Saturday, June 25, 2005

Sense & nonsense


This entails a very bad misunderstanding of both Gordon Clark and me. We never said that all knowledge is innate, only that all knowledge must come from God apart from sensation, but some knowledge comes from God on the occasion of sensation (but still apart from sensation).


Ultimate Questions, p. 38-43.

Presuppositional Confrontations, p. 68-74.

If we are going to be logical and rational, then let’s be strictly logical and rational. An inference is valid only if you can write it out as a syllogism and show that the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. Tom fails to do this in his defense of sensation as a way of knowing.

The truth is that we cannot know by sensation which sensation is correct and which sensation is incorrect, or the degree of sensation's reliability. Therefore, degree of on empiricism on a given issue results in complete agnosticism about that issue… The first chapter of Genesis was written without any dependence on or any involvement of empirical observation by the writer of Genesis, but it is no less true.

If the senses are less than infallible, we will need an infallible authority or standard to judge each instance of sensory perception to achieve complete reliability. But when we accept a certain instance of sensory perception to be accurate the testimony of this non-sensory infallible authority or standard, then we are in fact accepting the testimony of this infallible authority or standard, and not at all the accuracy of sensory perception.

This is what the Bible shows about sensory perceptions – sometimes they are accurate and sometimes they are not [e.g., 2 Kg 3:16-24; Mt 14:25-27; Jn 12:28-29], and we only know when they are accurate based on the divine inspiration of the prophets and the apostles. It is obviously impossible to take this and infer that Scripture grants sensation any degree of epistemological reliability or legitimacy!

Thus on the occasion that you look at the words of the Bible, God directly communicates what is written to your mind, without going through the senses themselves. That is, your sensations provide the occasions upon which God directly conveys information to your mind apart from the sensations themselves. Therefore, although we do read the Bible, knowledge never comes from sensation.

Truth is necessarily propositional, since only a proposition can be described as true or false. But by means of sensations, it is impossible to communicate any proposition from one human mind to another; rather, only the logos can facilitate such communication. Therefore, Christian epistemology, even when it relates to sensations, does not depend on sensations, so that it is not plagued by the insuperable difficulties of empiricism. The only role of sensations in Christian epistemology is to provide the occasions for intellectual intuition; that is, sensations provide the occasions upon which the logos communicates information to the human mind, apart from the sensations themselves. Zero knowledge is acquired from the sensations themselves. Of course we "read" the Bible, but even this activity does not depend on sensation, but on God's sovereign will and power.


This marks a partial advance over Cheung’s previous reply. He interacts with a real person, and in directing the reader to his own writings, he adds some page references. So what are we to make of his latest reply:

1.Was Clark an occasionalist? Although we find Clark flirting with occasionalism, where did he ever commit himself to occasionalism?

There are actually three or four theories of knowledge bouncing around in Clark:

i) Revelation.

Clark, both early and late, was committed to the Protestant rule of faith (sola Scriptura).

ii) Innatism.

Clark, both early and late, was committed to Philonic Platonism and Augustinian illuminationism.

iii) Occasionalism.

Late Clark makes sympathetic references to Malebranche.

iv) Idealism.

Late Clark reduces persons to propositions, and turns propositions into his principle of individuation.

It’s unclear to me how all these theories hang together in Clark’s overall epistemology. Do some enjoy precedence over others?

2.Strictly speaking, the senses never deceive us. That’s just a shorthand expression for the fact that we can misinterpret sensory input.

3.True, an empiricist can’t prove that he’s not dreaming. By the same token, a rationalist can’t prove that he’s not dreaming.

How does Cheung know he’s reading the Bible? How does he know that he’s not dreaming that he’s reading the Bible? And is the Bible of his dreams the same as the real deal?

4.” An inference is valid only if you can write it out as a syllogism and show that the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises.”

Where does the Bible itself ever make this a necessary condition or criterion of knowledge?

5.” The truth is that we cannot know by sensation which sensation is correct and which sensation is incorrect, or the degree of sensation's reliability.”

i) The truth is that we cannot know by reason which reasons are correct and which reasons are incorrect, or the degree of reason’s reliability.

ii) Actually, we often use one sensation to correct another. We could only know that our senses deceive us in some instances if our senses are generally reliable, so that it’s possible to compare an optical illusion against a larger body of sensory information. So the case against the reliability of the senses is parasitic upon the reliability of the senses in geneal.

iii) It is possible, though, to say that all this exposes is a discrepancy between one sensation and another, without indicating which sensation is right, which one supplies the standard of reference.

But a Christian theory of knowledge doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Divine creation and divine providence are what underwrite the general reliability of the senses.

iv) Cheung is also confounding the direct, first-order mental act of knowing something with the reflexive, second-order act of knowing that (or knowing how) we know something.

By that criterion, a two-year old doesn’t know his own mother.

6.” The first chapter of Genesis was written without any dependence on or any involvement of empirical observation by the writer of Genesis, but it is no less true.”

Of what is Genesis true? Is it a true description of the world? But if sense knowledge is denied, then how do we know what words like "light," "darkness," “earth,” “water,” “sky,” “trees,” “birds,” and “fish” are referring to?

7.” If the senses are less than infallible, we will need an infallible authority or standard to judge each instance of sensory perception to achieve complete reliability.”

i) Notice, here, the structural parallel between Cheung’s argument for occasionalism and the Catholic argument for a magisterium.

Both suffer from the same regressive fallacy. Since the standard is not self-applicatory, how do I know, even if I have the right standard, that I’ve rightly applied the right standard?

ii) They are parallel in another respect as well. God could inspire everyone, but he doesn’t. Hence, we are fallible. Our knowledge is limited. But that’s is God’s doing. It is God's will that a degree of uncertainty should be a commonplace of human experience.

Ultimate, we’re only responsible for what God holds us responsible for. It’s useless as well as impious to fret over things beyond our control. Leave that to God!

8. “It is obviously impossible to take this and infer that Scripture grants sensation any degree of epistemological reliability or legitimacy!”

Really? According to the Bible, adultery is a sin. Cheung is a married man. How does Cheung know that the woman he is sleeping with is his wife and not his neighbor’s wife?

Doesn’t this and a host of other Biblical prescriptions and proscriptions presuppose the general reliability of the senses?

9.” Thus on the occasion that you look at the words of the Bible, God directly communicates what is written to your mind, without going through the senses themselves. That is, your sensations provide the occasions upon which God directly conveys information to your mind apart from the sensations themselves.”

i) Where does the Bible itself ever say that this is the process by which we acquire our knowledge of Scripture?

ii) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that occasionalism is true, how is this an improvement over empiricism?

For example, don’t we sometimes misread or misremember the Bible? Don’t scribes and printers mistranscribe the Bible from time to time?

So how, exactly, does this work on Cheung’s theory. If a scribe makes a mistake when he copies the autographa, does this mean that although the original was errorless, God directly conveys errata to the mind? Errata which are nonexistent in the text, but fabricated by God in the process of direct transmission?

On Cheung’s theory, occasionalism and empiricism are phenomenalogically equivalent. For observers still make mistakes, and they still make the very same mistakes.

All that Cheung’s theory has succeeded in doing is to transfer the effect of empiricism to the effect of occasionalism. He assigns the error to a different source of origin, but the erroneous end-result is interchangeably the same.

One could say the same thing about the Augustinian theory of divine illumination. It doesn’t prevent reasoners from faulty reasoning. It doesn’t even prevent Christian reasoners from faulty reasoning.

So these are “solutions” which fail to solve the problem they pose for themselves or propose to solve as over against the faulty solutions which the oppose.

10.” But by means of sensations, it is impossible to communicate any proposition from one human mind to another.”

Why is this impossible? Cheung fails to distinguish between raw sensation and encoded information. We live in an age in which light-waves and sound-waves are used as carrier waves on which to piggyback encoded information. Abstract propositions are encrypted in a material medium and decrypted by the mind the listener or reader.

11.” Of course we ‘read’ the Bible, but even this activity does not depend on sensation, but on God's sovereign will and power.”

i) Notice the blatant false antithesis, as if our sensory processing system wasn’t set up by God in the first place.

ii) If occasionalism were true, then Cheung could never know it was true; for if the relation between the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge is due to God’s direct action, then we would have no “means” of knowing that it’s due to God’s direct action. Maybe the Cartesian demon is acting up again!

By definition, the direct result of an immediate implantation leaves no trace evidence of the process involved. If you want a recipe for “complete agnosticism,” start here.

Far from irrefutable, Cheung’s position is self-refuting!

Friday, June 24, 2005

An open letter to evangelicals

Recently a number of leaders in the Protestant community of the United States have urged the endorsement of far-reaching and unilateral political commitments to the people and land of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing Holy Scripture as the basis for those commitments. To strengthen their endorsement, several of these leaders have also insisted that they speak on behalf of the seventy million people who constitute the American evangelical community.

