Governor Bobby Jindal Wants Religion-Based Program to Receive $15,000 in Federal Money

A few months ago, the Bossier Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana lost $15,000 in federal funding because of the nature of its Young Marine Program. The program actually sounds decent, promoting the “mental, moral and physical development of its young recruits.”

The problem lies in the more detailed description:

Bossier Sheriff’s Office

Upon joining the Young Marines, each recruit will undergo basic recruit training for a minimum of 26 hours. During this time, the youth will have the opportunity to learn military history, customs and courtesies, close order drill,, physical fitness, rank structure and other subjects pertaining to life skills. Most importantly, the youth will learn to bond and relate with other young recruits and the opportunity to interact with caring adult mentors that are committed to providing them with a safe place to develop and grow with special emphasis on the love of God and fidelity to our country.

Why is the Sheriff’s Department teaching kids about the “love of God”?

That’s not the only issue. There’s also the Young Marine Obligation:

From this day forward, I sincerely promise, I will set an example for all other youth to follow and I shall never do anything that would bring disgrace or dishonor upon my God, my Country and its flag, my parents, myself or the Young Marines. These I will honor and respect in a manner that will reflect credit upon them and myself. Semper Fidelis.

There’s also one of the five parts of the Young Marine Creed:

(#3) Keep myself clean in mind by attending the church of my faith.

Can we admit this is a religious program?

That’s why the federal funding was revoked. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice told Sheriff Julian Whittington that if he took the mentions of God out of the program, federal funding would be returned. Whittington refused to do that.

Normally, the story would end there. (At least until someone sues the Sheriff’s Department for running a pro-religion program in the first place.)

Whittington wasn’t satisfied with the Department of Justice’s ultimatum, though, so he wrote a letter (PDF) to Governor Bobby Jindal whining about how his rights were somehow being violated:

This is an appalling situation where someone at the Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights, in Washington, D.C. could, would and did go to great lengths to prevent even the mere mention of God in any way to the youth in these programs.

As Sheriff of Bossier Parish, I will never sign the requested letter preventing these “inherently religious activities” from being a part of our programs.

I think this is an area where compromise is not an option and request it be given your prompt attention.

A smart governor would’ve thrown that letter away.

Bobby Jindal is not a smart governor.

That’s why he joined Whittington at an “In God We Trust Rally” on July 4th:

Sheriff Julian Whittington (left), Governor Bobby Jindal (center), and information officer Lt. Bill Davis (right) at the ‘In God We Trust Rally’ (Henrietta Wildsmith – The Shreveport Times)

Joined by hundreds of area residents pledging support and donations, Gov. Bobby Jindal said he stands behind Whittington and called for the Department of Justice to restore all funds to the program.

“The federal government is treating prayer as if it is something you can catch, as if it’s contagious,” Jindal said. “There are many things I worry about when it comes to my three children, but never have I worried they were getting too much prayer.”

Jindal said it was time to take a stand against an apparent breach of constitutional rights.

Remember when Jindal said that the GOP needed to “stop being the stupid party“? He should take his own advice. Misinterpreting the Constitution and encouraging people to take a stand against our country’s own laws are not the hallmarks of an intelligent, winning political party.

Randall T. Hayes, who has an excellent writeup about this whole story, points out the problem with this line of thought:

I have to wonder whether Jindal might worry about how much prayer his three children were getting if they were praying to a deity that the Jindals don’t believe in. In any case, I don’t worry about how much prayer Bobby Jindal’s children get, either. That’s none of my business. That’s a matter that should be left to the Jindal family. However, when Jindal or Whittington or any other government official decides that it’s okay for them to use their government jobs to push their religion on other people’s children, then I start worrying.

If this program promoted atheism instead of religion, Jindal wouldn’t give a damn about it. But because it’s promoting faith, he see no problem with federal money going to it.

Whittington wasn’t doing himself any favors at the rally by linking patriotism with God in the press release:

“We are holding the 4th of July “In God We Trust” rally because this issue is about as close to home as it gets,” said Sheriff Whittington. “It’s a direct attempt to try to influence what we do right here at home, and we want to send a message to Washington, D.C… this is a wake-up call, and it’s our time to stand and say, ‘In God We Trust’.”

