who follows MRFF knows well, we're used to taking the fight to the very top, whether it be the hallowed halls of military academia, the highest echelons of the U.S. Department of Defense, or the war rooms of the top brass at the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our attack arsenal of remediation regularly includes filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, drafting appropriately aggressive demand letters, breaking stories in the national and international media, litigating when necessary, and ceaselessly advocating in a plethora of other meaningful ways on behalf of our over 32,000 active duty and veteran armed forces clients. Please remember that 96 percent of MRFF clients are practicing Christians themselves.
However, support for a frightfully dangerous and illegal brand of Christian nationalist-militarism ensconced within our armed forces has spewed forth from various civilian quarters. Who are they? They are the ignoble clerical extremists at the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, former military chaplains who, among other innocent targets of unadulterated hatred, rabidly fulminate and foam at the mouth at the prospect of social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning servicemembers. They are the wretchedly hateful people at the Family Research Council, who wield the media as a cudgel for advancing their rapacious theocratic agenda of sectarian religious domination. They are the despicable and cowardly bloggers within the armed forces who, with the tacitly-supportive "blind eyes" of their command chains, obsessively wield their poison pens for the stated purpose of unconstitutionally acting as "Ambassadors for Christ in Uniform" on the World Wide Web. Similar to the "family values" shameful meme of yesteryear, this enormous pestilence of fundamentalist Christian religious predators are united under a clearly discernible, phony "religious liberties" rubric for the sake of throwing red meat to their vicious base of bigots.
And then there are the septuagenarian martial arts film stars who proclaim biblical creationism as fact, can act almost as well as a bar of soap, and who are as smart as a box of rocks.
Chuck Norris, the star of such "high-quality" forgettable feature films as Top Dog, Breaker, Breaker, and Sidekicks, has long been a hero to the fundamentalist Evangelical lunatic fringe. A former supporter of hokey Dominionist would-be President Mike Huckabee, Norris has long adhered to the unforgivingly savage, science-disparaging, Christian fundamentalist world-outlook. He doesn't like it very much when anyone, or any country, rejects his brand of weaponized Christianity. In particular and with special venom, he embraces a wretchedly fundamentalist Christian exceptionalist perspective concerning the Constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state. And the U.S. military is his favorite target of warning and disdain.
Norris's most recent "journalistic" endeavor consisted of his grand announcement of a special list of shame meant, apparently, to show how America is swiftly going down the drain. His latest diatribe manifests itself in a pedestrian boilerplate presentation of various supposed shocking infringements on "religious liberty." Predictably, nearly a dozen of these 36 "instances" concerned the United States military. Of these, nearly all were epic Constitutional defense fights involving MRFF.
While it may seem that engaging in tit-for-tats with yesterday's forgotten martial arts stars is beneath the substantial stature of a five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated organization far more used to tackling today's heavyweights, it should serve as a good exercise to remind Mr. Norris, his fundamentalist Christian disciples, and our own supporters that the attacks on our servicemembers' bedrock civil rights represent a rapidly metastasizing cancer viciously attacking good order, morale, and discipline within the United States military. For the sake of brevity I'll only list a dozen of the more egregious incidents, but keep in mind the fact that the following is a VERY partial list! We could list thousands more, but out of courtesy for Mr. Norris' probable inability to count that high, we'll just mention a few:
- In 2007, MRFF discovered the horrendous mass distribution of sectarian and bigoted Left Behind video games to active-duty American troops serving in Iraq. The "game" featured a post-apocalyptic storyline where "Soldiers for Christ" must convert "Secularists," Jews, Muslims, and others. The sponsoring proselytizing group, Operation Straight Up, openly advocated the United States military unleashing "multiple crusades," as per their fundamentalist Christian interpretation of biblical mandates, to "sweep through" the Arab and Muslim world, literally spilling oceans of blood.
- A 2007 "Christian Embassy" Dominionist Christian missionary video bent on religious conversion was produced by means of the total collusion and participation of uniformed Pentagon Generals and senior civilian officials who were featured in scenes filmed, during duty hours, within the halls of the Pentagon itself. Following MRFF's outcry, a Department of Defense investigation officially determined that this misconduct was in total violation of DoD regulations and seven senior officials were punished.
