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Here’s a Reuters report that tells us the ” U.S. Military says Afghan Bibles have been Destroyed”:

Bibles in Afghan languages sent to a U.S. soldier at a base in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed to ensure that troops did not breach regulations which forbid proselytizing, a military spokeswoman said.

The U.S. military has denied its soldiers tried to convert Afghans to Christianity, after Qatar-based Al Jazeera television showed soldiers at a bible class on a base with a stack of bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages.

U.S. Central Command’s General Order Number 1 forbids troops on active duty—including all those based in Iraq and Afghanistan—from trying to convert people to another religion.

“I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera’s clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed,” spokeswoman Major Jennifer Willis said at Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

It sure is nice to know that the U.S. military is now in the book burning business. (Although to be fair, and not too inflammatory—pardon the pun—we don’t really know if that was the method used to “destroy” the books. Perhaps the method was mulching or shredding.)

Reuters reminds us that “Trying to convert Muslims to another faith is a crime in Afghanistan. An Afghan man who converted to Christianity was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2006 but was allowed to leave the country after an international uproar.”

The Baptist News Service reports that Baptist minister Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy finds all this “extremely troubling.” Gaddy is not outraged at the Bible burning/mulching/shredding, mind you; he is outraged about the thought of “proselytizing by military personnel in a Muslim land.” Gaddy, it should be noted, is the president of the Interfaith Alliance which according to its website is all about “protecting faith and freedom.” Reverend Gaddy is also a former president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

As far as I can tell, Gaddy has not held forth on just how book burning/mulching/shredding in general or Bible burning/mulching/shredding in particular advances the causes of “faith and freedom” in Afghanistan or how apostasy laws comport with the “separation of church and state.” Or how simply passing out Bibles (if that is even what was going on here) counts as “proselytizing.” Or how, if no one was “proselytizing,” you can justify burning/mulching/shredding Bibles. Or how this comports with the First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise of religion.” Or how all this comports with Article 18 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Or Article 19:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Which are, come to think of it, pretty good questions to ask the U.S. military as well.

Where are all those international humanitarian lawyers when you need them?

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