It is good and necessary for evangelical leaders to speak out on the great moral issues of our day in obedience to Christ's call for his disciples to be salt and light in the world.1 It is quite another thing, however, when leaders call for commitments that are based upon a serious misreading of Holy Scripture. In such instances, it is good and necessary for other evangelical leaders to speak out as well. We do so here in the hope that we may contribute to the cause of the Lord Christ, apart from whom there can never be true and lasting peace in the world.2

At the heart of the political commitments in question are two fatally flawed propositions. First, some are teaching that God's alleged favor toward Israel today is based upon ethnic descent rather than upon the grace of Christ alone, as proclaimed in the Gospel. Second, others are teaching that the Bible's promises concerning the land are fulfilled in a special political region or "Holy Land," perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone. As a result of these false claims, large segments of the evangelical community, our fellow citizens, and our government are being misled with regard to the Bible's teachings regarding the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel.

In what follows, we make our convictions public. We do so acknowledging the genuine evangelical faith of many who will not agree with us. Knowing that we may incur their disfavor, we are nevertheless constrained by Scripture and by conscience to publish the following propositions for the cause of Christ and truth.
I. The Gospel offers eternal life in heaven to Jews and Gentiles alike as a free gift in Jesus Christ.3 Eternal life in heaven is not earned or deserved, nor is it based upon ethnic descent or natural birth.4
II. All human beings, Jews and Gentiles alike, are sinners,5 and, as such, they are under God's judgment of death.6 Because God's standard is perfect obedience and all are sinners, it is impossible for anyone to gain temporal peace or eternal life by his own efforts. Moreover, apart from Christ, there is no special divine favor upon any member of any ethnic group; nor, apart from Christ, is there any divine promise of an earthly land or a heavenly inheritance to anyone, whether Jew or Gentile.7 To teach or imply otherwise is nothing less than to compromise the Gospel itself.
III. God, the Creator of all mankind, is merciful and takes no pleasure in punishing sinners.8 Yet God is also holy and just and must punish sin.9 Therefore, to satisfy both his justice and his mercy, God has appointed one way of salvation for all, whether Jew or Gentile, in Jesus Christ alone.10
IV. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man,11 came into the world to save sinners.12 In his death upon the cross, Jesus was the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, of Jew and of Gentile alike. The death of Jesus forever fulfilled and eternally ended the sacrifices of the Jewish temple.13 All who would worship God, whether Jew or Gentile, must now come to him in spirit and truth through Jesus Christ alone. The worship of God is no longer identified with any specific earthly sanctuary. He receives worship only through Jesus Christ, the eternal and heavenly Temple.14
V. To as many as receive and rest upon Christ alone through faith alone, to Jews and Gentiles alike, God gives eternal life in his heavenly inheritance.15
VI. The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham were made effective through Christ, Abraham's True Seed.16 These promises were not and cannot be made effective through sinful man's keeping of God's law.17 Rather, the promise of an inheritance is made to those only who have faith in Jesus, the True Heir of Abraham. All spiritual benefits are derived from Jesus, and apart from him there is no participation in the promises.18 Since Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the Abrahamic Covenant, all who bless him and his people will be blessed of God, and all who curse him and his people will be cursed of God.19 These promises do not apply to any particular ethnic group,20 but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel.21 The people of God, whether the church of Israel in the wilderness in the Old Testament22 or the Israel of God among the Gentile Galatians in the New Testament,23 are one body who through Jesus will receive the promise of the heavenly city, the everlasting Zion.24 This heavenly inheritance has been the expectation of the people of God in all ages.25
VII. Jesus taught that his resurrection was the raising of the True Temple of Israel.26 He has replaced the priesthood, sacrifices, and sanctuary of Israel by fulfilling them in his own glorious priestly ministry and by offering, once and for all, his sacrifice for the world, that is, for both Jew and Gentile.27 Believers from all nations are now being built up through him into this Third Temple,28 the church that Jesus promised to build.29
VIII. Simon Peter spoke of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in conjunction with the final judgment and the punishment of sinners.30 Instructively, this same Simon Peter, the Apostle to the Circumcision,31 says nothing about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel in the land of Palestine.32 Instead, as his readers contemplate the promise of Jesus' Second Coming, he fixes their hope upon the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.33
IX. The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the "Holy Land" cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua.34 The New Testament speaks clearly and prophetically about the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70.35 No New Testament writer foresees a regathering of ethnic Israel in the land, as did the prophets of the Old Testament after the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C.36 Moreover, the land promises of the Old Covenant are consistently and deliberately expanded in the New Testament to show the universal dominion of Jesus,37 who reigns from heaven upon the throne of David, inviting all the nations through the Gospel of Grace to partake of his universal and everlasting dominion.38
X. Bad Christian theology regarding the "Holy Land" contributed to the tragic cruelty of the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lamentably, bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine, with the consequence that the Palestinian people are marginalized and regarded as virtual "Canaanites."39 This doctrine is both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and a violation of the Gospel mandate.40 In addition, this theology puts those Christians who are urging the violent seizure and occupation of Palestinian land in moral jeopardy of their own bloodguiltiness. Are we as Christians not called to pray for and work for peace, warning both parties to this conflict that those who live by the sword will die by the sword?41 Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring both temporal reconciliation and the hope of an eternal and heavenly inheritance to the Israeli and the Palestinian. Only through Jesus Christ can anyone know peace on earth.

The promised Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ has been inaugurated. Its advent marks the focal point of human history. This kingdom of the Messiah is continuing to realize its fullness as believing Jews and Gentiles are added to the community of the redeemed in every generation. The same kingdom will be manifested in its final and eternal form with the return of Christ the King in all his glory.

Of all the nations, the Jewish people played the primary role in the coming of the Messianic kingdom. New Testament Scripture declares that to them were given the oracles of God,42 the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.43 Theirs are the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and from them, according to the flesh, came Christ.44 Salvation is, indeed, of the Jews.45 While affirming the Scriptural teaching that there is no salvation outside of Christ, Christians should acknowledge with heartfelt sorrow and grief the frequent oppression of the Jews in history, sometimes tragically done in the name of the cross.

But what are we to make of the unbelief of Israel? Has their unbelief made the faithfulness of God without effect for them?46 No, God has not completely rejected the people of Israel,47 and we join the apostle Paul in his earnest prayer for the salvation of his Jewish kinsmen according to the flesh.48 There always has been and always will be a remnant that is saved.49 While not all Israel will experience the blessing of participation in the Messianic kingdom,50 yet Jews who do come to faith in Christ will share in his reign throughout the present age and into eternity. In addition, it is not as though the rejection of some in Israel for unbelief serves no purpose. On the contrary, because they were broken off in unbelief, the Gospel has gone to the Gentiles, who now, through faith, partake of the blessings to the fathers and join with believing Jews to constitute the true Israel of God, the church of Jesus Christ.51

The present secular state of Israel, however, is not an authentic or prophetic realization of the Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, a day should not be anticipated in which Christ's kingdom will manifest Jewish distinctives, whether by its location in "the land," by its constituency, or by its ceremonial institutions and practices. Instead, this present age will come to a climactic conclusion with the arrival of the final, eternal phase of the kingdom of the Messiah. At that time, all eyes, even of those who pierced him, will see the King in his glory.52 Every knee will bow, and every tongue will declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.53 The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.54

In light of the grand prophetic expectation of the New Testament, we urge our evangelical brothers and sisters to return to the proclamation of the free offer of Christ's grace in the Gospel to all the children of Abraham, to pray for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and to promise all humanitarian sympathy and practical support for those on both sides who are suffering in this current vicious cycle of atrocity and displacement. We also invite those Christian educators and pastors who share our convictions on the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel to join their names with ours as signatories to this open letter.

The signatories to this letter include Beisner, Gaffin, Horton, Reymond, Pipa, O.P. Robertson, Sproul, and Waltke.

By way of reply:

I have no particular objection to the soteriology or eschatology of this letter. But a lot else is ignorant and erroneous:

1. Yes, there was a certain amount of bad Christian theology animating the Crusades. If, however, the signatories bothered to read any of the primary source material (e.g., Urban II’s speech before the Council of Clermont; the Alexiad of Anna Comnena), some of which I’ve posted on my blog, they would know that just-war criteria also figured in the Crusades.

2. I’m all for the impartiality of the Gospel. That is quite distinct from our national defense posture, which ought to be calibrated to the respective threat level posed by hostiles regimes around the world.

