On June 9th Fox News resident Christian alarmist Todd Starnes published an article detailing how the U.S. Army is snubbing a historic poor little Baptist Church in Georgia. According to Todd Starnes and the people he quotes, you’d think the Anti-Christ himself were running the U.S. Army and that patriotic displays at religious serves were all but outlawed. Like most of the tripe written by Starnes, nothing could be further from the truth. So let’s get down to rebutting this massive load of bovine excrement Mr. Starnes has dumped onto the internet.
For nearly two decades, the U.S. Army has provided an honor guard for an Independence Day celebration at a Baptist church that predates the founding of the nation. But this year – that tradition has come to an end.
Really, two decades, that’s like, OMG-FUR-EVER! This is the old appeal to tradition that Christian Nationalist love to trot out. The argument is meant to imply that nothing was wrong with the U.S. Army’s involvement for twenty years so why now. The fallacy here is the premise, assuming the circumstances were the same in times past (which they were not), the U.S. Army should never have been providing honor guards for a Church. Speaking of traditions, the Abilene Baptist Church traces its founding back 1774. This means that for 221 years there was a much longer tradition of keeping their Church separate from the State. Around 1995 that tradition came to an end when church officials began a tradition of co-opting the U.S. Army for their religious ceremonies.
After being informed of what should be obvious, that the Government (or any subdivision thereof) cannot endorse or promote a particular religion, Mr. Starnes avoids addressing that simple fact with this nonsense.
That policy would be an offense to most churches in America – but it is especially offensive when you consider the Army just refused to provide an honor guard for a church whose first pastor was a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army.
That Mr. Starnes finds the U.S. Army obeying the law offensive is ridiculous as well as irrelevant. His argument that the offense is magnified because the founding pastor was a Chaplain in the Revolutionary Army is laughable in addition to being a non-sequitur. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Starnes and anyone else throwing a sissy-fit over this decision is just angry because a church that promotes their religion is no longer receiving its special privilege.
“It was an absolute shock,” said Brad Whitt, the current pastor of Abilene Baptist Church. “What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America – when we cannot even allow the flags to fly if they are in a church building.“
I thought Pastors were forbidden to bear false witness. I know that Pastors lie through their teeth all the time, it’s how they make their living, but to be so blatant when the truth of the matter is so obvious is surreal. Who or what is preventing flags from flying inside his church building? The U.S. Army never asserted that flags could not be flown inside Abilene Baptist Church. The U.S. Army only said that THEY could not provide personnel to carry said flags. There is NOTHING preventing Mr. Whitt, Mr. Starnes or any other member of Abilene Baptist Church from strapping on a harness and organizing a volunteer color guard of their own. Awe, but that doesn’t restore the privileged status they want.
“We’ve had a tremendous working relationship with the fort,” he told me. “We’ve hosted all sorts of events for military families. We really try to show our love and respect and we try to honor our military folks.“
And nothing about this policy says that the church cannot continue to have a “working relationship” with the military, but only so long as that relationship does not involve the military promoting or involving itself in a religious observance. Hosting family events for military families is irrelevant since the event is for the family and not for the military itself. Lastly, the fact that Whitt’s church may well do things to honor “military folks” does not obligate the military to violate church state separation by providing personnel for his worship service.
Pastor Whitt said they were genuinely confused by the Army’s slight – seeing how Fort Gordon has been providing an honor guard for the past 20 years.
And there we have it, Pastor Whitt falsely believes the U.S. Army’s refusal to further officially involve itself in his religious service is a “slight”. Why? Well obviously Pastor Whitt believes the U.S. Army should show his religion the proper respect he thinks it deserves. How? By bending over backwards, disregarding the separation of church and state, and showing the reverence he believes his religion ought to be shown by sending official representatives of the U.S. Army to present our Nation’s colors before his Almighty God, of course.
