Local church harassing soldiers at Fort Lewis says, “We don’t care about laws”

FORT LEWIS, WA (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) – A group of zealots is infiltrating Fort Lewis regularly for soul-saving raids. They arrive on the base in multiple vehicles in small groups and recruit for their church. This is illegal, and they know it.

This is a follow up from one of the soldiers who were harassed and followed by a church group in their vehicles. The car followed him as he walked to the barracks from the on-post Burger King.

For reference, here’s the first message I received:

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? They were on post and stopped at the old chapel here at Fort Lewis. They kept following me in the car trying to talk to me. – [NAME / RANK WITHHELD]

I replied yesterday, and explained all of the regulations that explicitly prohibited their behavior. I recommended calling the MP’s if they came back.

They came back last night, and vowed to keep coming back. They actually said that they ‘don’t care about the laws’:

I was stopped again tonight, twice within five minutes. The first car pulled up and said,”I saw you walking and thought you might to join us for church service.” I politely declined and they drove away. I began walking back while calling the CQ desk for the Military Police (MP’s) and I stopped again in the reception parking lot.

They pulled up and rolled down the window and I said, “let me guess, you’d like me to join you for church service?” They smiled and said and asked me how I knew. I kindly told them that I had just met two of their friends literally in the next parking lot and that I was in the middle of calling the MP’s. I asked them if they had permission to recruit on the base and said yes. I asked them for any documentation proving this (I didn’t expect there to be any even if they did have permission). They then told me what they were doing was not in fact recruiting or soliciting but only attempting to save souls. I was extremely polite and held my composure.

I began to go through the regulations that I had bookmarked from the post you made after the last time I messaged you. I offered to email them to them so they could review them for themselves. They then proceeded to tell me that in fact they didn’t care about any regulations or laws that govern this sort of thing. They told me that they were doing what they thought necessary to save the souls of those needing saving.

We discussed this a bit and even dabbled in talk about the evidence for Jesus in historical records. They made a reference to military laws and treaties and asked me if I would be willing to break those in order to save the lives of my battle buddies. I said, “That depends, but if I chose to do that I would understand that I would be held accountable for my actions regardless of life lost or saved.”

Near the end of our discussion I asked them which church they belonged to and Rico, the driver and most outspoken of the two declined to answer. I explained that I merely wanted to learn more about him and his group and all he has to say was that ‘he worked for Jesus’. After several refusals to tell me I mentioned calling the MP’s again. I asked him to let his group know that they should stop harassing people on post and to find some new place to save souls. They mentioned that it was ‘like this‘ (how I was to them) every where. I jokingly asked them if maybe there was a problem with how they go about their business. I also told them that next time, because I was sure there would be one, I will just pretend to be interested and find out on my own where they were from. He laughed and told me that was a great idea and I said good night.

I walked back to the CQ desk and talked to the sergeant in charge and he got me in touch with the MP’s. I was able to share with them the license plate numbers of both cars, one person’s name, a description of the vehicles and its passengers. Unfortunately, I was told that next time I should call the MP dispatch number instead. Which honestly makes sense, but I did notify them that this was being done on base. All in all I had some interesting conversation at least.

They were not military by the way. Only one claimed to be former military. I’ve started asking around and it seems they have gotten to quite a few others. The first car was waiting in the parking lot in an area is that frequently walked by those who are at reception with no cars.


What you can do to help

Please alert the base and tell them that you care about the laws. Send a message to Fort Lewis leadership!

Please contact Fort Lewis:

**UPDATE: – Fort Lewis has responded. No further contact is necessary. They confirmed that this is illegal, and they are taking it seriously. Fort Lewis / JBLM have dealt with a group (possibly this one) in the past. The military police / Provost Marshal’s office (PMO) appreciated the head’s up. They promise to react quickly to any calls to the MP Dispatch, and escort the offenders off post immediately.