3. There is no evidence, as far as I’m aware of, that modern-day Arabs are lineal descendents of Abraham. This is something you get in the Koran, not in the Bible. It is breathtaking that the signatories are so ignorant of Bible history and ANE history that they would buy into this piece of Koranic propaganda.

4. There is no Palestinian people-group. To my knowledge, these are just garden-variety Arabs, mostly of Jordanian descent. Arafat was Egyptian.

When I was a kid, there was no Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There was only an Israeli/Arab conflict. The discovery of the “Palestinian people” is a propaganda device which we owe to the likes of the late Yasir Arafat—the granddaddy of modern Muslim terrorism. Most-all of the signatories are old enough to have lived through that period. There is no excuse for them to be so abysmally ignorant of recent political history. Where are they getting their information—from Al-Jazeera?

Certainly it is a tribute to the success of the Arab media and the liberal media that Reformed seminary professors would be duped by such demonstrable falsehoods.

5. Then we have this moral equivalence. Don’t they watch the news? The suicide bombers are Arabs, not Jews. By and large, the Arabs are the aggressors whereas the Israelis are engaging in defensive counter-measures. The Arab terrorists are responsible for the “cycle of violence.”

Islam has a culture of violence. A death-cult, founded on its jihadist martyriology.

BTW, Arabs can be Israeli citizens as well as Jews.

6. The jihadis are just as much of a threat to Arab Christians as they pose to Jewish Israelis. Look at the fate of the Lebanese Christians. Look at the fate of Arab Christians residing in Bethlehem.

7. I’m all for prayer, but prayer is a preparation for action, not a substitute for action. There are only two ways of putting an end to Islamo-terrorism: by either converting militant Muslims or killing them.

Have the signatories never studied the history of dhimmitude or the theology of jihad?

Do the signatories not believe in just-war theory? Have they all gone pacifist? The greatest peacemakers in history have been the generals. The men who made peace in WWII were men like Eisenhower, Patton, and Macarthur, not Gandhi or Chamberlain.

8. I’m all for evangelism, but while you can do evangelism in Israel, you can’t do evangelism is a Muslim country, due to the law of apostasy. Don’t the signatories know that?

9. When has Israel ever “conquered” Palestine? Is this an allusion to the Six Day War? To my knowledge, that was a first strike to preempt an imminent attack.

10. The “occupation” is another propaganda term. This is not “Palestinian” territory, but “disputed” territory.

I’d add that if you read a pre-Islamic history of the Mideast, such as The Pilgrimage of Etheria, you’ll see that before the Muslim conquest, the Mideast was in Christian hands.

I don’t have any detailed position on the settlements. But I would say that Israel is entitled to defensible borders.

I’d also say that if West Bank Arabs can’t stand a few Jewish settlements in their midst, then they don’t believe in peaceful coexistence, in which event, they don’t believe in a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

Indeed, as presently constituted, any Palestinian state would be a terrorist state, on par with Iran or Syria.

In sum, I agree with the general thrust of the open letter in its soteriology and its eschatology.

But shame on the signatories for being so culpably ignorant of Bible history and ANE history and church history and modern history.

Shame on the signatories for lacking the elementary moral discernment to know our friends from our enemies.

Shame on the signatories for allowing the Far Left and the Arab world to frame the terms of the debate.

Shame on the signatories for abandoning just-war theory.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Separation of Court & Constitution-2

I’ve quoted this report at length so that we can see the worst which Barry Lynn’s outfit has to fling at the Air Force Academy. For the sake of argument, let us stipulate to the truth of all the complaints. By way of comment:

1.For starters, what does the Establishment Clause actually say? “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

It goes on to say, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Now, as you read through the litany of complaints, begin by asking yourself one simple question: How many of these “violations” of the Establishment Clause represent an Act of Congress to establish a national church? Short answer: not a single one.

2.In addition, where does the Establishment Clause forbid a member of the armed forces for religious sponsorship, preference, endorsement, intolerance, disrespect, insensitivity, favoritism, prayer, proselytizing, or witnessing?


3.Where does the US Constitution grant to the courts the power of judicial review?


4.Notice the circular reasoning. It’s organizations like the AU and ACLU which bring these sorts of lawsuits in the first place, and then appeal to the judicial fiats which they engineered as proof of their contention.

5.Why do we have military chaplains in the first place? Because it’s a tradition which goes back to the founding fathers.

Preaching the Gospel is what chaplains are supposed to do. That’s their job. That’s what they’ve always done. When did it “become” unconstitutional? If it wasn’t unconstitutional at the time the Constitution was ratified, how can it be unconstitutional now?

6.Notice the objection to an Air Force General offering an “official endorsement” of the national week of prayer.

Well, what makes it a national week of prayer? That’s the law, isn’t it? What’s wrong with an officer endorsing the law?

7.Words like “coercion,” “pressure,” and “harassment” are emotive value judgments added by the AU.

8.I don’t condone the use of religious epithets. But, of course, choice epithets are a regular feature of military life, and I dare say that irreligious epithets (profanity) are a good deal more common than religious epithets.

9.I also don’t condone obnoxious behavior or hard-sell tactics in evangelism. That, however, is not a Constitutional issue.

10.Are the cadets such hothouse plants that they wither under the heat of religious peer pressure? If so, how will they ever survive on the battlefield?

11.Why is it that Christians enlist at such a disproportionate rate? Instead of trashing the Christians, shouldn’t the liberal be commending Christians for their patriotism and bravery?

And doesn’t the religious gap speak ill of unbelievers who do not enlist at anything like the same rate in defense of their country? They enjoy the American lifestyle and the Bill of Rights, but they are not prepared to fight for it and die for it.

Cringing pacifists like Barry Lynn have the arrogance to dictate to our courageous warriors how they are allowed to die so that Barry Lynn may live.

12.Could there not be a logical correlation between those believe in the afterlife and those who believe in risking their lives for their fellow man?

The real problem is not that godly Christians have broken down a mythical wall of separation between church and state, but that godless liberals have erected a mythical wall of separation between the courts and the Constitution.

Separation of Court & Constitution-1


Americans United for Separation of Church and State has received numerous complaints from a variety of sources, representing diverse religious backgrounds, about extremely troubling religious policies and practices at the United States Air Force Academy. We have investigated those complaints and come to the conclusion that the policies and practices constitute egregious, systemic, and legally actionable violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Coerced Religious Practice

Americans United has received reports from former and current cadets — confirmed by members of the U.S. Air Force Academy’s “Permanent Party” 1 — that Academy faculty, staff, members of the Chaplains’ Office, and upperclass cadets frequently pressure members of the Cadet Wing to attend chapel and undertake religious instruction. 1. We have been informed, for example, that, during a Basic Cadet Training session attended by a team of observers from the Yale Divinity School, one of the Academy chaplains — Major Warren “Chappy” Watties — led a Protestant worship service in which he encouraged the attending cadets to return to their tents and proselytize cadets who had not attended the service, with the declared penalty for failure to accept this proselytization being to “burn in the fires of hell.” Although literally hundreds of witnesses can attest to the fact that Major Watties ran the service and encouraged attendees to proselytize their non-attending classmates, we are informed that the Academy has downplayed the significance of the incident, reporting to the Air Staff at the Pentagon that the chaplain who conducted that service and encouraged proselytization of cadets was not a member of the Academy’s Permanent Party but instead was merely a visiting Air Force reservist. That report is incorrect: Major Watties is a full-time chaplain at the Academy. Indeed, he enjoys the distinction of having been named as the U.S. Air Force’s current Chaplain of the Year. What is more, the Air Staff has now expressly condoned Major Watties’ actions — at the same time that the Academy is denying that Major Watties ever made the statements reported by the Yale Divinity School team and the other attendees at the service. See Pam Zubeck, Air Force deems chaplain’s call appropriate, GAZETTE (Colo. Springs), Apr. 27, 2005.