He silently added: Screw you, atheists.

He also lied about what the issue at hand was:

“We are a Christian nation based on Christian ideals and the very idea of the mention of God or voluntary prayer is somehow prohibited and offensive is just as upsetting to them as it is to me” says Sheriff Whittington.

But no one’s against him mentioning God in his private life and no one’s stopping him from praying on his own. It’s the fact that he’s running a program that promotes faith — through his government office — that’s the problem.

We’re not a Christian nation. We never were a Christian nation. We’re only a nation with a majority Christian population and we have laws designed to keep them from using the government to advance their religion.

The Department of Justice made the right decision in not sponsoring this program. If Whittington wants it to continue, he should let a church group handle it. He’s already putting the taxpayers in Bossier Parish in jeopardy (hello, FFRF). You have to wonder why this guy is a Sheriff instead of a pastor — it’s clear he’s getting the two roles confused.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    Praying (and religion in general) is one way that children catch stupid, and that is contagious, particularly at young ages. These things are not suitable for children, but parents are currently allowed to expose their children to them. Can’t do anything about that. But we can work to ensure that they don’t show up in anything governmental, either by funding, sponsorship, or simple endorsement.

    Let’s hope FFRF or some other organization or person steps forward to sue this county or its sheriffs office and eliminate the program completely. Young minds are at risk.

    • randomfactor

      “Praying (and religion in general) is one way that children catch stupid, and that is contagious, particularly at young ages”

      Which is why the GOP is in favor of it. Producing stupid voters is their business plan.

      • Hat Stealer

        They even said so outright in Texas. “We oppose the teaching of critical thinking skills.” The Texas GOP actually included those words in their 2012 platform. You know, you’re allowed to think “wouldn’t it be great if everyone was uneducated and stupid? That way everyone would vote Republican.” But to actually say it outright in your party manifesto? And to still have people vote for you? It boggles the mind.

        • UWIR

          ” “We oppose the teaching of critical thinking skills.” The Texas GOP actually included those words in their 2012 platform. ”

          Come on. We don’t need to resort to lying to criticize the GOP.

          • C Peterson

            What lie would that be? Directly from their 2012 platform:

            Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Google it. He forgot an ellipsis, but it’s not quote mining or lying. It is not Hat Stealer’s fault that the Texas GOP doesn’t actually know what critical thinking is and dismissively equates it with things it is not.

            • UWIR

              That sequence of words did not appear in their platform. So it was either a lie or an extremely careless statement. Furthermore, “programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education” was clearly intended as a restrictive clause applicable to “critical thinking skills”, so leaving that part out is extremely dishonest, and is quote mining. An honest quote is “We oppose the teaching of … critical thinking skills… programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education”.

              If someone says “We oppose giving citizenship to drug lords or Muslims who have engaged in terrorism”, it would be a lie to say “They’ve said they oppose giving citizenship to Muslims”.

              • C Peterson

                No, it isn’t clear how “critical thinking skills” is being modified. You can’t have a critical thinking skills program that isn’t outcome based. You can’t have any effective education program that isn’t outcome based. Furthermore, the rest of the clause, explicitly rejecting outcome based education and challenging student beliefs just further demonstrates complete ignorance about education, and makes clear that the party stands opposed to actual, functional education.

                It’s hard to imagine how you could formulate a more anti-education statement.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                No, it isn’t restrictive. It’s an association disguised as a secondary description. They wrote it so that “critical thinking skills” – lower case, so not an official program, unlike HOTS, but rather a methodology – and some unnamed “other programs” are equivalent to OBE. Your analogy doesn’t work because OBE wasn’t added to qualify the use of the phrase “critical thinking skills”, but rather to dismiss critical thinking skills with an association fallacy.

                Try “We oppose giving citizenship to Hindus and Muslims that believe in their so-called gods, who are just Satan in disguise,” and then edit it to “We oppose giving citizenship to Muslims.” That’s much closer.

