The latest galloping run of anti-gay conspiracy theories being pushed by the anti-gay Right involves the supposed decision by President Barack Obama to order that anyone proselytizing in the military be brought up on charges. While there is a regulation against aggressive proselytizing in the military, it was put into place by President George W. Bush during his second term. At least the Southern Baptist Convention is telling FOX News, Liberty Counsel, the FRC, and so many more to stop lying about this. Well, at least they essentially told them that. Apparently, they are unable to actually come out and say that.
The SBC wrote:
We have no interest in fomenting conspiracy theories or faux outrage, seeing that such will serve neither the gospel of Jesus Christ nor our mission to minister to our neighbors with this gospel. We have no interest in misrepresenting our military leaders or their civilian command. The Bible calls on us to pray for and to honor our government leaders. We reject any and all attempts to sensationalize or misrepresent situations, in this or any other context.
This story originates with…oh, what a surprise…Todd Starnes. It should not be surprising that Starnes is pushing a false “Christians are being persecuted” story given that he publicized a story about a Texas athlete who claimed to have been disqualified from competing after giving thanks to God. In truth, the young athlete was disqualified after being warned about the gesture he made and being incredibly rude to the referee who warned him about making unauthorized gestures, as he had been instructed before the competition.
An investigation undertaken by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention found that there was no real evidence that there are any bans on proselytizing in the military.
During their investigation, the NAMB discovered these and only these incidents:
On April 8, media sources reported that United States Army troops were told, in briefing materials, that evangelical Christians were “extremists,” included in the same category as al-Qaeda.
FACT: This characterization did happen, in a redeployment briefing for Army Reserve soldiers in Pennsylvania. The Department of Defense looked into this, and corrected the briefing materials.
On April 25, news reports indicated that the United States Army had blocked the Southern Baptist Convention’s website www.sbc.net due to “hostile content.”
FACT: This incident took place across Army, Air Force, Marine and Navy bases, not simply Army bases. Military officials tell us the concern was related to malware issues, related to maintaining the safety of military computer networks from viruses and hacking, not an intentional move to block the Southern Baptist Convention site for ideological reasons.
On April 28 news reports indicated that the Pentagon had tapped Mikey Weinstein, infamous for his inflammatory anti-Christian remarks, as an adviser on religious issues in the U.S. military.
FACT: The Department of Defense confirms that Weinstein requested and was granted a meeting with Pentagon officials but denies he serves as a military consultant or in any other official capacity.
On May 1, some news sources reported that soldiers could be prosecuted for sharing their faith, up to and including court-martial.
FACT: The Department of Defense clarified that no troops or chaplains are being court-martialed for evangelism. Military spokespersons said that evangelism is not a punishable offense, but that “proselytizing,” defined as an unwelcome coercion of religious beliefs, would be considered a Uniform Code of Military Justice offense because such action violates good order and discipline by forcing faith beliefs on those not welcoming such advances.
The Southern Baptists stated that “We reject any and all attempts to sensationalize or misrepresent situations, in this or any other context.” They go on to say a lot of other things, but let us be clear, the guidelines and regulations laid down by the government regarding proselytizing in the military is pretty much the same as the laws regarding religious harassment in the civilian world.
As for the Souther Baptist Conventions’ objection to evangelical Christians being called ‘extremists’, it should be noted that there are a large number of evangelical Christians who are extremists.