“They have participated for the past two decades and now they are saying – no,” he said. “This is just another example of the secularization of America.“
Yes Mr. Whitt, we know, you’ve made it abundantly clear, the U.S. Army mistakenly allowed your church to co-opt their official color guard for your religious service for 20 years. Well now that mistake is being corrected and it hurts your feelings, so cry me a river. This is not an example of the secularization of America, the United States was founded as a secular government. If anything, this is an example of improper religious entanglement with our secular military being rolled back after 20 years.
Mr. Starnes then attempts to explain what changed by citing Army Regulation 360-1 – dated May 2011. The inclusion of the date could be a dishonest attempt to imply that military involvement with worship services was allowed prior to 2011. However the actual regulation states that it is a “major revision” of a regulation dated 15 September 2000; which itself was a combination of three separate regulations dating from the early 1970’s.
Starnes actually does a decent job of explaining the ins and outs of when the military can participate before drawing his eventual idiotic conclusion. Starnes explains that according to Army public affairs, the 2007 service was designated a “non-sectarian (secular) musical and patriotic program”. Starnes’ source is quoted as saying, “Because this was not a religious service, our participation was permitted.” The source further explains, “…the key factor is, whether or not the event is an actual religious service.” Brilliant! An explanation so simple that a child could understand. And then Todd shows just how dishonest and/or dimwitted he actually is with his conclusion.
So it’s okay to invite the troops so long as you don’t pray, talk about Jesus or read the Bible?
No, that is not what the man said, Todd.
Mind numbing is the only way I can describe how it felt when I first read this idiotic conclusion. Obviously any church can invite troops. Obviously those troops can pray, talk about Jesus and even read the Bible. It’s very simple Todd, when the nice man on the phone used the word “our”, he was referring to the U.S. Army in its official capacity. In other words, the U.S. Army (NOT individual troops in their own time) is not allowed to send an official color guard to “selectively benefit (or appear to benefit) any […] religion, sect, religious or sectarian group…“.
“That’s what makes this so sad,” Pastor Whitt told me. “This is what we’ve come to in our nation – where even just representing the colors is some sort of political thing.“
Again, the conclusions being drawn here are mind numbing. Obviously Pastor Whitt is free to represent the colors however he wishes. The issue is not the representation of the colors in a church. The issue is the involvement of the U.S. Army with a religious worship service, and it is political because it is forbidden by the Constitution.
The article could have ended there, but no Christian alarmist article would be complete with taking a stab at all those evil queers. Starnes, in a very childlike “IT’S NOT FAIR!” sort of tone writes.
While the Pentagon won’t allow an honor guard to set foot in a church, they have no problem allowing them to march in a gay pride parade.
Now, to hear Todd Starnes explain this in his typical alarmist manner, everything is all a conspiracy by evil godless atheist to ultimately outlaw Christianity, while promoting a bunch of penis loving, scissor sex having, carpet munching faggots; which then obviously leads to the anti-Christ taking over, the battle of Armageddon; dogs and cats, living together! MASS HYSTERIA!
So if a military honor guard can celebrate gay pride in a public parade, why can’t they celebrate American pride inside a Baptist church?
Well that’s easy Todd. There is no special exemption being given to the Capital Pride parade. The Capital Pride parade simply doesn’t violate church state separation, nor AR 360-1, subsection 3-2(a). And it’s sad that it must be repeated so often, but the fact that the service is being held inside a Baptist church is not at issue. The defining issue is that Abilene wants a U.S. Army color guard to participate in a sectarian worship service.
I really shouldn’t do this but I’m going to tell Todd Starnes and the Pastor of this rather well-off Church about a not-so-secret loop-hole that will allow them to have a “military” color guard.
Step 1) Order the flags you wish to represent with enough poles and harnesses from Amazon.com
Step 2) Exploit your working relationship with “military folks” by asking for services member in your congregation to volunteer for a church created color guard.
Step 3) PROFIT!!!