Copyright 1992 Freethought Today Reprinted with permission MILITARY ASKED TO HALT BIBLE BU

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Copyright 1992 Freethought Today Reprinted with permission MILITARY ASKED TO HALT BIBLE BUYING The Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the Pentagon and two Colorado military institutes to stop buying bibles with tax dollars. Last year, according to an investigation by Steve Rabey, religion editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, the Colorado Springs-based International Bible Society alone sold $200,000 worth of bibles to the military. The society says it has supplied bibles to the military since the War of 1812. The Foundation wrote Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, as well as Fort Carson and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, to complain not only about the purchase of bibles, but the placement of military insignias on bibles. "The U.S. government has no business purchasing bibles, much less placing its imprimatur on them," wrote the Foundation. Attorney Robert R. Tiernan, a Foundation member from Denver who is litigating the Foundations lawsuit against the Ten Commandments monument at the state capitol, has requested the commanding general at Fort Carson and the superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy to return the bibles and ensure that the money is refunded to the government. "The United States Air Force and the United States Army are entrusted to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution," Tiernan wrote. "The First Amendment to the Constitution mandates the separation of church and state. It prohibits the use of taxpayer money to foster or support religion. It also prohibits government endorsement of religion or religious belief." The Foundation originally became aware of this practice when a Colorado Springs Foundation member sent a clipping of another article by Steven Rabey appearing in the local newspaper. The article reported that the University of Colorado had refused a case of 96 bibles imprinted with the Colorado University logo, which were shipped as a gift to coach Bill McCartney. McCartney has been reprimanded by university officials for involving the University of Colorado in his right-wing religious crusades, including his endorsement of an anti-gay civil rights ordinance. The bible society defended its actions by pointing out it regularly produces custom-imprinted bibles for chaplains at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Fort Carson. Upon learning this, the Foundation wrote immediate letters of complaint: "The University of Colorado properly refused bibles imprinted with its logo," the Foundation pointed out to military officials. "The U.S. military can do no less." In reply, Joseph W. Purka, director of Public Affairs at the Department of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, admitted: "the Academy did receive a donation of several hundred imprinted bibles from the International Bible Society when the company moved to Colorado Springs in 1988. The "pew Bibles ... have the Academy crest imprinted on the cover" identifying them as "Academy property," Purka wrote. Rabey's follow-up article pointed out that Gen. Colin Powell, chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the bible society during the Gulf War in an August 1991 letter to the society. "The Bibles you distributed [at taxpayers' expense] to our men and women in uniform were a testament to the spiritual need that must be met on the battlefield. If they helped only one soldier survive the searing sands of Saudi Arabia, then I am thankful that need was fulfilled." Rabey's report made the national wire, resulting in a number of phone calls from irate Christian military personnel to the Foundation national offices. From: Freethought Today (November 1992) PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701


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