More generally, the Yale Divinity School team reported, and our complainants have confirmed, that Academy chaplains regularly encourage cadets to “witness” other cadets — i.e., attempt to convert them to evangelical Christianity. We have also been informed that, when cadets declined to attend chapel after dinner during Basic Cadet Training, they were made to suffer humiliation by being placed by upperclass cadet staff into a “Heathen Flight” and marched back to their dormitories. Similarly, we have learned that, at a football practice just before an Easter Sunday, head-football-coach Fisher DeBerry informed the cadets on the team that he expected to see them in church for Easter services. All of these incidents — which are, we have been assured, merely a representative sampling of routine occurrences at the Academy — constitute forms of unlawful religious coercion or pressure by members of the Academy’s Permanent Party and the Cadet Wing. The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that, “at a minimum, the Constitution guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way which ‘establishes a [state] religion or religious faith, or tends to do so.’” Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 587 (1992) (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 678 (1984)) (alteration in original). To be sure, it is both constitutionally permissible and appropriate for the armed forces to provide military chaplains insofar as this is necessary to ensure that service-members can satisfy their spiritual needs. See Sch. Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 226 n.10 (1963); Katcoff v. Marsh, 755 F.2d 223, 237-38 (2d Cir. 1985). But neither chaplains, nor other members of the Academy’s Permanent Party, nor even upperclass cadets — who are, of course, imbued by the Air Force with command authority over underclass cadets — may aggressively proselytize for any particular faith. See, e.g., Baz v. Walters, 782 F.2d 701, 709 (7th Cir. 1986) (finding that public-hospital chaplain cannot proselytize patients because, although government could lawfully provide hospital chaplains, it must “ensure that the existence of the chaplaincy does not create establishment clause problems,” and “[u]nleashing a government-paid chaplain who sees his primary role as proselytizing upon a captive audience of patients could do exactly that”). 2. We have also been informed of numerous instances in which prayer was a part of mandatory or otherwise official events at the Academy. For example, we have learned that each mandatory meeting of the cadet cadre during Basic Cadet Training has opened with a prayer, and that many other official events at the Academy — including mandatory meals in Mitchell Hall (the Academy’s Cadet Dining Facility), mandatory awards ceremonies, and mandatory military-training event dinners — have been opened with prayers. The federal courts have upheld certain forms of government-sponsored prayer in only two very narrow contexts: prayer at the opening of legislative sessions (see Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, 790-91 (1983)), and prayer at university graduation ceremonies (see Chaudhuri v. Tennessee, 130 F.3d 232 (6th Cir. 1997); Tanford v. Brand, 194 F.3d 982 (7th Cir. 1996)). But a central rationale for the decisions allowing prayer at university graduation ceremonies is that those events are “significant, once-in-a-lifetime event[s],” for which nonsectarian, non-proselytizing prayer may be appropriate as a means to solemnize the occasion. Doe v. Duncanville Indep. Sch. Dist., 70 F.3d 402, 406-07 (5th Cir. 1995); see also, e.g., Chaudhuri, 130 F.3d at 236. As for other school activities, which are “far less solemn and extraordinary” than graduation ceremonies, the courts have consistently held that officially sponsored prayer is impermissible. See, e.g., Doe v. Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist., 168 F.3d 806, 823 (5th Cir. 1999) (rationale for permitting nonsectarian student-initiated prayer at university graduation ceremony “hinged on the singular context and singularly serious nature of the graduation ceremony,” and did not apply to school sporting events), aff’d on other grounds, 530 U.S. 290 (2000); Chaudhuri, 130 F.3d at 236; Ingebretsen v. Jackson Pub. Sch. Dist., 88 F.3d 274 (5th Cir. 1996) (striking down state statute permitting student-initiated prayer at school sporting events); Duncanville, 70 F.3d at 406-07; Jager v. Douglas County Sch. Dist., 862 F.2d 824 (11th Cir. 1989) (striking down regulation calling for holding of invocations at high-school sporting events). Especially pertinent is the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Mellen v. Bunting, 327 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1019 (2004), in which the court held that the Establishment Clause strictly prohibited school-sponsored prayer during mealtimes at the Virginia Military Institute — even though cadets were not required either to attend meals or to participate in the prayers if they did. Id. at 371-72. Among the reasons for that holding was the court’s conclusion that “the First Amendment prohibits [a publicly funded military academy] from requiring religious objectors to alienate themselves from the [academy] community in order to avoid a religious practice.” Id. at 372 n.9 (citing Lee, 505 U.S. at 596). And even in the very limited contexts where courts have approved government-sponsored prayer, they have made clear that only nonsectarian prayer is allowed and that prayers specific to any particular faith invariably violate the Establishment Clause. See, e.g., Wynne v. Town of Great Falls, 376 F.3d 292 (4th Cir. 2004) (town council violated Establishment Clause by opening sessions with prayers containing references to Jesus Christ), petition for cert. filed, 73 U.S.L.W. 3473 (U.S. Jan 28, 2005) (No. 04-1052); Bacus v. Palo Verde Unified Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 52 Fed. Appx. 355, 356-57 (9th Cir. 2002) (school board’s practice of ending prayers with phrase “in the Name of Jesus” “displays the government’s allegiance to a particular sect or creed,” namely Christianity, and therefore violates principle that “one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another”); Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369, 371, 385 (6th Cir. 1999) (Board of Education’s practice of opening meetings with prayer held unconstitutional in part because “the prayers in this case were clearly sectarian, with repeated references to Jesus and the Bible”); Rubin v. City of Burbank, 124 Cal. Rptr. 2d 867 (Cal. App. 2002) (references to “Jesus Christ” in prayers that opened city-council meetings held unconstitutional). Meals, cadet cadre meetings during the course of Basic Cadet Training, and the like are all, of course, relatively routine occurrences at the Academy — and certainly not once-in-a-lifetime events. And hence, even nonsectarian, non-proselytizing prayer — much less the explicitly Christian prayer that apparently occurs with some frequency at such events at the Academy — cannot be squared with the strict mandates of the Establishment Clause. And although the constitutional violations here are made all the more egregious by virtue of the fact that attendance at these events is mandatory for cadets (see generally, e.g., Lee, 505 U.S. at 587), the Establishment Clause would prohibit prayer in these contexts even if the events were entirely optional, insofar as cadets were forced to choose between being subject to a prayer in order to attend and fully participate in an Academy event, on the one hand, and refraining from attending the event, on the other (see Mellen, 327 F.3d at 372 n.9; see also, e.g., Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 312 (“‘[i]t is a tenet of the First Amendment that the State cannot require one of its citizens to forfeit his or her rights and benefits as the price of resisting conformance to state-sponsored religious practice’” (quoting Lee, 505 U.S. at 596)); Thomas v. Review Bd., 450 U.S. 707, 716 (1981) (“A person may not be compelled to choose between the exercise of a First Amendment right and participation in an otherwise available public program.”)). Nor does it make any difference to the constitutional analysis whether cadets at the events are required either to speak or otherwise to participate actively in prayers. For the Supreme Court has held that merely requiring objectors to maintain silence during a prayer constitutes coerced participation in that prayer. See Lee, 505 U.S. at 593. And the Fourth Circuit has held that, in light of the special nature of military-academy life, the mere presence of cadets at an official prayer is unconstitutional, even if there is no requirement that the cadets remain silent or stand at attention. See Mellen, 327 F.3d at 371-72. 3. In addition to receiving reports of coerced attendance at religious services and prayers at official events, we have also learned of a number of other methods by which members of the Permanent Party and upperclass cadet staff have encouraged or put pressure on classmates and underclass cadets to engage in religious practices generally, and most especially in evangelical Christian religious practices. For example, we have been told that a number of faculty members have introduced themselves to their classes as born-again Christians and encouraged their students to become born-again during the course of the term. We have also been informed of at least one instance where a history instructor at the Academy ordered students to pray before they were permitted to begin their final examination for the course. In addition, we have received copies of a full-page “USAFA CLM 2003 Christmas Greeting” published in the Academy’s newspaper, the Academy Spirit. The “Greeting” lists approximately 300 signatories — arranged by Academy department — who jointly declared their “belie[f] that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world;” announced that “[t]here is salvation in no one else;” and directed cadets to contact them in order to “discuss Jesus.” Among the signatories are 16 heads or deputy heads of the Academy’s academic departments, 9 permanent professors, the then-Dean of the Faculty, the current Dean of the Faculty, the then-Vice Dean of the Faculty, the Academy’s Director of Athletics, and the Academy’s head football coach, as well as spouses of these and other members of the Academy faculty and staff. And we have received copies of a sign placed on every plate in the Cadet Dining Hall and posted widely throughout the Academy announcing a Christian-themed program related to the movie The Passion of the Christ. The flyers announced that the program was sponsored by the Christian Leadership Ministeries “in coordination with the Office of Cadet Chaplains,” and stated that “This is an officially sponsored USAFA event — please do not take this flyer down” — a notation that does not generally appear on flyers announcing programs of a non-religious nature. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids public officials from taking any action that “has the purpose or effect of ‘endorsing’ religion.” County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573, 592 (1989). Impermissible governmental endorsement of religion occurs whenever a public official — such as a military officer or faculty member at a public educational institution — takes any action that “‘convey[s] or attempt[s] to convey a message that religion or a particular religion is favored or preferred.’” Id. at 593 (quoting Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 70 (1985) (O’Connor, J., concurring in judgment)) (emphasis in original). Reduced to simplest terms, the Supreme Court has held that the Establishment Clause prohibits any official action that promotes religion generally or shows favoritism toward any particular faith. See, e.g., Bd. of Educ. v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687, 703 (1994) (“a principle at the heart of the Establishment Clause [is] that government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion”); Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 604 (“Whatever else the Establishment Clause may mean (and we have held it to mean no official preference even for religion over nonreligion), it certainly means at the very least that government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions).”); Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 (1982) (“The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.”). When faculty members evangelize or proselytize in the classroom, the message is manifest: To please their instructors, cadets should embrace the instructors’ faith. And when large portions of the Academy’s Permanent Party issue a joint statement in the Academy’s official newspaper espousing one particular creed and encouraging cadets to approach them about it as the path to “salvation,” the message is equally clear: To curry favor with the officers who hold sway over their lives, cadets should seek religious instruction from those officers. In short, faculty members and other officers who use their official positions to communicate such messages — as so many members of the Academy’s Permanent Party have — are sending a strong and unequivocal message of the Academy’s and the United States Air Force’s unconstitutional endorsement of religion. What is more, we have received numerous reports about non-Christian cadets being subjected to proselytization or religious harassment by other, more senior or upperclass cadets, thus reinforcing the message of endorsement conveyed by the Permanent Party. Even setting aside the fact that these upperclass cadets apparently are not punished for their conduct (even when they attack other cadets using religious epithets — a common occurrence at the Academy, we have discovered), upperclass cadets are, of course, given command authority over their subordinates; and hence, they act in an official capacity under the auspices of the United States Air Force. As one recent Academy graduate explained the situation to us, upperclass cadets have virtually total control over the lives of underclass cadets — and therefore often exercise far more direct influence than even the Academy’s Permanent Party does. For that reason, not only does harassment by an upperclass cadet constitute official governmental conduct, but cadets who face proselytization or religious harassment from upperclass cadets will naturally conclude that mimicking their superiors’ religious beliefs and practices is necessary to succeed at the Academy — or at least to avoid the wrath or ill-will of those with the power to punish. Harassment by upperclass cadets — especially when combined with proselytizing of cadets by the Permanent Party — thus creates a pervasively religious atmosphere that sends “a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.” Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 595. That divisive message, communicated by faculty, staff, and upperclass cadets, constitutes a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. See id. at 593-94 (government must refrain from conveying message that religion generally, or any religious belief in particular, is favored or preferred).

