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Military Entangled in 'Extreme Missionary' Christian Reality TV Show

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Also posted at my web magazine, The Public Record.

The Pentagon has once again come under fire by a military watchdog organization for its involvement in the production of two cable programs, one that featured two so-called “extreme” missionaries embedded with a U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The popular reality series, "Travel the Road," aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and featured Will Decker and Tim Scott, two so-called "extreme" missionaries who travel the globe to “preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and encourage the church to be active in the Great Commission.”

The other cable program green-lit by the Pentagon is “God’s Soldier,” which aired in September on the Military Channel, and was filmed at Forward Operating Base McHenry in Hawijah, Iraq. It features an Army chaplain openly promoting fundamentalist Christianity to active-duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq in violation of the U.S. Constitution.


The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a watchdog organization, first disclosed details about the cable programs in the group’s weekly newsletter on Friday. The group plans to amend a federal lawsuit it filed against the Department of Defense earlier this year, currently in federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas to “include these despicable unconstitutional promotions of fundamentalist Christianity in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein.

Part of the second season of “Travel the Road” was filmed on location in Afghanistan and aired in April 2006, where Decker and Scott were embedded with the Army, and shows numerous scenes of the men accompanying U.S. Army soldiers on patrol.  The missionaries are also filmed evangelizing the local Afghans by distributing New Testaments to them in their native Darri language.

In one scene, an Army Chaplain named Capt. Brad Hanna of the Oklahoma National Guard, talks about the possibility of a “revival” in Afghanistan and says he frequently speaks to Afghans about converting to Christianity. Hanna was made a full-time support chaplain for the Oklahoma National Guard after he returned from Afghanistan.

Additionally, Decker and Scott prominently cite SSgt. Sheldon Hoyt, who was stationed in Afghanistan with the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, as playing a hands-on role in helping the missionaries facilitate their proselytizing as opposed to simply being a tour guide of sorts.

In sanctioning Decker and Scott’s work, the Pentagon appears to have committed numerous constitutional violations as well as breached military regulations such as United States Central Command's General Order 1-A, which strictly prohibits any proselytization in the Middle Eastern theater of operations.

Earlier this year, U.S. military personnel launched a major initiative to convert thousands of Iraqi citizens to Christianity also by distributing Bibles and other fundamentalist Christian literature translated into Arabic to Iraqi Muslims.

An article published on the website of Mission Network News reported that Bible Pathway Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian organization, disclosed that the organization provided thousands of a special military edition of its Daily Devotional Bible study book to members of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, currently stationed in Iraq.

The project "came into being when a chaplain in Iraq (who has since finished his tour) requested some books from Bible Pathway Ministries (BPM).”

“The resulting product is a 6"x9" 496-page illustrated book with embossed cover containing 366 daily devotional commentaries, maps, charts, and additional helpful information," the Mission Network News report said.

Chief Warrant Officer Rene Llanos of the 101st Airborne told Mission Network News, “the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets are taking along this copy, and they're using it to minister to the local residents.”

"Our division is also getting ready to head toward Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading out with the soldiers," Llanos said. “We need to pray for protection for our soldiers as they patrol and pray that God would continue to open doors. The soldiers are being placed in strategic places with a purpose. They're continuing to spread the Word.”

Karen Hawkins, a BPM official, said military chaplains "were trying to encourage [soldiers] to be in the Word everyday because they're in a very dangerous situation, and they need that protection."

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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