Soldiers harassed about Jesus while walking on post, followed home

I just got a depressing message from an active duty soldier:

Wow. One of the churches here on post is really pushing things here. I was stopped by a car while walking back from Burger King and they asked me if I wanted to come to church with them. I politely denied and they asked me if I believed on god, “no, I don’t” I replied. “Why not?!?” He exclaimed. I told him that was a conversation that neither of us had time for and certainly not one I wanted to have in the middle of the street. Now I walk up to the barracks and there are two guys bugging another soldier about Jesus and Satan outside.

Can they do this on post? -NAME / RANK / DUTY STATION WITHHELD

No. The reason why is a bit complex, only because it’s unclear whether they were representing an off-post Church, or a chapel service. It’s not legal either way, but each scenario has entirely different regulations. More on that in a bit.

He added:

They were on post and stopped at the old chapel here at [WITHHELD]. They kept following me in the car trying to talk to me.

This is harassment. Call the MP’s. It’s the right thing to do. They are way over the line, and obviously will do this to many more soldiers.

Scenario 1: Membership drive for off-post church

It’s extremely likely that they were recruiting for an off-post church. In legalese those churches are called ‘non-federal entities’.

Church van: Repent or BURN IN HELL

They must be an approved Non-Federal Entity at that post. It’s not necessarily that difficult, as all churches are already 501(c)3 default. Still, they have to apply with the post commander, and their charter for approval they must spell out what actions they plan to do. I highly doubt “chase down all the sinners at Burger King” is in their charter.

If a commander let one church group roam free, they have to let all of them roam free. That includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-Day Saints, Scientology, potentially even  Westboro Baptist Church.

Even in the alternate universe where WBC and LDS are allowed to run around on military bases, they still couldn’t conduct these miniature membership drives. The Department of Defense has several regulations that prohibit this scenario.

For instance:

DoDI 1000.15

Para 5.

b. The Heads of the DoD Components shall:

(2) Be aware of all non-Federal entities operating on installations under their jurisdiction.

DoDI 1000.15 enclosure 2 ‘Procedures’

2. Activities of non-Federal entities covered by this Instruction shall not in any way prejudice or

discredit the DoD Components or other Federal Government agencies.

4. A non-Federal entity covered by this Instruction shall not offer programs or services on DoD

installations that compete with appropriated or NAF activities, but may, when specifically

authorized, supplement those activities.

Army Regulation 600-20 – Army Command Policy

Chapter 6 - The Equal Opportunity Program in the Army

6-8 - Off-post activities, on-post activities, and off-limit actions

d. On-post activities… Installation commanders are responsible for ensuring that an organization taking advantage of or using on-post facilities (whether on a reimbursable basis or otherwise) does not engage in unlawful discriminatory practices. It is not enough to depend solely on the published bylaws or the constitution of the organization. The installation commander must assess the organization’s actual membership practices and their effect upon the command. In cases where the installation commander determines that credible information of discriminatory practices by an on-post private organization has been presented, the organization has the burden of proving it did not engage in discriminatory practices. Failure to substantiate the absence of discriminatory practices will result in a denial of the use of on-post facilities.

There is NO scenario that authorizes membership drives for a non-federal entity using DoD facilities. In other words, churches can’t proselytize in the on-post Burger King parking lot, or creeping in their cars on the way home. Or anywhere else.

Joint Ethics Regulations 3-211

JE 3-211 membership drives

Scenario 2: Proselytizing for a chapel service

Honestly, this is a less likely scenario, but it does happen. Chaplains, and their chaplain’s assistants should know that they can’t proselytize. They certainly can’t follow you back to the barracks, harassing you as you walk (seriously, call the MP’s if this happens again.) I’d imagine that most chaplains would strongly discourage this method of getting new members.

Simply asking random strangers if they’d go to their church is borderline. You told them that you didn’t even believe in god. That should be the end of the story right there. For a small but vocal minority of chaplains, they zero in on those who make these statements.

