Group urges removal of Drum prayer videos

The sign on Route 11 northbound in LeRay, welcoming people to the main entrance to Fort Drum. Watertown Daily Times

FORT DRUM — Prayer videos posted by two Army chaplains were recently taken down from the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade’s Facebook page after some soldiers complained about their religious content.

Lt. Col. Kamil Sztalkoper, chief of public affairs, 10th Mountain Division, said command leadership agreed to remove the postings on April 20 after receiving complaints by an organization that ensures the separation between church and state. The organization, called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, contacted command leaders on behalf of eight Fort Drum soldiers who objected to the Christian nature of the Facebook messages, citing they are non-Christian.

MRFF provided a letter to the Watertown Daily Times from one of Fort Drum soldiers that objected to the religious content of the videos but did not reveal his identity because of concerns of retribution by his military superiors.

“...the posting of these videos by Christian Army chaplains was both hurtful and unprofessional,” the soldier wrote.

“And it was also unconstitutional. Not all Army personnel are Christians who would support these videos placed where they were before MRFF got them scrubbed off.”

Lt. Col. Kamil Sztalkoper said that 10th Mountain Division command viewed the videos and decided to remove them, stressing “that they were not deemed improper.”

He described them as providing soldiers with “faith building strategies in response to the coronavirus.” The videos were made by Capt. Amy Smith and Maj. Scott Ingram, two Christian chaplains who serve on post.

The command “took appropriate action and took them down,” the lieutenant colonel said.

Lt. Col. Sztalkoper said he didn’t know the meaning of “faith building strategies” and a chaplain was not available on Friday to discuss the topic.

An April 2 video showed Chaplain Smith talking along a fitness trail on post. The Times was provided with the transcript of the video in which Chaplain Smith describes the “spiritual fitness trail” and is “designed to be used as a prayer walk.” The walk is a “great way to connect with God,” she said.

In the other video on April 17, Chaplain Ingram quoted from the Bible.

The unidentified Fort Drum soldier wrote that he was “particularly offended by the one video telling Army personnel that they can ‘ask God’ about His whereabouts during this terrible pandemic. Not on our main FB page NO WAY!”

In a statement, MRFF President Michael “Mikey” Weinstein said the organization is solely dedicated to fighting for the constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state for all those serving in the U.S. military.

The group represents more than 67,000 active duty U.S. service personnel, with 95 percent describing themselves as Christians.

Saying that his group has seen an uptick in similar messages in the military since the virus, Mr. Weinstein told The Christian Post that MRFF had “to make these obviously valid demands to ensure church-state separation ... on behalf of aggrieved Army personnel who justly fear reprisal, retribution, revenge, and retaliation for taking their grievances up the chain of command.”

However, Lt. Col. Kamil Sztalkoper stressed that the Fort Drum Facebook page “is open to everyone and anyone.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(13) comments

rockloper

I try to believe in what is demonstrably true or at least evidence based. Of course some things in life are merely hypothesis. It is amazing to me that in this day and age we are still a superstitious people. Believing on faith is nothing more than an admission of a lack of evidence. Since this article is about religion perhaps someone would be interested in a discussion?

rdsouth

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-religion-is-not-going-away-and-science-will-not-destroy-it?utm_source=pocket-newtab

rdsouth

I believe in something I define as God, but think all doctrinal religions miss the mark in understanding It, and are actually dangerous in that they are neither necessary nor sufficient but claim to be both. I fear the power greed of traditional religions, and believe those of us who reject them must be vigilant against their aggression. However, chaplains serve a portion of the military who are religious. Their services should be available for those service members, provided it is clear that those services are clearly marked as optional and entirely distinct from the official military leadership. Overzealous anti religious aggression can be just as bad as what it opposes, and actions like this are in danger of backfiring and harming the cause of actually preserving religious freedom, including the freedom to be non religious, or non traditionally religious. Perhaps a disclaimer would be better than removing the link to the video entirely? It sounds like pretty much generic theism. Personally I believe in talking to God through my actions and being spoken to by God through reality, but some people pray and might benefit from a prayer walk. The cause of being assertive to them is harmed by being unnecessarily abrasive.

Holmes -- the real one

Amazingly, fake and phony "Holmes," the letter of complaint was NOT an "alleged claim" -- it was a real letter from a real soldier. Just because you personally have no need to know the name is not a reason to call this "anonymous." Whatever do you mean by "special interest group" anyway? Did you imagine that everyone except some rarefied few identify as "Christian"?

You are way off the mark here. You are quite obviously not speaking from any personal experience with the United States military.

rockloper

[thumbup]

Holmes

Another ‘alleged’ claim by an anonymous source by a special interest group and the Army caves. I remember a time when the Army had real commanders!

Holmes -- the real one

I sincerely doubt that you have any experience with the American military.

This has that same ring as your false assumed name and those false educational claims.

rockloper

[thumbup]

rockloper

"However, Lt. Col. Kamil Sztalkoper stressed that the Fort Drum Facebook page “is open to everyone and anyone.”"

As long as you think like us. There is a reason the number of professed non believers is growing. Part of it is because of the idiocy of the religious right and part of it is because of a process called science.

Holmes

But De Blasio can provide 500,000 meals to a religious group at taxpayer expense...

Holmes -- the real one

Are you seriously complaining that some people were served Kosher meals?

What is wrong with you?

rockloper

[thumbup]

rockloper

[thumbup] yup fake holmes. Meals provided free and clear without having to sit thru a conversion ceremony. what a cruel person he is for providing free meals. You say you're desperate to criticize a good deed done by a democrat? hahahahahaha

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