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The Camp Pendleton Cross: The Facts vs. What the "Persecuted" Christians Are Saying

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Now, whenever one of these issues makes the news, there must be someone for the persecuted Christians to blame. Typically, they go after someone who they can turn into what I call the "lone atheist troublemaker." In the case of the Camp Pendleton cross, the "lone atheist troublemaker" of choice has been Jason Torpy, a West Point graduate, former Army captain, and Iraq veteran, who now serves as president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). From FOX News to Jay Sekulow to The Christian Post to outspoken fundamentalist Christian military officers like Air Force Major Jonathan Dowty (a.k.a. JD the Christian Fighter Pilot), all were quick to make Jason Torpy the requisite "lone atheist troublemaker" on this one after he wrote a blog post about it on the MAAF website.

Persecuted Christians Myth #3 -- Only non-Christians object to government promotions of Christianity

Contrary to Persecuted Christians Myth #2, it's not only atheists who are objecting to the Camp Pendleton cross and calling for its removal. While MAAF is an atheist organization, MRFF is not, so MRFF hears from service members of all religions as well as those of no religion. In fact, 96% of the now over 25,000 service members and veterans who have come to MRFF for help are actually Christians -- both Catholics and Protestants who just aren't "Christian enough" for the military.

MRFF has been contacted by well over one hundred Marines at Camp Pendleton, as well as many Marine Corps and Navy veterans, some of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all of whom want the cross removed.

Are all of these Marines and veterans atheists? Of course not. The following email is from a highly decorated senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Marine Corps, who identifies himself as a devout Lutheran, writing on behalf of himself and fourteen of his fellow NCOs at Camp Pendleton, all of whom have served multiple combat tours.

Subject: Marines Fight and Die for America and Fellow Marines, PERIOD!!

My name is (name withheld) and I am a (senior USMC Non-Commissioned Officer rank withheld) stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California. I am a "lifer" in the USMC. I am here until they kick me out of the Corps. Thank you to MRFF for being there so that I can express my feelings on behalf of myself and my fellow Marines. If I said these same things to my superiors in the Corps I probably would get kicked out.

I am a veteran of many, in fact (exact number withheld), combat tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been awarded many combat decorations including (combat awards and decoration names withheld) for my combat tours which have always included much hand-to-hand combat. Now, about that cross being lugged up that hill on the federal land controlled by Camp Pendleton. f*ck those Marines who did that! f*ck THEM TO HELL! What, they think that that cross stands for and represents all the dead Marines that have fallen in the combat zones where we have fought and bled? I happen to be a devout Lutheran myself but I lead now and have led, as a senior Marine NCO, USMC combat units which have Marines in it from DOZENS of different religions and atheists and agnostics too. I have fought and bled with my fellow Marines all over the desert down range in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many might have been Christians like me and many were not Christians but that didn't matter worth a sh*t when my hands were on their open wounds trying to plug bullet and shrapnel holes to keep them from bleeding out. No, in the Marines we do not honor those who have fallen by the religious symbol of ONE religion. Doing that on Camp Pendleton land itself is in fact a DISGRACE TO THE MARINE CORPS AND ALL OF AMERICA! We Marines fight and die for America and our fellow Marines, PERIOD! Last time I checked, the cross of Jesus and Jesus himself, who is my personal Lord and Savior, does NOT represent my country of America! Nor was Jesus ever a member of the United States Marine Corps! Those Marines who put up that cross disgrace all we fight for in the Corps. Why did they do it then? They did it to let everyone know that, at Camp Pendleton, the USMC-approved, supreme religious faith is their version of fundamental Christianity. Ironic and outrageous, as the Marines they claim to honor with their cross died fighting fundamental Islam. What if Muslim Marines had dragged a giant symbol of Islam and erected it up on that same Camp Pendleton hill? We would be waist deep in blood and guts if that had happened. I and my fellow Marines did not fight and get wounded and almost killed numerous times for that cross to be put up there by those f*cking pathetic Marines. They should be severely disciplined and made an example of immediately.

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(USMC Sr. NCO's name, rank, position and title and combat unit withheld)

Persecuted Christians Myth #4 -- Blatant displays of Christianity by the government are OK because most Americans are Christians

Well, this is about the stupidest argument used in these cases, given that we have that pesky Constitution to prevent the majority from trampling on the minority, but it's always pulled out by somebody, so I should include it.

Listen to Jordan Sekulow (from the American Center for Law and Justice just like his father Jay Sekulow) in this clip from FOX News as he explains that the great big cross on an Army chapel in Afghanistan should not have been removed because the majority (inflated by Sekulow to be 90%) of the military is Christian. This chapel cross, currently being lumped into stories with the Camp Pendleton cross, as it is in this clip, was removed by the chaplain, who was correctly following an Army regulation that clearly states that symbols of any specific religion can only be displayed at times when worship services of that religion are in progress. This is not persecution of Christians, but merely a common sense regulation to keep Army chapels that are shared by a variety of religions neutral and welcoming to people of all faiths, as Kathleen Johnson, former military director and now vice president of American Atheists, explains.

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The bottom line is that religious neutrality by the government DOES NOT equal persecution of Christians, no matter how many times FOX News and "Team Sekulow" keep claiming it does.

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Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History.

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The cross is an instrument of torture, used long b... by molly cruz on Friday, Dec 2, 2011 at 3:34:55 PM
I suspect that if he were here to comment on what ... by Wayne Straight on Saturday, Dec 3, 2011 at 10:15:38 AM
A book titled Real Prophecy Unveiled: Why the Chri... by E. J. N. on Friday, Dec 2, 2011 at 6:21:51 PM
For the entire time that I was in the Air Force (1... by David Braxton on Saturday, Dec 3, 2011 at 2:03:21 PM
I wonder how many of these so-called "persecuted C... by Paul Harris on Sunday, Dec 4, 2011 at 5:12:48 PM
What made this country it once was now being destr... by Kenneth Lawson on Monday, Dec 5, 2011 at 2:45:35 AM