A U.S. church raised money to send Bibles, printed in the Pashtu and Dari languages, to American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, a report on Al Jazeera documented Sunday night.
It is against military rules to proselytize -- a regulation one of the soldiers filmed by the network readily acknowledged. "You cannot proselytize, but you can give gifts," says the soldier. It is a crime in Afghanistan to attempt to convert anyone from Islam to any other religion. "I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan. They came and sent the money out." The footage is said to be roughly a year old.
The Al Jazeera report also shows a military preacher urging army parishioners to "hunt people for Jesus."
"The Special Forces guys, they hunt men. Basically, we do the same things as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the Kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business," he says.
A White House spokesman referred questions to the Department of Defense, which did not immediately return a call. A military spokesman did tell Reuters, however, that none of the Bibles were, as far as she knew, ever actually distributed.
"That specific case involved a soldier who brought in a donation of translated Bibles that were sent to his personal address by his home church. He showed them to the group and the chaplain explained that he cannot distribute them," said Major Jennifer Willis.
"The translated Bibles were never distributed as far as we know, because the soldier understood that if he distributed them he would be in violation of general order 1, and he would be subject to punishment."
President Bush created an international uproar when he referred to the "war on terror" as a "crusade."
UPDATE: A defense official tells the Huffington Post that the preacher did not mean that soldiers should hunt for Afghani souls, but was speaking in general terms. He also said that the Pashtun and Dari Bibles were confiscated so that they could not be distributed to the population.
Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America