David Brody

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Pentagon Confiscates Bibles

This story hasn't received much attention but it caught the eye of The Brody File. The Pentagon has confiscated a stack of Bibles sent to an Evangelical soldier in Afghanistan. The Bibles were printed in the local Pashto and Dari languages. Military rules forbid proselytizing. By the way, the Bibles were burned because the rules on the base say that all garbage is burned at the end of the day. But just asking here; if the U.S. Military seized a stack full of Korans, would they be burned? You think that might cause a little outrage in the Muslim world?

Watch the video report first reported by AlJazeera here. Read more below from Reuters:

Bibles in Afghan languages sent to a U.S. soldier at a base in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed to ensure that troops did not breach regulations which forbid proselytising, a military spokeswoman said.

The U.S. military has denied its soldiers tried to convert Afghans to Christianity, after Qatar-based Al Jazeera television showed soldiers at a bible class on a base with a stack of bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages.

U.S. Central Command's General Order Number 1 forbids troops on active duty -- including all those based in Iraq and Afghanistan -- from trying to convert people to another religion.

"I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera's clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed," spokeswoman Major Jennifer Willis said at Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

Military officials have said the bibles were sent through private mail to an evangelical Christian soldier by his church back home. The soldier brought them to the bible study class where they were filmed.

Trying to convert Muslims to another faith is a crime in Afghanistan. An Afghan man who converted to Christianity was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2006 but was allowed to leave the country after an international uproar.

"It certainly is, from the United States military's perspective, not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period," chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told a Pentagon briefing on Monday. (Reporting by Peter Graff)

Also, read below from the American Forces Press Service

A report broadcast by the Arab news network Al Jazeera about U.S. servicemembers proselytizing in Afghanistan is just plain wrong, Pentagon officials said today.
The Al Jazeera story showed an evangelical religious service on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and a discussion about distributing Bibles that had been translated into Dari and Pashtu – the two major languages of Afghanistan.

“American servicemembers are allowed to hold religious services,” a Defense Department official speaking on background said. “The clip shows one of those services with an American chaplain leading a religious service for American servicemembers. In it, he spoke generically about the evangelical faith. That’s all there was to it.”

The chaplain did not urge servicemembers to go among the Afghan people and attempt to gain converts to Christianity, the official said.

In the second instance, a young sergeant received a shipment of Bibles translated into Dari and Pashtu from his church in the United States. The film showed a discussion about the Bibles. “What it did not show was the chaplain counseling the young sergeant that distributing the Bibles was against U.S. Central Command’s General Order No. 1,” the official said. The chaplain confiscated the Bibles. “As far as we know, none ever got off base.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen was asked about the incident – which happened in May 2008 – during a Pentagon news conference today. “It certainly is – from the United States military’s perspective – not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period,” Mullen said.

There is no indication disciplinary action was taken against the young servicemember. “The counseling sufficed,” the official said.

General Order No. 1 specifically forbids “proselytizing of any faith, religion or practice.”

What do you think? After all, remember The Great Commission given by Jesus? Read that here.

Watch more on the controversy here.

Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 11:28 AM

Comments on this post

# RE: Pentagon Confiscates Bibles

Why did the Chaplain burn the bibles? Why didn't he just donate them to a library or a local charity? He knew the law, and yet he broke it. How sad.
Left by G. Grant on May 19, 2009 11:59 PM

# RE: Pentagon Confiscates Bibles

I think that soldiers are being paid to do a job and that job has rules. I think if Christians want to show the love of Christ to Afghanistan, we should be sending them doctors, teachers, and engineers instead of soldiers.

As St. Francis said, Preach the gospel at all times.....and when necessary use words.
Left by ckc on May 20, 2009 5:34 PM

# RE: Pentagon Confiscates Bibles

Thanks, Mr. Brody, for bringing attention to this and posing the question of whether our military would ever deal with Korans in this fashion.
Left by conceptualclarity on May 21, 2009 12:32 AM

# RE: Pentagon Confiscates Bibles

To Grant G:

I'm not sure why the Bibles were burned. Do we even know it was the chaplain who actually did it?

The reason they could not be donated to a charity or local library is evident in the information provided in Mr. Brody's posting. It is against the law to proselytize in Afghanistan. Conversion to another religion is punishable by death. Thus, this is why the Bibles would not be welcome at the local library nor any local charities.

I read from a different news source that the soldiers had been or intended to give the Bibles to locals as "gifts" and as such did not interpret their actions as proselytizing. This is a matter of semantics because "the distribution of religious material" in and of itself is a form of proselytizing.

As I said in my previous post. If we as Americans and as Christians want to win the hearts and minds of Afganis, then we must help them rebuild their country and provide an environment that fosters freedom, including religious freedom.
Left by ckc on May 21, 2009 9:01 AM

# RE: Pentagon Confiscates Bibles

I think people should realize that a soldier has a job to do - kill the enemy.

Passing out bibles where the recipients would be put to death would not do anything but reinforce hostility to the US with the enemy not lifting a finger against our soldiers.

We may want to preach the Word to the world... but common sense needs to dictate how and when we can in fact do our preaching. Getting people killed for possesion of a bible is not a good way to spead the love of God.

Maybe we should first save our selves from the devil before we try to save others. The military has one job and one job only... to kill our enemies.

Passing out any religious material that goes against an occupied countries laws cannot help their citizens or our soldiers.

When we are able to show the world that christians follow Christ teachings then and only then will the world sit back and take notice. There is no way we can force out beliefs down the throats of foreign governments.

Pray for us too.
Left by Bobrobert on Jun 05, 2009 8:11 AM

# RE: Pentagon Confiscates Bibles

No, we can't force it, but foreigners who convert lay down their lives for Christ and would have it no other way. Give then the freedom to choose that God gave us, and don't let their government dictate their eternity. The bigger problem I see here is that military members are forbidden to proselytize while on duty. And while it is still against the government's law while they are off duty, the military shouldn't dictate that the Bibles should be burned. Those soldiers are free to keep them for themselves if they would like. Who exactly decided that those Bibles were TRASH? Because you can be that the Quran would never be considered trash.
Left by reserak on Sep 11, 2010 10:31 AM