THE BLOG

Air Force Promotes Ministry that Forces Poor to be Evangelized to Receive Medical Care

02/13/2015 09:16 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015

According to the mission statement page on the T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries website:

"Our medical caravan is just the beginning. Our real purpose is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Mexico. ... The caravan draws the people in and while the people stand in line waiting for health-care, our Mexican brothers witness to the crowds and set up stations where the Jesus video is being constantly shown."

Baptist Medical & Dental Mission International (BMDMI), a similar ministry that T.I.M.E. for Christ partners with on some of its mission trips to Central America, is even more explicit about its practice of forcing people who are desperate for medical treatment to first be proselytized to before receiving that medical treatment. In its instruction manual for its volunteers, BMDMI is very clear that every patient must attend a worship service in order to be permitted to enter the medical clinic, even providing instructions on how to prevent any sneaky sick people from forging their proof of worship service attendance (emphasis BMDMI's):

"After the worship service, you will have to mark each card of the villagers in attendance so that they will be permitted to enter the clinics. We strongly suggest that you use some type of unusual hole punch (i.e. a hole punch that leaves an odd shape) or an unusual color marker that cannot be duplicated easily by a local villager. At times the Mission is able to provide an 'ink dip' to mark a finger of the person in attendance."

Putting aside for a minute the odious practice of forcing sick and desperate people to sit through evangelical worship services to receive medical care, does something else strike anybody as a bit odd about these ministries? Like the fact that they're targeting Central American countries? That T.I.M.E. for Christ was founded to "spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Mexico?" Didn't the Spanish already do that about five centuries ago? Aren't the people of Central America already overwhelmingly Christian? Well, yeah, but they're primarily, and in some countries almost exclusively, those Catholic kind of Christians, which of course makes them in need of saving by "real" Christians like the T.I.M.E. For Christ missionaries and BMDMI.

According to T.I.M.E. For Christ's mission trip application form: "To avoid confusion no activities apart from accepted evangelical beliefs different from the T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries may be promoted or practiced on a caravan." (Yes, that sentence is so badly worded that it actually says the opposite of what it means, but its intended meaning is nonetheless clear.) Among the unacceptable and prohibited activities listed under this sentence is: "Adhering to practices of the Catholic Church (such as paying tribute to the Virgin Mary, praying with patients using the rosary, attending mass, etc.)." That's right, T.I.M.E. for Christ volunteers, while in countries that are predominantly or overwhelmingly Catholic, are prohibited from praying with patients using the rosary or attending mass. How's that for religious freedom?

So, what does any of this have to do with the United States Air Force? Well, on January 13, an article from the 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office at Lackland Air Force Base, published on the Air Force Reserve Command website, not only highlighted an Air Force Reserve Senior Master Sergeant's involvement with T.I.M.E. for Christ, but also not so subtly encouraged readers to donate to this ministry by noting that it is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose supplies and the travel costs come from donations.

The article from 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs, of course, contained no mention of the real mission or egregious proselytizing tactics of T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries. The article, titled "Reservist finds true meaning in Guatemala," describes Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo -- who is not only a volunteer with T.I.M.E. for Christ, but the vice chairman of the organization -- as a selfless guy who spent his holidays on a "humanitarian mission" providing medical care to the poor, a tradition that started for he and his family seven years ago.

The article goes into great detail about the kinds of medical treatment provided and how many patients were treated, but includes not a single word about the ulterior motives of the organization, or the fact that they openly admit that the medical treatment they provide is merely the tool they use to facilitate their coercive proselytizing and fulfill their real mission.

While Senior Master Sgt. Gallo is, of course, free to participate in whatever religious activities he chooses to on his own time -- however reprehensible his organization's proselytizing tactics might be -- what is completely unacceptable is for the Air Force to promote and practically fundraise for his private religious organization, which is exactly what it did in publishing the 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs article on the official Air Force Reserve Command website.

Almost immediately after the article was published, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) began receiving complaints about it. In total, MRFF received complaints from fifty-one airmen (forty-four of them Christians, including seventeen Catholics). On behalf of these airmen, MRFF demanded that the article be taken down.

The article was not taken down, but a disclaimer was inserted above it saying that it was under review. That disclaimer has since been removed, as the Air Force has decided that there is nothing at all wrong with officially promoting Senior Master Sgt. Gallo's proselytizing medical ministry, and at present the article remains on the Air Force Reserve Command website.

The story of MRFF's demand that the Air Force take the article down was then picked up by a number of media outlets, including the Air Force Times, which also neglected to mention the openly stated ulterior motive of T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries.

And, as expected, Fox News has chimed in, with its leading MRFF attacker Todd Starnes once again calling MRFF an atheist organization, despite the fact that he knows full well that this is an outright lie.

For the umpteenth time, Mr. Starnes, 96% of MRFF's over 40,000 clients are Christians -- over 9,600 of them Catholics, who, unlike T.I.M.E. for Christ and the other groups you so valiantly defend with your lies, MRFF does consider to be real Christians. And, no, Mr. Starnes, MRFF would not object to George Washington praying in the woods (a story that, by the way, isn't actually true), just as MRFF would never object to any member of today's military, including Senior Master Sgt. Gallo, privately engaging in any religious activity. It is only when the United States military illicitly promotes or endorses the religious activities or religious organizations of those service members that MRFF does, and will forever continue to, object in the strongest terms possible.