                Forgetting an ellipse is not inherently dishonest, and leaving out text that doesn’t change the meaning is not quote mining. Quote mining is altering the apparent viewpoint, and that is not occurring here. The reference to OBE is nothing but an attempt to deride critical thinking skills. The meaning does not change when that part is removed. At best, you can argue that Hat Stealer downplayed the Texas GOP’s dismissiveness of nontraditional* education by not listing all of their boogeymen, but that would be silly given his clear opposition to their platform.

                *And frankly traditional education, they hate that also. They don’t even know what it is despite talking about it all the time.

                • UWIR

                  There’s simply no disputing that, grammatically speaking, it is a restrictive phrase. So your claim that it is not restrictive depends on evidence of non-restrictiveness that overwhelms the grammatical evidence. The fact that “critical thinking” is not capitalized is evidentiary but not dispositive. I think that the probability of someone not capitalizing a proper noun is clearly much, much larger than the probability of them being opposed to critical thinking skills (especially since your position crucially depends on them not being grammatically careful). It seems to me that if you were not already predisposed to think poorly of the GOP, you would not be quick to insist on this interpretation. You don’t have a negative view of the GOP because you view this as saying that they oppose critical thinking skills; you view this as saying that they oppose critical thinking skills because you have a low opinion of the GOP. I think that you should look up such terms as “principle of charity” and “steelmanning”, because you seem to be allowing your desired conclusion to influence your reasoning. The rest of your post even more blatantly begs the question.

                  Furthermore, even if you interpret the passage as a whole this way, by editing the quote, you are eliminating the possibility of readers making their own evaluations of what it means. I wonder how many of the people now defending this quote were also denouncing the Republicans for taking Obama’s declaration that “you didn’t build that” out of context, even though the accusations of bad faith in that case were extremely flimsy.

                  And here are some quotes from the democratic platform:

                  “The President abuses by health insurance”.

                  “Now he[Obama]‘s fighting to stop middle class families and those aspiring to join the middle class”

              • Hat Stealer

                Fine, I modify my post to include the rest of the GOP’s statement, because doing so doesn’t change the meaning of the statement whatsoever. They oppose critical thinking. They oppose teaching children how to think for themselves. They want the masses to remain uneducated, mostly because that means they’ll keep voting Republican.

                It is hardly lying or misleading to not include every single word of a statement, if the intentions can be summed up in a single phrase. Republicans in Texas oppose teaching critical thinking, and they’ve said so in possibly the most bald-faced and direct way possible.

          • Houstonguy1984

            “…which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

            –In other words, they don’t want children to find out their religion and parents are full of shit. They want the children to be like little sheep.

          • Thundal Archsys

            Not actually a lie. They oppose anything that opposes authoritarianism, including the teaching of critical thinking skills. It was the battle over HOTS and similar in the education portion of their platform, supported by Perry among others.

            Parental authority, and authority in general, is a bit of a crock, and they support it because it’s beneficial to them.

  • Rain

    They must have really nice shoes in that program. Everyone is looking at their shoes. The guy on the left is looking the hardest, so he must have the best ones of all.

    • thebigJ_A

      They’re actually looking at each others shoes. They’re very competitive about footwear.

      • TheG

        I just wonder about any male who spends that much time obsessing over shoes and telling others they should be on their knees.

  • MD

    I find it really creepy. Children that young dressed in military uniforms? Basic training? Matching haircuts on the boys? Shudder.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I don’t see how it is any different than Boy Scout uniforms. It is the Young Marine program so their uniforms are proper for the organization. I’m also willing to bet a lot of these kids have family in the military who they love to emulate and they themselves one day want to serve.

      • thebigJ_A

        Because the Boy Scouts are such a force for for good and tolerance… oh wait nvm.

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          I never stated they where. I just used it as an example as they too wear a uniform.

          • SeekerLancer

            Personally I don’t really like the military symbology in the Boy Scouts either.

      • jdm8

        I suppose one could say the boy scout uniforms be modeled after sailor uniforms. Not something I really thought about it before. Maybe because the color scheme was wrong.

      • MD

        Well, Scouts outside the U.S. barely have a uniform. A neckerchief with their group colours and a sweatshirt or shirt to sew your badges on. We ditched militarised uniforms a long time ago.

