Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Atheists Say They're Locked Out, Doomsday Christian Preacher Welcomed at Camp Pendleton
Atheist groups American Atheists Inc. and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, along with religious freedom advocates Military Religious Freedom Foundation, have penned a letter of complaint to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus over what they say is unfairly restricted access to Marines at Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps Times reports.
The groups say they’ve been repeatedly denied access to the base, while “preferential treatment” has been given to Christian groups. They particularly single out Cavalry Chapel Costa Mesa, a megachurch the others accuse of pushing a “doomsday theology,” and which has been embroiled in financial and sexual scandal at its main church and other affiliated organizations in recent years.
“We have men that go down [to Camp Pendleton] and we provide food for the fellows and … parties and picnics for them and their families,” Cavalry Chapel’s chief pastor Chuck Smith told the Times, while denying the doomsday allegations (Smith has been predicting the apocalypse since his 1978 book End Times stated the world would end in 1981). “We do spend quite a bit of money helping them.”
The three groups that authored the letter of protest to Mabus regardless suggest that Smith’s involvement at the base poses more of a threat than they do.
“We are disturbed that the government is giving such extensive support, including assets, resources and personnel, to a single sect of Christianity,” the groups write. “The last thing Camp Pendleton needs is a large group of well-armed Marines convinced of an imminent doomsday crisis.”
American Atheists Inc.’s military director, Army Sergeant Justin Griffith, says he has been trying since April to get permission to organize an event called Rock Beyond Belief 2, a festival featuring atheist speakers and musicians. A similar event was held in March at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
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