The U.S. Military removed a large cross that had been displayed outside a chapel at Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan because it violated Army regulations.
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed to Fox News that the cross had been taken down – after someone complained.
“Military chapels have to be open to all denominations and as such can’t have permanent symbols of one particular religion or another,” Commander Williams Speaks told Fox News.
He said the cross was erected about a month ago – and when questions were raised the Army unit’s chaplain consulted the rules and “realized that taking it down was the appropriate thing to do.”
The story was first reported in Politico. Camp Marmal is a German base that hosts NATO forces. However, the interfaith chapel is supervised by the U.S. Army, Speaks said.
Outraged soldiers told the news organization that the cross made the chapel feel like home and others found comfort in the religious symbol.
“I really don’t understand why Christians are always attacked,” one service member told Politico. “If it was a crescent moon on top of a mosque, it would never be taken down.”
However, Speaks said there had been complaints.
“I’ve also heard that there were some that were upset about the cross to begin with,” he told Fox News. “Our job as military service members is to abide by the UCMJ and other regulations to ensure that all religious denominations and religious of our service members are treated fairly.
And that is accomplished by taking down the Christian symbol?
Speaks said it is his understanding that the rule applies not just to that particular camp – but all military chapels.
Army Regulation 165-1, 12-3k states:”The chapel environment will be religiously neutral when the facility is not being used for scheduled worship. Portable religious symbols, icons, or statues may be used within a chapel during times of religious worship.”
“Symbols are to be moved or covered when not in use during services. Distinctive religious symbols, such as crosses, crucifixes, the Star of David, Menorah, and other religious symbols will not be affixed or displayed permanently on the chapel interior, exterior, or grounds. Permanent or fixed chapel furnishings, such as the altar, pulpit, lectern, or communion rail will be devoid of distinctive religious symbols.”
“Not having it there is really upsetting,” one service member told Politico. “I walk by the chapel daily on the way to chow and the gym, and seeing the cross is a daily reminder of my faith and what Jesus accomplished for me. It is daily inspiration and motivation for me to acknowledge my faith and stay on the right path.”
Some conservative leaders said it’s proof of an effort underway to sanitize the military and country of Christianity.
“What’s the purpose of a chapel?” asked Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “The timing of this – what a way to celebrate Thanksgiving.”
“There’s a sole purpose of a chapel and it’s to worship – whether it’s Catholic or Protestant. Americans who serve in the military are overwhelmingly Christian.”
The chapel was dedicated in September, according to a news release from the Army.
“We have gathered here today to dedicate this chapel to God,” said Maj. Xuan Tran, chaplain, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, during dedication ceremonies.
“This chapel will be a center and important place where people can come together to worship and offer sacrifices of praise,” he said.