      • rovinrockhound

        I find images of huge congregations of Boy Scouts creepy for the level of groupthink they imply, but the lack of a direct adult equivalent associated with war, violence, and blind obedience (I know that’s not what the military is really about, but that’s what they are involved in) make it a lot less repulsive than the picture above.

        When I see the picture above, this is what I see:

    • SeekerLancer

      I really hate to invoke Godwin’s Law but tell me that honestly doesn’t stir up images of the Hitler Youth.

      • MD

        I was really trying not to mention the Hitlerjugend.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I’m kidding in my comment below:

    Why is the Sheriff’s Department teaching kids about the “love of God”? So they can molest them.

    • wmdkitty

      Unfortunately, this is all too common and likely. *shudder*

    • Hat Stealer

      “So they can molest them” is pretty much my go-to punchline anyway, so this works out perfectly.

  • beatonfam

    My understanding is no one told them they could not have the program or that they could not continue with their current phrasing and programming. They just can’t use federal funds to do it. Want to have your religious boys club? Knock yourself out, just use private funds. If you are asking for federal funds then you have to play by federal rules.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      It’s a public office doing this. Even without receiving taxpayer money, it’s still illegal.

  • SeekerLancer

    It just makes the “militant atheists” label more absurd when you see Christians dressing their kids up as marines and making them swear allegiance to their god.

    The whole thing is unnerving. Just look at that picture.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I know that it’s a stereotype, but I can’t see that picture at the top of the article and read the article and not think of anti-government militia.

    It also sounds like a program that a parent would choose to have their child attend rather than the child themself. In a way it’s like church.

    ” the youth will have the opportunity to learn military history, customs and courtesies, close order drill,, physical fitness, rank structure and other subjects pertaining to life skills.”

    Sounds like a very fun thing for a 10 year old to learn. I want to know how most of that has anything pertaining to life skills. Some of it is interesting, but the cynic in me is thinking of indoctrination and getting kids into not questioning authority at all.

    • Sweetredtele

      No kidding. “Stop the government from giving money to special programs! Give our religious special program money!”

  • Noelle

    Religion aside, I’m not sure I see anything of worth in a military-based camp for children that age. Good exercise, maybe? Seems like there’s better ways to go about doing that.

    • Evan Dold

      Discipline and routine can be good for a kid, and a lot of the military training sends the message that one person not fulfilling his role can affect the rest of the group. However I agree that it doesn’t require military style training to get that point across, and there is probably plenty of alternatives.

      • Noelle

        Putting the military label on it also serves as a marketing ploy, like slapping an American flag on everything to get people to feel good about buying it. For some reason, camo print is even popular in infant boy clothing. If the camp is actually tied to the U.S. military, then it serves as a fairly blatant recruitment tool, which I don’t care for in this age group. I get it with older teens. They are at the age where exploring career paths to the point of recruitment is acceptable. But hitting up kids this young doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t say if I’m squeamish because of reading too many stories (mostly fictional, the real world stories are much worse) of creepy little kids trained by some sort of abusive authority. Or if it’s the elite educated part of me that thinks it’s wrong to saturate anyone who hasn’t reached the age of abstract thinking with this.
        What’s wrong with summer camp having horseback riding and swimming and campfires? Sounds like more fun.

  • moother

    Congratulations to the photographer for making sure all the dark kids are in the back!!! /sarcasm

    • UWIR

      Presumably, they were arranged by height.

      • moother

        Clearly a bench was used…, the height difference is too big otherwise.

  • Yoav

    was the other half of Jindal comment about the Republican party stopping being the stupid party something on the lines of “and work toward becoming the really really stupid party”

  • wmdkitty

    Ah, the “party of stupid” strikes again.

  • TheG

    People must stop calling Jindal “Governor”. I don’t recognize his governorship and it harms the sanctity of the relationship I have with my governor.

  • Bruce Martin

    What would Catholic Gov. Bobby Jindal say if the program specified this:

    (#3) Keep myself clean in mind by attending the PROTESTANT church of my faith.

    After all, this country was founded by governments that had people that were 98% protestant at the time. How would today’s Supreme Court (6 of 9 Catholic) view that?