Pervasiveness of the Problem

Because of the nature of the military command structure, the Academy leadership is singularly well-positioned to stamp out official religious discrimination and favoritism by giving appropriate orders and enforcing them under the terms of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. By the same token, actions by senior Academy leadership in the officer ranks that undercut attempts to achieve those ends send a strong message to cadets about what conduct is permissible and even favored at the Academy — a clear and unequivocal endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment. And in that regard, complaints from multiple sources make clear that violations of the Establishment Clause are not merely aberrant acts by a few rogue individuals, but instead are reflections of systematic and pervasive religious bias and intolerance at the highest levels of the Academy command structure. 1. Notably, we have received a host of reports about incidents in which Brigadier General Johnny Weida, in his official capacity as Commandant of Cadets, has endorsed religion generally and his own faith (as an evangelical Christian) in particular, in clear violation of the Establishment Clause. General Weida has, for example, officially endorsed “National Prayer Week” in a mass email message to the Cadet Wing that can only be described as a prayer and a directive to pray. Among other things, General Weida’s e-mail message instructed cadets to “[a]sk the Lord to give us the wisdom to discover the right, the courage to choose it, and the strength to make it endure”; and the message informed the cadets that “He has a plan for each and every one of us.” Similarly, in an official “Commander’s Guidance” document, General Weida instructed cadets that they “are accountable first to your God.” Such official proselytization and prayer by a public official is, of course, the hallmark of unconstitutional conduct under the Establishment Clause. See Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 592 (government officials may not take action that “has the purpose or effect of ‘endorsing’ religion”). And if those incidents were not enough to demonstrate the severity of the problems at the Academy, it seems that General Weida has established a system of code words that he shares with evangelical Christian cadets in order to provide them with opportunities to proselytize others in the Cadet Wing. Specifically, at a Protestant chapel service during Basic Cadet Training, General Weida told the attendees the New Testament parable of the house built on rock — a metaphor for building faith on the firm foundation of Jesus. See Matthew 7:24-29; Luke 6:46-49. General Weida then instructed the cadets that, whenever he uses the phrase “Airpower!,” they should respond with the phrase “Rock Sir!,” thus invoking the parable from the New Testament. General Weida advised the cadets that, when asked by their classmates about the meaning of the call and response, the cadets should use the opportunity to discuss their Christian faith. And General Weida regularly invokes the “Airpower!” call in official statements in order to prompt the religiously based “Rock Sir!” response. Indeed, General Weida has used his “Airpower!” call-and-response to undercut even the few attempts that have been made at the Academy to address particular incidents of religious intolerance and coercion — thus sending an especially strong message of favoritism toward Christianity and those who share General Weida’s Christian faith. For example, after the Academy received complaints arising out of the placement on every cadet’s plate at mealtime of advertisements for a screening of the movie The Passion of the Christ, Lieutenant General John Rosa apparently ordered General Weida to read to the fully assembled Cadet Wing an official “apology” (or, more accurately, a statement, drafted by the Chaplains’ Office, of the Academy’s policy regarding the posting and distribution of flyers). But General Weida opened his remarks with the “Airpower!” chant, thus sending the strong message that cadets should ignore his perfunctory reading of the statement. What is more, throughout General Weida’s speech, a quotation from the New Testament Book of Ephesians was projected onto several large screens strategically positioned throughout Mitchell Hall (the huge Cadet Dining Facility where General Weida addressed the Cadet Wing at the mandatory noon meal), further reinforcing General Weida’s message of official endorsement of Christianity and belying any apparent message of religious neutrality, inclusion, or toleration. Similarly, in a mass e-mail message sent to the Cadet Wing in the wake of the incident over the Passion of the Christ flyers, General Weida instructed cadets to “be very careful about forcing your faith into your professional realm”; yet he opened the message with the “Airpower!” invocation, thus unequivocally incorporating his own faith into his “professional realm.” General Weida’s incitement of cadets to proselytize other cadets in his preferred form of Christianity, and his creation of the call-and-response system to facilitate their doing so, are particularly clear instances of official Academy endorsement of religion. And his undercutting of any message of religious toleration, mutual respect, or separation of church and state through his well-timed use of that mechanism only serves to underscore the message that the Academy command gives preference to evangelical Christianity over other faiths. At a more basic level, we have been informed that General Weida has cultivated and reinforced an attitude — shared by many in the Academy Chaplains’ Office and, increasingly, by other members of the Academy’s Permanent Party — that the Academy, and the Air Force in general, would be better off if populated solely with Christians. A stronger message of official preference for one particular faith is hard to imagine. And because, as a number of senior Air Force career officers have now confirmed for us, Air Force Academy cadets and junior Air Force officers rapidly come to the conclusion that rewards go to those who think like their general officers, these young people learn that professional success comes with emulation of the practice of explicitly incorporating Christianity into the performance of their official duties. So when leaders such as General Weida support and contribute to a culture of religious intolerance and official favoritism, Establishment Clause violations become commonplace. 2. Thus, it should come as no surprise that other members of the Air Force Academy’s Permanent Party are equally unrestrained in their egregious violations of the Establishment Clause. As we have already described such widespread practices as faculty members proselytizing in the classroom and directives from Academy chaplains to proselytize other cadets, we will not belabor the point unduly by trying to recount all of the violations by Academy officials about which we have received complaints. But to underscore the open, notorious, and pervasive nature of the violations, we do wish to call special attention to the actions of one other member of the Academy staff — head-football-coach Fisher DeBerry — as his conduct in violation of the Establishment Clause is not only clear, but also longstanding and well-documented. Last fall, Coach DeBerry placed a banner reading “I am a Christian first and last * * * I am a member of Team Jesus Christ” in the locker room used by the Academy’s football team. He posted the banner just two weeks after the Academy had initiated a program of religious sensitivity training — a topic to which we will return later — and one day after General Rosa had informed the Academy’s Board of Visitors of his plans for addressing religious intolerance at the Academy. See Pam Zubeck, DeBerry gets sensitivity training, GAZETTE (Colo. Springs), Dec. 1, 2004. Although DeBerry supposedly received “counseling” from General Rosa concerning the banner (see id.), DeBerry’s official favoritism towards Christianity has not wavered: He has since been quoted as saying that religion is “‘what we’re all about’” at the Academy (Todd Jacobson & Pam Zubeck, AFA coach says religion is paramount at school, GAZETTE (Colo. Springs), Feb. 26, 2005 (quoting Coach DeBerry)). He has also stated that he continues to “advise[] his players to attend church the day after games.” Id. He has further stated that, after games, the team members and he “get on our hands and knees and we wrap our arms around each other and we thank God for the opportunity of having competed that particular day.” Id. We have also been informed that DeBerry routinely gives speeches at official Academy and prep-school events, and that his speeches have overtly sectarian themes and are invariably laden with explicit references to Jesus. Indeed, DeBerry has consistently incorporated religion into his coaching and the performance of his other official duties throughout his many years at the Academy. See e.g., Jacobsen & Zubeck, supra (noting DeBerry’s self-report that he has held team prayers during his entire 21-year coaching career at the Academy). Yet aside from the one occasion of “counseling” by General Rosa over the “Team Jesus Christ” banner, it seems that no action has ever been taken to discipline Coach DeBerry for his behavior — and certainly none that was sufficient to cause DeBerry to change that behavior. On the contrary, the Colorado Springs Gazette recently reported that General Rosa has announced that it is permissible for DeBerry to lead the football team in prayers, as long as those prayers do not promote any particular religion. See Jacobsen & Zubeck, supra. 3. But General Rosa’s statement of policy is wrong as a matter of law. The U.S. Supreme Court and all other courts to consider the question have held that officially sponsored prayer may not be held at athletic events at public educational institutions. See, e.g., Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 305-08 (2000) (striking down student-initiated, student-led prayer before football games); Ingebretsen v. Jackson Pub. Sch. Dist., 88 F.3d 274 (5th Cir. 1996) (striking down state statute permitting student-initiated prayer at sporting events); Jager v. Douglas County Sch. Dist., 862 F.2d 824 (11th Cir. 1989) (striking down regulation calling for holding of invocations at high-school sporting events). Indeed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled that coaches or other school employees may neither participate in nor supervise prayer during practice or in the locker room before a game, even if the prayer is initiated and led by the students themselves. Doe v. Duncanville Indep. Sch. Dist., 70 F.3d 402 (5th Cir. 1995). Among the many reasons that team prayer accompanying sporting events at public institutions has been held to be unconstitutional is the fact that attendance at games is not voluntary for members of the team; and, in any event, the courts have held that the Establishment Clause forbids even what are clearly designated as voluntary pre-game prayer sessions because the hierarchical nature of the coach-player relationship might make team members feel pressure to attend. See, e.g., Doe v. Duncanville Indep. Sch. Dist., 994 F.2d 160, 165 (5th Cir. 1993) (coach’s involvement in religious activity with students would be “perceived by the students as inducing participation they might otherwise reject”). Thus, it is irrelevant as a legal matter as well as illusory as a practical matter that Coach DeBerry purports to allow non-Christians to opt out of post-game team prayer (see Jacobson & Zubeck, supra (relating not only DeBerry’s description of supposed opt-out right for non-Christians, but also his report that no team members have ever exercised that right)).

