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General News    H2'ed 3/1/11

Attention Unchurched Military Personnel: They're Coming For Your Children

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Given the current brouhaha over where the government should be making budget cuts, I decided that now would be a good time to get back to a project we began last fall at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation -- finding out just how much money the Department of Defense is spending to evangelize the U.S. military. The DoD could easily save tens of millions of dollars a year if it stopped trying to save souls.

We're not talking about chaplains here. We're talking about the steady stream of DoD contracts for things like religious retreats, Christian concerts, "Spiritual Fitness" programs, construction of extravagant mega-churches and religious centers on military bases, top-notch musicians and music directors for worship services, and all the other civilian employees, contractors, and ministries hired by the DoD to run these often unconstitutional religious enterprises. It's abundantly clear from DoD contracts and other sources that no expense is spared when it comes to evangelizing the military -- and that includes evangelizing the children of our service members.

The amount of money spent by the DoD on Christian youth programs, trips, events, and religious education directors is staggering. But, more egregious than all the money being spent to bring military kids to Christ are the tactics that the DoD is not only allowing, but requiring in its contracts for religious education directors and military youth ministries.

Some of the contracts I've come across while working on the project of finding out how much the DoD is spending on evangelism have prompted me to revisit a post I wrote about two years ago, titled "Military Youth Ministry Stalks Students on Public School Buses for Jesus." In that post, I wrote about some of the tactics employed by the youth ministries on our military bases, which range from luring teenagers with irresistible activities and trips to infiltrating the public middle and high schools in the communities surrounding military bases, where most children of military personnel attend school. One organization in particular, Youth For Christ Military Youth Ministry, even goes as far as stalking military children by following their school buses to find out where they live and what schools they go to.

Hunting down the "unchurched" children on our military bases to lead them to Jesus is not just the job of military ministries. It's also the job of DoD contractors hired as religious education directors. I wrote in my previous post about one contract for a position on an Army base that actually required the contractor to target "locations and activities where youth live and spend time, such as neighborhood community centers, school and sports and recreational activities, etc." to draw in "youth that are not regularly affiliated with established chapel congregational youth programs."

These DoD contracted religious education directors and military youth ministries, many of which are also funded by the DoD, are clearly not just hired to provide programs for kids who are already churchgoers. They are blatantly instructed to go after the non-churchgoing kids at non-religious events and locations and bring them into the fold.

In going through all the DoD contracts that I've been going through for the project I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've been finding others like the one I wrote about in my previous post.

The "Requirements The Contractor shall perform" for one contract that's currently up for grabs at Fort Riley, Kansas include coordinating "activities that are designed to reach out to Middle School and/or High School youth who do not normally attend a chapel."

This contract also requires that the contractor: "Make 70 student contacts per year during normal activities to strengthen or make new relationships. These are causal contacts at school or community events and activities with the intention of making contact with students but will generally not be to meet a particular student," and "Make 10 student contacts per year during normal activities to strengthen or make new relationships. These contacts are relational in nature in that the intention is for the Contractor to plan on meeting a particular student and spending at least 30 minutes with that student." The contractor will also be taking names while pursuing children during their "normal activities." For both types of student contacts, "The Contractor will provide a by name list of contacts made in the monthly report."

And, who is in the running to get this contract? The same folks who stalk kids on school buses. One of the "Interested Vendors" listed for the contract is Military Community Youth Ministries (MCYM), a ministry that "seeks to celebrate life with military kids and introduce them to the Life-giver, Jesus Christ." MCYM has already received millions of dollars in DoD contracts, and operates on dozens of U.S. military bases, both overseas and in the United States. As I wrote in my previous post, MCYM and the school bus stalking Youth For Christ Military Youth Ministry (YCF) are one and the same. MCYM describes YCF as its "partner," but YFC and MCYM both have the same address and phone number, and YFC's mission statement states only one mission -- to partner with MCYM.

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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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