- In the "Jesus Rifles" case, MRFF blew the whistle on the inscription of specific New Testament Bible references engraved into the metal casings on nearly a million high-powered rifle sights provided by military defense contractor Trijicon (think DoD contractor's version of Chick-fil-A) to Coalition personnel in Iraq and ISAF troops in Afghanistan. Among these references were ones extolling the "light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ," and other biblical "codes." Once again, MRFF-led opposition alerted the entire world to this perverse national security threat, and Trijicon was compelled to distribute kits for the removal of these wretchedly sectarian, unconstitutional biblical insignias on the rifle sighting mechanisms. Think of the symbology. As with many MRFF media stories, this one went viral. However, these "Jesus Rifles" reportedly still remain in circulation.
- There has been an endless line of uber-fundamentalist speakers that have been invited to the various "National Day of Prayer" events held at military bases and academies across the country and around the world. MRFF has consistently challenged, and in most cases, successfully prevented these speakers from appearing -- to the blistering chagrin of Mr. Norris and his acolytes of religious animosity, no doubt.
- Servicemembers have been pressured into attending hokey "Christian Rock" concerts featuring chart-topping evangelical bands and artists like "BarlowGirl" on pain and punishment of "lockdown" and other forms of storied military retribution. Now, for the record, I'm more of a fan of bands like Slayer and Metallica, and I don't know the Christian rock band Jars of Clay from Metallica's cover mega-hit of Thin Lizzy's "Whiskey in the Jar," but I DO know that Clause Three, Article Six of the Constitution itself states very clearly that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust." MRFF's spotlight on the issue of military-endorsed Christian concerts led to widespread outcry everywhere, especially with regard to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's "Rock the Fort" Christian concert at Ft. Bragg, NC, in 2010.
- My alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, CO, itself represents a gaping, bloody, sucking chest wound on the body of the United States Constitution for its numerous, repeated violations of the most basic foundational principles of that beloved document. Appropriate space simply doesn't exist in this Op-Ed to describe the huge number of egregious religious violations committed here -- from command-directed, effusive lobbying of captive Academy audiences to attend showings of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, to the pernicious plethora of punitive and abusive measures visited upon Constitutional advocates at USAFA who align with MRFF's vision.
- From Army hospitals to U.S. Marine Fighter jets, comprehensive "Crusader" symbolism has been rife throughout the armed forces, with bold imagery invoking the brutal Christian conquest and colonization of Muslim nations during the Middle Ages finding itself emblazoned on a myriad of military surfaces. MRFF successfully fought to have these bloodstained, inciting symbols removed.
- The nepotistic and utterly corrupt handover of millions of taxpayer dollars by the DoD to seethingly sectarian organizations for the explicit purpose of promoting fundamentalist Christianity to military personnel and their families. Incredibly, MRFF exposed the direct targeting of young school children of military members by these organizations following (stalking) their on-base school buses home.
- MRFF led the charge in demanding that the U.S. Army cease and desist their blatantly unconstitutional policy of administering a "spiritual fitness" component to the mandatory "Comprehensive Soldier Fitness" testing program, whereby soldiers' combat-readiness and ability are, I seriously kid you not, judged on the computerized assessment of their religiosity.
- The vicious inquisition of American servicemen of the Muslim faith continues to remain a harrowing crisis. MRFF currently represents approximately 11.3 percent of all Muslim members of the U.S. armed forces. In addition to MRFF defending service members whose human rights were trampled in the course of this witch-hunt, I have personally provided written testimony on American Muslim sailors', soldiers', marines', and airmen's ordeals to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. This watershed event was the first-ever Congressional hearing on the civil rights of American Muslims. I also provided similar testimony on the miserable mistreatment of Muslim military members to a Joint Congressional Hearing of the House and the Senate.