Official Discrimination Against Non-Christians and Non-Religious Cadets

We have also received multiple reports of unequal treatment of, and official discrimination against, non-Christian cadets who wish to attend religious services or study sessions. 1. It is our understanding that Christian cadets who wish to attend Christian religious services and religious study sessions (such as “Sunday school” or Bible study) on Sundays are eligible for “non-chargeable passes” — i.e., special passes to leave the Academy grounds that do not count as regular leave. By contrast, cadets who celebrate the Sabbath on other days of the week — such as Jewish or Seventh-Day Adventist cadets, who celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday — are not able to obtain such non-chargeable passes to attend Saturday services off the Academy grounds. Indeed, we have been told that Saturday Sabbath observers frequently are denied any opportunity at all to attend religious services because mandatory events such as training, parades, and football games are routinely scheduled for Saturdays, and cadets are not permitted to miss those activities in order to attend religious services. Meanwhile, such mandatory events are not scheduled for Sundays, when they might otherwise conflict with the ability of cadets to attend Christian worship services. The provision of special passes for attendance at Christian religious services and religious study sessions that are not available on equal terms to persons of other faiths is a straightforward instance of one faith being preferred over others, in violation of the Establishment Clause. See, e.g., Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 593-94, 604; Larson, 456 U.S. at 244. Simply put, the Air Force is constitutionally obligated to ensure a diversity of religious viewpoints in the religious programming that it provides; and granting special favors to Christians or special status to their preferred forms of religious observance is highly improper. See, e.g., Katcoff, 755 F.2d at 226-27 & n.1 (approving provision of military chaplaincy in part because Army “provid[ed] religious facilities for soldiers of some 86 different denominations” and did not favor any particular faith over others); Adair v. England, 183 F. Supp. 2d 31, 56-58 (D.D.C. 2002) (Navy’s chaplaincy policy favoring liturgical over non-liturgical Christians held to be presumptively unconstitutional). 2. We have also been informed that Academy officials have discriminated against nonreligious students by denying them other privileges that are routinely available to religious students. For example, General Weida has authorized cadets to hang crosses or other religious items in their dorm rooms, whereas Academy regulations prohibit cadets from displaying non-religious items in similar fashion. In addition, we have been informed that at least one cadet was denied a nonchargeable pass to attend a Freethinkers’ meeting off base because the officers and the cadets in his chain of command regarded Freethinkers’ meetings as not faith-based, and therefore not entitled to the same treatment given to Christian worship or study. And, based on that same official determination, the officers and cadets in the chain of command also denied this same cadet’s request to form a Freethinkers’ “SPIRE” group under the auspices of the Academy’s Special Program in Religious Education. When the cadet complained about these and other incidents to the Academy’s MEO office (i.e., its equal-opportunity office), the officer in charge, Captain Joseph Bland, refused to recognize the complaint as one for religious discrimination because the cadet had identified himself as an atheist. Captain Bland then attempted to proselytize the cadet into Catholicism. We understand that Captain Bland was competitively selected as, and currently holds the title of, the U.S. Air Force’s MEO Officer of the Year. In sum, the Air Force officer charged with investigating and resolving complaints of religious discrimination at the Academy, and recognized by the Air Force as being the outstanding MEO officer for that entire branch of the service, not only had a fundamental misunderstanding of the legal definition of religious discrimination (see generally, e.g., Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 53-54 (1985) (“the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all”)), but also thought it entirely proper to commit a straightforward violation of the Establishment Clause in the course of performing the official duties of the MEO office. 2 The Supreme Court has consistently held that the First Amendment prohibits government from preferring religion to non-religion just as much as it prohibits government from preferring one faith to any other. See, e.g., Grumet, 512 U.S. at 703 (“a principle at the heart of the Establishment Clause [is] that government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion”); Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1989) (plurality opinion) (it “is part of our settled jurisprudence” that First Amendment “‘prohibits government from abandoning secular purpose in order to put an imprimatur on one religion, or on religion as such, or to favor the adherents of any sect or religious organization’” (citation omitted)); Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 104 (1968) (“The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion”); Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 (1961) (government cannot “constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against nonbelievers”); Everson v. Bd. of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 18 (1947) (First Amendment “requires the state to be a neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and non-believers”). 3 Providing non-chargeable passes to cadets for attendance at religious services and study sessions — and specifically Christian ones — without providing similar opportunities to attend nonreligious alternatives clearly constitutes providing a special benefit to religious cadets not available to others. Additionally, it is our understanding that while a few of the Academy’s SPIRE groups are run by Academy chaplains, the Academy also permits several outside Christian groups to host SPIRE groups, thus affording them special access to the Academy facilities and to the cadets, while denying the same privilege to an outside Freethinkers’ group. Doing so is plainly the “unjustifiable assistance to religious organizations” that slights both non-believers and adherents to alternative religions, in violation of the First Amendment. 4 Texas Monthly, 489 U.S. at 15 (quoting Amos 483 U.S. at 348).


Inkblot politics


Yesterday I wrote a column calling Karl Rove a hypocrite (see below). I was wrong. He's a super-hypocrite…Yesterday, Rove spoke at a Conservative Party fundraiser in New York City and said,

“Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.”

Really? Anyone care to cite "an offer of therapy"? I realize Rove was resorting to hyperbole. But he was again impugning motives and claiming Democrats are not committed to defending the United States.


Anything wrong with this picture? Notice that Rove said “liberals.” Notice that, in David Corn’s translation software, “liberal” is automatically synonymous with “Democrat.”

Then, based on this subliminal association, Corn waxes indignant. It would be hard to run across a finer specimen of the Freudian guilt-complex.

Anti-Divestment Petition


To the members and friends of the Episcopal-Jewish
Alliance for Israel:
The Alliance is now working with the Judeo-Christian
Alliance (JCA) and the David Project to combat the
divestment fever sweeping the mainline Protestant
churches. The Presbyterians have voted to divest;
there are two divestment proposals before the United
Church of Christ meeting in Atlanta next week; and the
Anglican Peace and Justice Network has proposed
divestment for the Anglican communion as well.

