Marine Corps heavily supports a doomsday sect in CA, why?

Marine Corps heavily supports a doomsday sect in CA, why? August 6, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA – Over the past decade, the local Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa has had unprecedented access to Marines at Camp Pendleton. Despite their controversial end-times message and history of sex scandals, the group has co-sponsored several high-profile concerts and other events with the approval of local Navy and Marine Corps commanders.

Comprised of hundreds of congregations, Calvary Chapel is a large organization in crisis. Their founder, Chuck Smith, famously predicted the end of the world to be 1981, and still expects the end any day now. Smith also presides over the San Diego area congregation, the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. His former colleagues have described cover-ups of sex scandals, including those involving minors as young as 12 years old. Smith had famously re-hired John Flores, a twice-fired pastor who was finally arrested and convicted of having sex with the 15-year-old daughter of another Costa Mesa pastor.

None of these incidents affected Costa Mesa’s influence at Pendleton. No other religious group has a presence on this scale. In fact, other groups are beginning to cry foul at unfair treatment, citing the special privilege that Costa Mesa has enjoyed for a decade.

Back in April, so-called ‘foxhole atheists’ in the Marine Corps filed paperwork with Camp Pendleton for equal treatment, in the form of an upcoming festival. Called Rock Beyond Belief 2, it’s the follow up to this year’s massive atheist festival on Fort Bragg, a US Army installation in North Carolina.

Camp Pendleton has not been receptive to their request. Co-organizer and American Atheists Military Director, Justin Griffith said, “All we want is equal treatment compared to Costa Mesa. We were stonewalled, and we even had to submit a Freedom of Information Act request. Their response was a slap in the face that ignored 99% of our request, and half of it consisted solely of pages of garbage text and blacked out names. We wonder what they are hiding, or who they are protecting.”

Griffith contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation for additional support. Collectively, they issued demands for transparency and equal treatment. They addressed several military commanders, including Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus.

The organizers have stated that their contact at Pendleton stopped returning messages weeks ago, but they remain optimistic about the future.

View the AA / MRFF / FFRF joint letter for more information

“Chuck Smith mugs for the cameras at Calvary Chapel Visalia with accused Child Molester and Child Abuser Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia, after Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa was notified of the abuse allegations made by three of Bob Grenier’s sons and corroborated by an Aunt in an interview with a police detective for a report filed in 2009. Unfortunately the statute of limitations had run out and no arrest was made. However, Calvary Chapel is well aware of many allegations over 30 years of abuse and corruption by Grenier and still endorses him fully…which is indicative of how Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel shuns accountability and protects Calvary Chapel Pastors, while ignoring Victims and whistle-blowers.” – Via Calvary Chapel Abuse

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  • Aliasalpha

    Maybe someone misread ‘calvary’ as ‘cavalry’

  • vel

    how pathetic. My brother is/was a Marine. One would think that they would stand against religious cults that cover up child abuse but seems like they’re not any better than the Catholic Church or Penn State.

    • There are similar issues between some fundy groups in Colorado and the Air Force Academy. A number of non-fundy cadets have complained, but it’s not clear anything’s been done.

  • bradc

    First a minor correction: Costa Mesa, CA is in central Orange County, so would be a stretch to describe it as a “San Diego area congregation”. As a former resident of Costa Mesa, I would have resented being described that way 🙂

    I left California over 10 years ago, so I don’t know anything about their recent abuse allegations or their current privileged access to the military base, but I did occasionally attended Calvary Chapel when I lived there. (I’m currently questioning my faith, hence my presence on these forums.)

    The beliefs and practices of Calvary Chapel are very much in line with “mainstream” Evangelical Christianity, so I don’t think there is any good cause to describe them as a “doomsday sect”.

    Sure, Smith wrote an ill-advised 1978 book predicting the end of the world by 1981, and lost a lot of members when that didn’t come to pass. But he certainly hasn’t made any similar predictions since then, and the church’s teachings about eschatology (end times, return of Christ, tribulation, rapture, etc) is very similar to what I’ve been taught in other evangelical churches.

    Please understand that I am not defending the church or its pastor or its teachings (or even Evangelical Christianity in general), just saying that unless you’re going to describe the entire evangelical movement as a “doomsday cult”, I don’t think that label helps your cause here.

    • Justin Griffith

      All forms of ‘around the corner’ eschatology are dangerous. Setting an exact date (a la Camping 2011, and Smith 1978) is worse. But worse in the same direction.

      Cavalry Chapel Costa Mesa serves the San Diego area USMC base. There is a CC congregation that’s closer, but it has nothing like the resources of the nearby flagship.

    • N. Nescio

      unless you’re going to describe the entire evangelical movement as a “doomsday cult”,

      Why not? How is a religious group actively hoping and praying for the “End Times” to occur as described in Revelation (the destruction of the world as we know it and eventual eternal reign of Christ) NOT a doomsday cult?

      What makes a group of cargo-cultists hoping and enacting ritual to induce the return of John Frum any different than a group of evangelical Christians hoping and enacting ritual to induce the the return of Jesus Christ?

  • bradc

    All forms of ‘around the corner’ eschatology are dangerous. Setting an exact date (a la Camping 2011, and Smith 1978) is worse. But worse in the same direction.

    Not even disagreeing with you on that, but I still think that using the phrase “doomsday cult” is needlessly inflammatory here, since it conjures up images of militia in fortified bunkers or UFO worshipers lined up in bunks with matching shoes. Calvary Chapel members aren’t going out and selling all their possessions and standing on street corners with sandwich boards.

    As I said, their teachings are nearly indistinguishable from other Evangelical churches, which make up nearly 25% of the American population. You can certainly make a case against Evangelicalism, of course, but I have to assume that’s a bit beyond the scope of your letter to the military leadership.

    And its not even central to your objection, anyway, right? You’d have as legitimate a legal complaint if this was any church, wouldn’t you?

  • because base commanders do not answer to any subordinates …. it will take Panetta or Congress investigating Pendelton & calvary cult connections to also let Atheists testify for equality & SEMPER FI translated solidarity NOT RELIGIOSITY… 843-926-1750 Larry USN’71-’73


    Unfortunately, as a child I attended their elementary school and church for 3 years.

    They are definitely a fringe, doomsday segment of modern-day christianity with a fixation on the rapture and tribulation prophecies.


    Let’s assume for a second the allegations are true.

    The church places a higher “moral” value to a repentant pedophile believer than a blameless heathen or atheist with no criminal record.

  • James Rieman

    One thing that really disturbs me is the last line about the contact at Pendleton not returning messages. Has the movement lost Paul Loebe? I certainly hope not. Especially if it was over this ridiculous internal war the movement is currently embroiled in. I haven’t seen him post here in a while. A huge blow to the rational movement if Paul is gone in my opinion.

    • Justin Griffith

      Paul is no longer able to take on the RBB blog / festival anymore due to operational constraints. That’s all I have to say about that.

      In no way is this over any atheist movement strife. Paul continues to be my friend and ally. He’ll be back on board here as soon as he is able.

      • James Rieman

        Thanks Justin, glad to hear it. I look forward to hearing back from him and his continued input into the secular movement. Keep up the good fight.

  • F


    end-times message and history of sex scandals

    sounds exactly like the military at-large to me. And those sorts in the military are attracted to the same in religion.

    I just keep hoping to see the good and sane people in the military (and it’s civilian command structure) become the driving force, rather than the hyper-religious, bigoted, war-mongering, military-cultist types.

    And I have hope because of people like you, Justin.