U.S. soldiers assigned to Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan said the removal of a cross from an Army chapel has created a “huge controversy” and at least one soldier called it a “direct attack against Christianity and Judaism.”
A Pentagon spokesman told Fox News & Commentary that the cross was removed after someone complained. He also said the cross violated Army regulations.
“Military chapels have to be open to all denominations and as such can’t have permanent symbols of one particular religion or another,” said Commander Williams Speaks.
The chapel is used for general Protestant services and a Baptist church service. There is a smaller chapel used for other services. The camp also has a mosque and a German chapel that is used for Catholic services.
Speaks said the cross was erected about a month ago – but when questions were raised the Army unit’s chaplain consulted the rules and “realized that taking it down was the appropriate thing to do.”
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.”
A soldier stationed at Camp Marmal contacted Fox News & Commentary and said soldiers are very upset that the cross was removed.
“My personal feeling is that it is a direct attack against Christianity and Judaism,” said the soldier who asked not to be identified. “When you look at the regulation and you notice the four items directly quoted are crosses, crucifixes, the Star of David and the Menorah.”
The Army regulation makes no specific mention of the wheel of Dharma, Pentagram, Pentacle, Star and Crescent or the Yin and Yang symbol, he noted.
“There is a huge controversy about the cross removal,” the soldier said. “There are several like myself who never knew such a regulation existed and are speaking out about it.”
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 religions 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.
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 soldier said the military is not hostile towards religion. Instead, he called it a direct attack from secularists and atheists.
“If they are able to erase Christian symbols from the military, then it can be pushed to be erased in the private sector,” he said. However, rules are rules, he said – and in spite of his personal beliefs the soldier said he will follow Army regulations.
“As a soldier, I will follow the orders,” he said.
“My fight is not to have the cross put back up,” the solider told Fox News. “My fight is to have the regulation changed. My God is bigger than a wooden cross and I don’t need to defend Him.”