The JCA yesterday issued the following press release;
the web address of the petition can be found at the
end of the press release. I urge you to sign, and to
pass this message around as widely as you can.

Contact: Dexter Van Zile of the Judeo-Christian
Alliance, 617-428-0012 or

BOSTON, June 21 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Two prominent
Episcopalian bishops are warning their church not to
support the anti-Israel divestment campaign that is
splitting Protestant churches in the U.S. Divestment,
they warn, places exclusive blame for the Arab/Israeli
conflict on Israel, promoting an understanding that
"is entirely inconsistent with the actual history of
this long and tragic conflict."

Their warning comes in the form of an anti-divestment
petition released in conjunction with the
Judeo-Christian Alliance, an initiative of the David
Project, a Boston-based group that promotes a fair and
honest discussion of conflict in the Middle East.

The two bishops, Rev. Geralyn Wolfe of Rhode Island
and Rev. Edward S. Little of Northern Indiana warn
fellow Episcopalians that divestment "seems to justify
the tactics of terrorists. This would only encourage
the violence the church hopes to end, and the
continued suffering of Arabs and Israelis for years to

JCA President Dennis Hale, Ph.D., an Episcopalian
himself, says the willingness of the bishops to oppose
divestment publicly indicates just how divisive the
campaign has been for churches.

"For a long time, Protestant leaders have been forging
close ties with those who are pledged to the
destruction of Israel, falsely claiming to be pursuing
'peace and justice'," Hale says. "They are in fact
prolonging this terrible conflict. Divestment is just
another way of saying that Israel has no right to
defend itself and therefore no right to exist."

The bishops' announcement comes days before the United
Church of Christ's General Synod addresses two
divestment proposals and another calling on Israel to
dismantle the separation barrier that has saved
hundreds of Arab and Israeli lives since 2003.

Dexter Van Zile, a member of the UCC and director of
the JCA says the resolutions are a consequence of the
propaganda spread by the denomination's leadership.

"UCC leaders have shamelessly fronted for Sabeel, an
anti-Israel group that has dusted off the deicide
charge against Jews and has directed its energy
against the Israel," he says. In the next few days,
Van Zile will release a report about Sabeel's
teachings of contempt.

James Hutchins founder of, a Web
site that confronts the political activism of the
denomination's leadership, expressed concern about the
UCC's connection to Sabeel.

"Sabeel's political rhetoric doesn't build bridges, it
builds animosity and contempt," Hutchins says.

The petition can be seen at:

Dennis Hale
Director, Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel


BTW, for a handy resource debunking all of the anti-Zionist propaganda that has captured the political left, the religious left, the elite media, the Muslim media, and academia, cf.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Before I reply to Cheung’s latest comments, I’d like to review how we got here. A reader at Triablogue asked me to comment on Cheung. I said that I wasn’t in much position to comment on Cheung, but from what I’d read of him he seemed to be a Clarkian. I then mentioned some of my disagreements with Clark.

Cheung wrote back and, among other things, said the following:

<< Assuming that he has indeed read much of Clark, and then given his opinion on Clark, I am guessing that his opinion of me would not be much more positive even if he were to take the time to read more of my works (although I am quite different from Clark in some aspects). >>

I then followed up with a two-part piece on Clark (entitled “Gordon Clark”), since I have read almost everything of Clark’s.

Cheung then posted a piece which seemed to be a highly elliptical reply to what I had written, or was, at least, occasioned by what I had written.

I then responded to that (in an essay entitled “Extra-scriptural scripturalism”)--to which Cheung has now offered a rejoinder of sorts.

Among other things, Cheung says the following:

<< As the above reader writes, “I think some of the things that he said were already answered by you in your blog articles. I am not sure if he reads them.” Bingo! And if there is anything unanswered in my blog articles, it is because (as I have repeated several times on this site) they are intended as supplements to my books.

I am not interested in defending my reputation or my competence, but I am concerned when readers might be misled. The simplest solution is to remind all of you that I have already dealt with all the typical criticisms in my writings (books, articles, blog), and all you need to do is to read or review them. >>

Why should I go slogging through all his books and articles and blog entries when he himself indicated that given my views of Clark, my views of his own position would not be much more positive?

I’m just taking him at his word. Is there something wrong with that? To the extent that my criticisms of Clark are applicable to Cheung, I don’t need to trudge through all his own material. He’s the one who set the bar for me. But now he wants to raise the bar.

<< Mr. H interacts with only this short blog entry as if I have presented my main or even entire case against empiricism there… >>

No, I interacted with that particular blog entry since that particular blog entry was in response to what I had written. It is eminently reasonable for my to respond to his response to me.

But that hardly commits me to responding to everything else he has written which was not in response to me. After all, it’s not as if Cheung has responded to everything I’ve written which was not in response to him.

For that matter, Cheung hasn’t even bothered to respond in detail to what I have written with him in mind--and written in response to what he wrote in response to me. So I'm still well ahead of him. He’s the one who’s falling behind, here—not me.

<< I pretty much dislike going back and forth with anybody (except in friendly conversation with my wife)…

But if I am not careful, this will begin the very back and forth deal that I wish to avoid, and that I really have no time for.

I am able to convince anyone only by the sheer rigorous rationality and precise biblical exegesis of my arguments.

Again, I have no problem in answering something that is new, something that I have never addressed, and my readers would testify that I never resort to evasive maneuvers, nor do I need to. >>

So it looks like Cheung would rather play solitaire. Well, that’s his prerogative. But to avoid the cut-and-thrust of an actual debate is hardly an example of “rigorous rationality.” Nothing is easier than to give canned answers to canned objections. This is why the dialogue format is so popular in the history of philosopher. That way, the writer can ensure that he always wins the debate by making his fictive dialogue partner just a little bit dimmer when it counts. In a real give-and-take, you can’t control the flow of the argument, but a canned give-and-take is a safe bet because the outcome is rigged from the start.

<< Many readers fail to apply the strict standards of rationality when they examine arguments and refutations. They fail to remember that not just any complaint is a valid refutation. Just like any sound argument, a refutation must have a conclusion validly deduced from true premises, and that contradicts its opponent’s position. Nothing that Mr. H wrote against me amounts to this. He gives us assertions, speculations, rhetorical questions, but no argument (refutation) that reasons from true premises to their necessary conclusion.

He has attempted several typical ad hominem points. >>

i) One thing that doesn’t amount to a rigorous refutation is when Cheung contents himself with vague, unidentified charges about “assertions, speculations, &c.” If Cheung were applying his own standards to himself, he’d spell out what assertions, what speculations, what rhetorical questions, what ad hominem arguments?

ii) Another thing that doesn’t amount to a rigorous refutation is when Cheung contents himself with referring the reader to a miscellany of his books and articles and blog entries. It is no answer to particular questions and objections to say, Go read everything I’ve ever written and see if you can pick out what may be relevant to the specific case at hand. Once again, it would be nice to see Cheung put his stated standards of “irrefutable” reasoning into practice by actually refuting a real-time critic.

iii) Posing questions is a standard form of argumentation. It is used, for example, by Paul when he employs the diatribe style. For someone who lays claim to scripturalism, why does Cheung demote this Scriptural form of argumentation?

iv) In addition, the ad hominem argument, in the sense of arguing from your opponent’s premise or presupposition, is another valid form of argumentation.

<< Now, an irrefutable position is no good when read by a moron, so it helps that my readers are not stupid.

Nothing that he wrote actually support empiricism. So even if he successfully refutes me, we would end up with skepticism at best.

He has attempted several typical ad hominem points, but I have already dealt with them in my writings — I either refute them as fallacious and irrelevant, or I swallow them down without suffering any damage to the coherence of my position. And again, an ad hominem does not amount to a positive support for empiricism. >>

i) Take very careful notice of how Cheung is trying to shift the burden of proof.

The onus is not on me to make a case for empiricism. The question is not whether empiricism is true or false. The question is not even if rationalism is true or false.

Rather, the question is the relation between rationalism and scripturalism. Clark tried to graft a rationalist epistemology (and attendant metaphysical system) onto the Protestant rule of faith (sola Scriptura).