I’ve asked chaplains to stop handing me pamphlets and fliers. Most of them do. One of them gave me twice as many pamphlets, and said, “I’m not proselytizing, but I do reserve the right to evangelize the un-churched.”

What the fuck does that mean? Aren’t all non-Christians ‘un-churched’?

What a flimsy loophole they pretend to have. At one point I tracked down this language to the by-laws of a powerful chaplaincy-endorsing agency. It’s certainly not in any military regulation. ‘Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agents’ are representative of their sects, and are not government entities. They can say ridiculous stuff but it doesn’t make it true or legal.

Go to the garrison level Inspector General and the Equal Opportunity offices. If you still get no help, contact me. It’s time to ‘lawyer up’.

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About Justin Griffith
  • xenubarb

    “I’m not proselytizing, but I do reserve the right to evangelize the un-churched.”

    This is the kind of slithery word-play I’m used to seeing from Scientologists.

    They countered the claim of a man who said he was held for a month in a chicken wire cage in the basement of the Scientology-owned Ft. Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida by stating, “The Ft. Harrison doesn’t have a basement. It has underground storage rooms.”

    This is how proselytizing somehow becomes something else while remaining the same. If you get my drift.

  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    I ALWAYS carry a camera with me (not to mention the one in my cellphone). I would have taken out the camera, snapped the license (and driver, if possible), and THEN reported to the MP’s. Documentation is always helpful.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/ Justin Griffith

      @Gvlgeologist -

      I can’t stress that point enough. I can’t believe I forgot to mention it. TAKE PICTURES / VIDEO. Train yourself to document stuff. Get it to people who have the ear of the community (or if the need arises, the ear of the media).

  • satanhimself

    Can off-post 501c3 atheist groups apply to go onto a post and, say, hold a meeting, as long as we allow anyone to attend and we don’t try to fundraise or ask for new memberships? If not, can we do ANYthing on the grounds of the post?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/ Justin Griffith

      @satanhimself

      1)Yes.
      2)No.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    “If a commander let one church group roam free, they have to let all of them roam free. That includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-Day Saints, Scientology, potentially even Westboro Baptist Church.”

    Does this include the Covenant of the Goddess, the Asatru Folk Assembly, the Church of Satan, a Wahhabi mosque and the local Buddhist sangha? It would seem to me that one religion opens the door for ALL religions. It is well past time that some stepped forward to make that point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/ Justin Griffith

      Gregory, I thought those groups would be interested in doing festivals when Fort Bragg initially promised to support ‘any’ other group. I even contacted prominent Wiccan groups to explain… They were all silent.

  • F [disappearing]

    “I’m not proselytizing, but I do reserve the right to evangelize the un-churched.”

    This is barely even word-play. It is just using different words (along with an extra illegal assertion which has no basis anywhere: “I reserve the right” – not yours or in your power to claim, not “reserve” buddy) which don’t even misdirect or change the flavor to one more palatable. It’s like saying, I’m not burning, dumbass, I’m on fire. This isn’t even thinly veiled. This chaplain is an idiot.

  • Rod

    Being Canadain and all, I find the question “Do you believe in god? ” to be insulting and rude.

    My reply would be “My belief is a private and personal matter that I discuss with no-one”. This reveals nothing that would cause anyone to pursue the subject, I would think.

    Would this work in any part of the US?

  • Erp

    I believe the “powerful chaplaincy-endorsing agency” changed its code of ethics in 2011 to drop the language about allowing wild sheep hunting (aka going after those not actively religious). It did not forthrightly forbid it though (the major hospital chaplains’ organization has much stronger language against trying to convert people in their code of ethics).

  • billyeager

    I’m not robbing this bank, but I do reserve the right to take a large sum of cash from it’s safe at gunpoint.

  • fastlane

    I’m not assaulting you, that would be illegal. But I do reserve the right to compare my fists composition to your face’s……

  • tmscott

    Rod@#9,

    You Canadians are so polite.

    Whenever someone asks me if I believe in God, I ask them how they prefer to masturbate. It gets the same point across.

    tms

  • EmmittBrownBTTF1

    Eek! scary people.


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