- Over the course of a few years, MRFF received nearly 2,000 complaints about a particular species of Bibles that were widely displayed and sold in base exchanges and other stores on U.S. military bases around the world. Why the outcry about these bibles? Well, these "Military Bibles" were emblazoned, on their covers, with the official logos of the four major military branches of the DoD. They also contained material merging fundamentalist Christian symbolism and theology with national and military iconography and anthems. The Bibles also contain a lengthy section of essays and other information promoting the infamous proselytizing pariah entity known as the Officers' Christian Fellowship (OCF). The OCF, and its equally vile counterpart for enlisted members called the Christian Military Fellowship (CMF), are unabashedly unconstitutional parachurch organizations devoted to raising "a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit." They preach to helpless subordinates that anyone who tries to thwart their collective efforts to "regain territory for Jesus Christ in the United States military" is an agent of Satan. Following direct intervention efforts by MRFF's attorneys on behalf of our clients, all four branches of the U.S. Military have now revoked their official approval of these Bibles.
- The 'Jesus Loves Nukes' course of official Air Force instruction and indoctrination, a perverse mandatory, graded indoctrination program for USAF Nuclear Missile Launch Officers (that's right, I said "NUCLEAR"!) which used a twisted brand of "Christian Just War" theory and specific New Testament biblical citations to establish a theological justification for the use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction against defenseless civilian populations. About 72 hours after MRFF broke this story all over the national and international stage on behalf of the 68 USAF nuclear missile launch officers who came to us for help as clients (62 of whom were practicing Christians), the USAF abruptly terminated the program after 25 years of having forcefully taught it. The online magazine Wired's "Danger Room" later broke the story that this same genocidal institutional indoctrination extended all the way to the prestigious Joint Forces Staff College, where a so-called "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism" course prescribed a "total war" approach to the "war with Islam" that ominously echoed the Third Reich's "Final Solution to the Jewish Question."
If you are smarter than a box of rocks, it is plainly evident that the problem isn't some fictitious "War on Religion." Make no mistake; Mr. Norris and his similarly ignorant ilk are vociferously opposed to the remaining safeguards offered by the United States Constitution which protect us from the tyranny of Norris & Co.'s fundamentalist Christian nationalism. In North Carolina, a campaign is underway to establish an "official religion" for that state (here's a hint: it won't be Unitarian Universalism or the Bahá'í Faith). Meanwhile, in Kentucky, simultaneous efforts are being undertaken that would impose a "Religious Freedom Bill" that Reverend Nancy Jo Kemper, former director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, rightly assesses as "teeter[ing] on the verge of religious fascism." Chuck Norris must be dancing with unmitigated glee. He must be thrilled. Indeed, he's not merely acting deliriously happy (and being fair here, he never COULD "act"). Ominously, in 2009 Norris himself floated the notion that he might run for president of Texas if the Lone Star State were to secede from the Union.
This amplifying trend of tyranny is clearly not an innocent and harmless flash in the pan. The dire national security threat which it represents cannot be reasonably or rationally underestimated. The perpetual tug-of-war that Norris and I are party to is nothing less than a life and death fight for the heart and soul of not only the U.S. Military, but also our nation itself and, ultimately, the world. On one side, there are those of us who seek to rebuild the long-ago razed wall separating metaphysical and physical, spiritual and temporal, church and state. On the opposing side there are those who fervently support Dominionist/fundamentalist Christian theocracy. We simply can't allow predatory Christian extremists to gain control of the essential machinery of our republic, which includes the formidable arsenals of the United States armed forces, an organization with heretofore-unsurpassed lethality and technological sophistication. The Constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state, under relentless assault from Constitutional cretins such as Chuck Norris et al., remains the solitary, precious, thin red line membrane preventing our republic from devolving into a dystopian, superstitious theocracy festooned with weapons of mass destruction.
We are on the absolutely right side of this fight. Read the Constitution, read the case law, and hear the pleas of those innocents in our revered American armed forces who are being mercilessly afflicted and oppressed.
And certainly, we must repudiate and reject the infantile screed of the pathetically poor actor with the even poorer intellect.