The Worldnutdaily has an article up entitled Wiccans Meeting on Air Force Base. Now this would hardly seem to be newsworthy. There are over a million people in the US military, any logical person would assume that at least a small percentage of them are Wiccan or belong to any number of other smaller minority religions. One would also think that given the Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion, they might even have the right to meet together to practice their religion just as every other religious faith does. But for some prominent religious right groups, well, that kind of logical thinking just isn’t gonna get it done.
Some might remember the controversy over Wiccans in the military in 1999. After the Washington Post reported that a Wiccan group had gotten approval from the military to hold services on the base, like other religions are allowed to do, all hell broke loose among the righteous. After seeing a report on this on the O’Reilly Factor (one demagogue following another),Georgia Congressman Bob Barr tried to insert an amendment to a defense authorization bill to ban all such services from military bases. In the process, he made quite a spectacular ass of himself.
Most amusing was his argument that if the military allows such services to take place, they are “sanctioning, if not supporting the practice of witchcraft as a ‘religion’ by soldiers on military bases” and he demanded an end to “taxpayer-funded witchcraft on American Military Bases.” Now let’s follow the logic here. By merely allowing Wiccans to practice their religion on base, the government is sanctioning and supporting that religion. Yet every military base has numerous Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clergymen on staff and paid for by taxpayer money and he certainly wouldn’t admit that that meant the government was sanctioning and supporting Christianity or Judaism.
Soon after Barr’s ridiculous public spectacle, a group of 13 religious right organizations joined together to urge a public boycott of the military. Yes, they actually said that no Christians should join the military until they barred Wiccans from practicing their religion. One of the organizations urging this boycott called themselves the Religious Freedom Coalition; yet another irony meter goes up in smoke. The leader of the boycott drive was none other than Paul Weyrich. He may not be a well known name like Jerry Falwell or James Dobson, but there is no one more powerful in the religious right than Weyrich. He sits on the boards of most of the major foundations and is very well connected to the highest levels of government. But he really did give up the whole gig when he said:
“The official approval of satanism and witchcraft by the Army is a direct assault on the Christian faith that generations of American soldiers have fought and died for,” Paul Weyrich added. “If the Army wants witches and satanists in its ranks, then it can do it without Christians in those ranks. It’s time for the Christians in this country to put a stop to this kind of nonsense. A Christian recruiting strike will compel the Army to think seriously about what it is doing.”
That’s quite a stunning admission, isn’t it? Weyrich really does think that God and country are one and the same. Our soldiers have died in service to their country, not for the “Christian faith”, and a great many of those soldiers who died weren’t Christians at all. It’s this kind of monumentally stupid thinking, combined with their zealous desire to impose their will on anyone of a different religious view, that motivates me to oppose the religious right as fiercely as I do.
Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the whole thing is that these are the first people to wrap themselves in the flag and pat themselves on the back for their patriotism. Yet they urge their followers to refuse to join the military solely because other religions get to join up and practice their faith too? Not only are they willing to shred the first amendment to deny others the same rights they demand for themselves, they’re willing to weaken our national defense if the military doesn’t give in to their demands for religious purity. I can scarcely imagine anything less patriotic than that.
Now fast forward 5 years. The Worldnutdaily is still complaining about the evils of religious freedom for anyone other than themselves, and the president of the American Family Association says he isn’t too concerned about the Wiccans anymore, but thinks that Muslims should be barred from the military:
Wildmon noted that he has a much bigger problem with Muslims in the military.
“They ought to say no Muslims in the American military,” he told WND. “Wicca doesn’t teach, as far as I know, what Islam teaches about killing the infidel. Muslims in the American military are a much greater danger to the institution than is Wicca.”
I’ve got a better idea. How about you can’t serve in the military unless you actually support the first amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom? After all, soldiers do swear an oath to defend the nation and the Constitution is the basis for our entire system. If you don’t support that, not just for yourself but for others, you have no business wearing that uniform. The military itself, at least, isn’t behaving as stupidly as the moral majority crowd is. Said the spokesman for the Air Force base:
“We take pride in providing the most diverse chapel program in the Air Force, serving more faith groups than any other Air Force installation. In fact, approximately 18 different religious groups are represented on Lackland, and 38 worship services are provided any given weekend. Our base chaplains represent Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim faith communities. We try to ensure all faith traditions are treated fairly and equally.”
Thomas Jefferson would be proud. Paul Weyrich and his traveling band of self-righteous hypocrites should be ashamed.