If, for example, you watched Sean Hannity’s show on May 2, you were told the Obama administration is conducting a “Christian cleansing” campaign in the military.
This is a devious use of the word “cleansing,” borrowed from the phrase “ethnic cleansing,” invoking the mass murders one might associate with the Balkans war 20 years ago.
Hannity contends a Pentagon statement reiterating the military’s policy against proselytizing was proof of Obama’s “war on religious liberty.”
Hannity sidekick Todd Starnes agreed, stating Christians are “under significant attack” by the Obama administration, “(W)e have seen a Christian cleansing of the United States military.”
This lie has roots in other falsehoods promoted by Fox News suggesting President Obama is a Muslim who was probably not born in America. Hannity and Starnes are deliberately distorting facts to reinforce this bogus narrative, which Fox hosts and guests have pushed since the day Obama was elected president.
Thus, Hannity is telling viewers that Muslim/non-American Obama is conspiring with terrorists to destroy the Christian faith of servicemen and women.
Fox News cynically assumes viewers are lazy or stupid, not curious or smart enough to question such preposterous and inflammatory commentary; that they’ll simply accept as gospel whatever Hannity and other Fox comedians say.
Yes, the American military bans proselytizing. Hannity was reacting to a statement from the Pentagon clarifying that policy.
“Members of the military are free to share their faith as long as they don’t harass others,” said the statement. “Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytizing).”
Why would the military want to forbid proselytizing? Because “unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others” is disruptive to good military order and discipline.
If you’ve ever been aggressively approached by someone trying to convert you, whether Christian, Mormon, Jehovah Witness or Hare Krishna, you know how uncomfortable and annoying such experiences can be.
Here’s what the military wants to prevent: Three noncoms corner a private, get in his face, and demand to know if he has accepted their particular religious brand and if not, why not.
That’s aggressive, intrusive and disruptive to good military order. It also infringes on the soldier’s freedom to practice other religions or no religion at all.
But if a soldier invites another to join her Bible study group, that’s an offer to share her Christian faith and perfectly acceptable under military regulations. So where is the “Christian cleansing”? Where is the “attack” on Christianity?
The Supreme Court has ruled, “The government may only accommodate or facilitate, not favor or promote, religious exercise.”
If Hannity was a serious commentator instead of a Republican shill, he would discuss real problems, not phony ones.
Sexual assault in the military is a real problem, as we learned this week. According to the Department of Defense, an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2012, up 35 percent since 2010.
Right on cue, last weekend the officer in charge of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was arrested for sexual battery.
“This department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission and to recruit and retain the good people we need,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after learning of the allegations against Krusinski.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.