I suggest to any soldiers who encounter this, document it with your cellphone, and then call the MP’s. JBLM is a controlled access base so their on-post status can potentially be revoked permanently. Thank you, JBLM for taking this seriously!**

Be respectful, as always, if you choose to interact. They actually haven’t done anything wrong – off post civilian groups are breaking the laws. Now that they have pledged to keep breaking the law, it’s time to demand that the Fort Lewis military police respond to these incidents. It’s their mission to protect service members from this type of creepy illegal harassment. Service members need to know exactly what to do, and what the MP’s are going to do about it.

This is illegal as hell. Honestly, this affects Christians directly too. If one group is permitted, well – good luck stopping Scientology  Westboro, etc. They’d have just as much right. Please share this, and spread the word!

I’ll re-post all of the regulations being violated below the fold.

the lorax with a megaphone

In legalese those churches are called ‘non-federal entities’.

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

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  • wildlifer

    Ft Lewis is an open post? I didn’t think there were any of those left since 9/11.

  • xenubarb

    I’ve been listening to interactions between believers and atheists during the weekly Saturday “Ask An Atheist in the Park” project in Balboa Park.

    One thing I’ve noticed is the extremely juvenile use of fantasy in discussion, usually prefaced by “what if.”

    So when I read, “They made a reference to military laws and treaties and asked me if I would be willing to break those in order to save the lives of my battle buddies. I said, “That depends, but if I chose to do that I would understand that I would be held accountable for my actions regardless of life lost or saved.”” I see that the writer got sucked into playing their fantasy game.

    I absolutely refuse to play “What if.” It isn’t real, it never happened, it has no place in rational discussion. Fall into it, you’re playing their game, and you will waste hours of your life you’ll never get back.

    I say, “If you have an argument based on reality and not some fantasy “what if” scenario, I am willing to talk to you, but I’m out at the first whiff of “let’s pretend.”

  • TychaBrahe

    I’m really surprised these people are allowed on base. They say they want to recruit soldiers. Their intentions are probably harmless. What if they want to kidnap a soldier? Do families live on base? Could a person be on base like this with the intent of kidnapping a child, either for nefarious purposes or as part of a custody dispute?

    P.S. If someone says they don’t care about laws, remind them of Mark 12:17, “Render unto Caesar…”

  • Geoff

    What if no one ever asked a “What if” question? We wouldn’t have flint tools or the moon landing. “What if” questions are what makes us human and in fact are the basis of all rational discourse.

  • Rich Wilson

    “They told me that they were doing what they thought necessary to save the souls of those needing saving.”

    I think about this time I’d find it necessary to spill my drink onto their lap.

  • thebookofdave

    Are they harassing soldiers only, or are you getting reports from airmen as well? I occasionally visit the McChord side of JBLM, and haven’t seen any of these evangelists so far. But I’ll remember to take a camera next time, and mail you a report if I spot the group on base.

    • @thebookofdave – mainly from soldiers so far. Heard from an MP there who had some more information too. Stay tuned over the next few weeks. Most definitely send me any pictures / reports of this stuff. (call the MP’s first, obviously).

  • Barbara Barret

    Hi Justin! I’m a FB friend and have been reading about the Fort Lewis incidents. Do we know what church this was? I am from Lakewood, WA (sandwiched between Ft Lewis and McChord) and am familair with several churches in the area, and would really like to know. I live elsewhere now, but I still visit and have family there. As an atheist I am adamantly opposed to evangelistic spewing. Maybe I can get some inside information?


    • I’ve got lots of feelers out now. I’ll bring more information as I get it. There’s at least one group with a bad reputation already, but I don’t have the name yet.

  • fastlane

    I want to echo the question in the first post. Is JBLM an open base? I grew up in the Air Farce, and the only base we were ever stationed at that one could get to base housing (only) without a pass and having to go through security, was Luke AFB, outside Litchfield Az. Of course, it was kinda out in the middle of nowhere, so one had to be pretty dedicated to going there…..

    Every other base I’ve been stationed at had security gates that required invitation from someone who lived on base, and getting a pass from security. Usually those passes are only good for 12-24 hours, but with some special exceptions, they can be extended to a week.