Citing federal regulations, the Missouri National Guard has refused to show up for an hour-long meet-and-greet with kids at a small Baptist church in the rural southwest corner of the state.
The kerfuffle went down during this summer’s vacation Bible school at Bible Baptist Church in Carthage, Mo., reports Fox News.
Vacation Bible school is sort of a rite of passage in the region — as common locally in the summertime as fireworks on the Fourth of July and sticky, sunny days.
For this year’s version, part of the Bible Baptist Church’s theme was “God’s Rescue Squad.” So, on Monday, some paramedics stopped by. On Tuesday, it was firefighters. On Wednesday, it was some lawmen and K-9 dogs from the Jasper County sheriff’s department.
Members of the Missouri National Guard were scheduled for a Thursday appearance (in a Humvee), but they failed to show up because, they said, federal regulations prevent military activities that could appear to endorse any religious or sectarian faction.
Specifically, the military regulation states:
“Army participation must not selectively benefit (or appear to benefit) any person, group, or corporation (whether profit or nonprofit); religion, sect, religious or sectarian group, or quasi-religious or ideological movement.”
Pastor Kent Hogan was disappointed.
“We are a very patriotic church,” Hogan told Todd Starnes of Fox News. “We love America. We love this country.”
Hogan explained that the plan was “to thank them for protecting our religious liberty” and to promote the good the U.S. military does.
“We were told it was against military policy for National Guard troops to participate in Vacation Bible School,” the pastor told Fox News. “They said if the National Guard had assets on church property it would look like the National Guard is sponsoring the Baptist religion.”
Interestingly, this June, the U.S. Department of Defense allowed an American military color guard to march in the annual gay pride parade in Washington, D.C.
Similarly, in 2012, the Defense Department overrode the Defense Department’s specific rules against uniformed service members’ participation in political events to allow uniformed service members to march in San Diego’s gay pride parade. (RELATED: Inhofe: Obama Forced Military To Abandon ‘Apolitical Stance’)
Speaking on condition of anonymity, local members of the National Guard expressed disgust with the decision to prohibit their appearance at a local church.
“I can tell you I’m ashamed and embarrassed right now,” one soldier told Fox.
“We had a lot of disappointed kiddos because of the National Guard being unwilling to allow a Humvee and a few soldiers to spend an hour at a Baptist church,” another soldier said. “It makes me wonder what I’m actually fighting for.”
Hogan, the pastor, noted a further irony.
“They said they didn’t want to offend anybody,” he told Fox. “Well, it’s offended our whole church.”