  • Tobias2772

    I want to nitpick a little here about something I have been seeing on this an other atheist sites. It’s the statement that American never was a christian nation. I’m not sure that’s accurate. It is possible that the vast majority of people who came here and formed our nation were christians (sorry natives). We can argue diests or theists and all sorts of stuff in between, but I think it is likely that most of our Founding Fathers and their contemporaries were christian of some ilk
    However, despite this, they went out of their way (and out of the way of their personal beliefs) to separate their religious beliefs from our government. I find that a more powerful statement for secular government than they didn’t believe. What if they did believe and they still felt adamantly enough about it to make sure that religion and government were separated. Then this becomes not an argument over who is right religiously, but who has respect for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Arguing against them is not a very popular position in this country. Perhaps we would be better received if the argument was focused on Constitutionality rather than spritual beliefs. We were a christian nation but we chose not to be a christian government highlights these religious zealots conflict with the Constitution – not their conflict with us. Just a thought.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      There’s an important distinction to be made here. The United States was never a “Christian nation”. It was and is a “Nation of Christians”; that is, Christians have dominated the culture, history and every organization or group of consequence.

      If the U.S. was a “Christian nation”, it would be in the same sense that Iran is a “Muslim nation”: our government would be founded in Christian ideals. Instead, it is based in secular philosophy. That this secular philosophy is largely (supposedly) defended and administered by Christians is theoretically irrelevant.

      • Tobias2772

        I think we’re may be aimed in the same direction. I would seem to me that a nation (group of people) could be called christian if its culture, history, etc had been dominated by christians. That does not mean it has a christian government, even though the majority of participants might be christians. This distinction was the one so scrutinously codified by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution. I think they saw in their society and envisioned in our future society the consistant pressures that woulfd be placed on people and their government to adhere to the mores of whoever the current majority was at the time. This is human nature and the Founding Fathers knew that to be divisive and non-productive. So even though their nation od peoples were predominantly christian, they established a government that was not and embedded safeguards against it becoming so.
        Given all of this, I would say that America was (in the late 1700s) and is a christian nation. That probably won’t change for a while yet (hurry, change), but it has never been and should never be a christian government.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          I’m not sure how you expect me to be all pedantic when you lead off by saying that we agree. :p I swear, atheists these days…

          • Tobias2772

            Sorry, CL. I didn’t mean to deprive you of your pedantic fix for the day. I would say something obviously obnoxious, just to give you something to go off about, but your little comment has me smiling to much to think of anything. Have a good one.

      • TommyNIK


        You don’t get very far in the US government if you’re not a christian. Read “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet (2007).

        What you’re saying is we’re not a theocracy. Yet. The theo-fascists and the plutocrats are hard at work…make no mistake.

        • MaatMenNefer

          If you are a woman is some states, you might well be living under a theocracy, given the difficulty of accessing abortion providers or even reproductive health care. Some of these men want to make birth control illegal and all in the name of religion.

  • UWIR

    Isn’t the real issue why an organization chartered by the federal government is endorsing religion?

  • Stev84

    There is still the issue that you can do something for the “mental, moral and physical development” of youths without the entirely unnecessary militaristic package.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    It’s important to realize that when Jindal said that the GOP needed to “stop being the stupid party”, he was operating under the same general delusion as most of them: they seriously think that their problem is they have bad press and people don’t like them because they don’t understand their “real” positions, but rather only hear from their crackpots because liberal media. Jindal was not telling them to actually stop being stupid, but to cover it up better.

  • A B

    God this scene reminds me of the poem Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen.

  • One Nation, Under Unity

    If you want federal funding for your delusional organization, you need to start paying taxes. if not, then stfu

  • Dragon Lady

    I live here. I just wanted to let everyone know that, while there are many (horribly many) people here who agree with and support that way of thinking, there are also a lot of us who facepalm every time we see something like this. Not only are they making us look bad, they’re offending those of us who aren’t Christian. Not that they care, because they really don’t. Just, please, don’t see them as representative of everyone here. They only represent about half.

  • Anon

    I wish this was remotely surprising.