Religion in Society

Atheists Want Afghanistan Bible Incident Investigated

| by American Atheists

An Atheist public policy group is calling upon Congress to investigate the unauthorized distribution of bibles by U.S. military troops in Afghanistan.

The incident was revealed on the Al Jazeera television network, and consisted of video shot by a U.S. filmmaker. It shows military chaplains at Bagram Air Force base planning distribution of bibles printed in the native Pashto language to Muslims. Such an act reportedly violated regulations.

Kathleen Johnson, Military Director for American Atheists says that the year-old video footage is "a public relations disaster for the United States."

"This film depicts our troops as modern-day 'crusaders' who are out to proselytize and convert Muslims," said Johnson. "We're supposed to be fighting terrorism and helping the Afghanis build a new civil society that educates women, protects human rights and brings economic development. Religious conversion is not and should not be on our
government's to-do list."

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, said that Congress needs to investigate. "We've been told that the Bibles were destroyed when the Al Jazeera documentary came to light; what we don't know is whether this practice is continuing, and we can't trust the military brass on this issue."

"We already know that the chaplains were trying to cover-up the incident when they claimed that the bibles -- printed in a foreign tongue -- were for 'personal use. That doesn't make sense."

Silverman also cited a sermon by Lt. General Gary Hensley, chief of military chaplains in Afghanistan, preaching that troops were followers of Jesus Christ and should "be witnesses for him."

"This is mixing private religion with an official military mission. No branch of our government, including the Pentagon, should be promoting religion, especially when Islamic fundamentalism is one of the major problems in Afghanistan."