The primary question is whether this relation is internally consistent. Do the form and content of Scripture cohere with a rationalist epistemology--not to mention the attendant metaphysical system?

ii) The question is further intensified by the fact that Clark tried to turn the Protestant rule of faith into the only source of knowledge. Not only is this simply at odds with the classic Protestant position, but it raises the question of how Scripture, as an external standard, can be a source of knowledge--much less the source of knowledge, unless it is an object of knowledge, and how it can be an object of knowledge on a thorough-going rationalist epistemology.

iii) Let us be very clear on what Clark’s position—as well, apparently, as Cheung’s--amounts to. They are saying that Christians should not take the sensory claims of Scripture at face value. Instead, we are "morons" unless we dump all that--and I do mean "all"--for an extremely counterintuitive--not to say, incoherent--theory of knowledge.

iv) What is more, they deny the prima facie claim of Scripture, not on Scriptural grounds, but on philosophical grounds, derived from the standard objections to empiricism in the rationalist literature.

v) If you believe this, then you must turn the whole of Scripture into an idealistic allegory. Every sensory assertion of Scripture must be converted into a nonsensory analogue. The object of faith is transferred from the propositions of Scripture, as given in Scripture, to an esoteric parallel. Scripture is treated as a ciphertext or code language, to be run through the translation software of idealism.

Frankly, this is no different from Gnostic exegesis, which sets up a one-to-one correspondence between what the Bible says and what it “really” means. So you end up with a two-track theology: there is what the Bible says, with all its sensory nouns and verbs and extended imagery, and then there is the desensitized analogue, which is taken to be the true sense.

vi) I’d add that Cheung constantly confounds sense knowledge with empiricism. But it is easy to draw a basic distinction. Scripture can, and does, affirm sense knowledge without affirming any particular theory of sense knowledge.

There is, in other words, an obvious difference between what Scripture clearly affirms as well as implies, on the one hand, and a full-blown epistemology, on the other hand. Indeed, a number of epistemic systems may be compatible with Scripture because they are underdetermined by Scripture, but consistent with what it affirms or implies as far as it goes.

Conversely, when Clark, as well--apparently, as Cheung--insist that the senses are unreliable sources of information at a global, and not merely local level, their position is interposed in the teeth of what the Bible actually says.

vii) But since Cheung continues to bring up the matter of empiricism, a couple of other observations are in order:

I grant that rationalism has landed some body blows on empiricism. However, I’d also grant that empiricism has landed some body blows on rationalism. That’s why we’ve had an ongoing debate for the last 2500 years. Neither rationalism nor radical empiricism can stand on its own two feet.

viii) In addition, the tabula rasa-cum-bundle theory of sense knowledge offered by the likes of Locke and Hume is not the only available theory or sense knowledge. There are plenty of less radical options to evaluate.

Has Cheung ever bothered to “read slowly and carefully, and REALLY try to understand” such sophisticated and nuanced works of contemporary epistemology as the following (see below), “instead of merely dismissing” the other side of the debate because of Cheung’s Clarkian “traditions or assumptions, without actual refutations?”:

Alston, W. The Reliability of Sense Perception (Cornell 1993)
_____, A Realistic Conception of Truth (Cornell (1996)
_____, Beyond “Justification” (2005)
Bonjour L. & E. Sosa. Epistemic Justification (Oxford 2003)
Plantinga, A. Warrant: the Current Debate (Oxford 1993)
_____, Warrant & Proper Function (Oxford 1993)
_____, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford 2000).
Wolterstorff, N. Thomas Reid & the History of Epistemology (Cambridge 2004)

Extra-scriptural scripturalism

Vincent Cheung writes:


As my readers are aware, I deny that induction, sensation, and science can yield any knowledge, and I have provided biblical and rational justification for this denial in my writings. Besides the typical fallacious replies and evasions, one response is to ask, “But what is knowledge?” That is, if we cannot define knowledge, or cannot justify our definition of knowledge, then it would seem meaningless to say that induction, sensation, and science cannot yield any knowledge.

I have tolerated this sophistry for a while, but since I have been asked about it several times, and since I have been made aware that this point is sometimes brought up in discussions about my writings (as if it totally destroys my arguments!), I will briefly address it here.

It is true that when we use a word, we should often have a proper and justifiable definition for it. This is especially important when we are using it in the context of precise arguments and syllogisms. However, the above objection misses the point.

The point is that induction, sensation, and science involve fallacious reasonings such that they can never produce logically valid conclusions from the premises. That is, it is impossible to use induction, sensation, and science to validly reason from premises X and Y to conclusion Q regarding any subject P. Thus our main point stands even if we never define or even mention “knowledge.”

Assuming the premise, “I see a red car,” how is it possible to validly reason from this premise to, “There is a red car”? You need another premise to fill in the gap between “I see” and “There is,” but how is this premise to be rationally obtained and justified, rather than just stubbornly assumed? This is the point.

As it stands, there is no rational difference between jumping from “I see a red car” to “There is a red car,” and jumping from “I imagine a red car” or “I desire a red car” to “There is a red car.” What is the rational difference between sensation, imagination, and expectation? How come one can jump from “I see” to “There is,” and cannot jump from “I imagine” or “ I desire” to “There is”? What is the additional premise that makes the difference? And how is this premise rationally obtained and justified? The issue is not even the definition of knowledge, but the validity of the reasoning process.

The objection is sophistical and irrational. Whether or not we define knowledge, and whether or not our opponents define knowledge, the objection has not even started to justify induction, sensation, and science, but it seeks to distract us from the main point.

But if the challenge is to define “knowledge” in a proposition such as, “Science cannot yield any knowledge,” then let our opponents first define “science,” and then logically demonstrate how it can validly reach any conclusion about anything, and then we can proceed to examine our denial. For if our science-loving opponents have never claimed that science can reach rational conclusions about anything, or even yield “knowledge” (whatever that is), we would have never needed to make the denial in the first place.

In other words, I can affirm everything that I have said regarding induction, sensation, and science without ever using the word “knowledge” — I just have to say some things differently. In fact, I have already done this a number of times in my books. For example, I would say that science cannot validly deduce anything about reality. And even “reality” does not need to be defined to make this point, since anything X will do — “affirming the consequent” is fallacious regardless of what you are talking about.

So let’s get back to the real issue and press our opponents to show how induction, sensation, and science can validly reason from premises to conclusion.

To those who agree with me: We are right about this. Our position is biblical, rational, irrefutable, and so obviously so that it is laughably easy to defend. Just don’t let intellectual tricksters bully or distract you, and don’t let them smuggle in their irrational theories by falsely claiming biblical support, as if false assumptions can be founded on true presuppositions, or the lie justified by the truth. Instead, let us continue to crush the man-centered epistemologies of induction and sensation, and to exalt biblical revelation as the sole infallible source of true premises from which we would validly deduce conclusions about the many things that God has chosen to disclose to us.


Gordon Clark writes:


With great reluctance, for I sincerely admire the considerable talent of my present opponent [George Mavrodes], I must point out that he has not met the issue when he says, "Sense experience is required for the derivation of such [Biblical] beliefs," and "every consistent epistemology which assigns a role to the Bible…must assign a role of equal scope and in precisely the same area to sense perception." To make such assertions presupposes satisfactory answers to Aenesidemus and Descartes' demon. Can it be shown that an impostor twin is impossible? Can we be sure that we have not overlooked a "not" in the sentence? There are even greater empirical scandals than these. How can one prove the reliability of memory? Any test designed to show which memory is true and which is mistaken presupposes that a previous memory is true - and this is the point in question. In large measure the psychological force of my position derives from the impossibility of empiricism.

No one in the history of philosophy has made a more determined effort than Aristotle to build knowledge on sensation. Surely Locke is no better; and contemporary phenomenalism with its experience that is neither mental nor physical is as meaningless and unverifiable as Spinoza's substance that is both. It was for this reason that the first Wheaton lecture used Aristotle as the exponent of empiricism. Therefore until my destructive analysis of Aristotle (in the first Wheaton lecture and in Thales to Dewey) is overturned, an appeal to sensation is a petitio principii.

The statements of these creeds mean that adherence to Scripture is not a deduction from sensory experience, nor the result of anticipations of decency, nor even of archaeological confirmation. Confidence in Scripture is the result of the inward working of the Holy Ghost.

This too is how Abraham knew it was God and not Satan who commanded him to kill Isaac.


By way of reply:

i) There is a very place for the witness of the Spirit in Christian epistemology. But unless the Bible is an object of knowledge, the Spirit cannot witness to the Word of God. And Clark fails to explain how, if sense knowledge is denied, the Bible can be an object of knowledge.

ii) There is nothing wrong with raising philosophical objections to empiricism. There is nothing wrong with introducing thought-experiments like those of Descartes and Aenesidemus.

But is it not self-refuting to prove scripturalism by appeal to extra-Scriptural objections to empiricism?

Scripture itself never says that sensory perception is a systematically unreliable source of knowledge. So Clark and Cheung are imposing on Scripture an extra-Scriptural frame of reference.

iii) I’d add that Cheung’s objection to sensation and induction is overstated and ultimately self-refuting.

It’s easy to show that our senses can be deceived. Take the familiar case of optical illusions.

It’s easy to show that induction is incomplete. It’s easy to show that scientific measurement is approximate.

But the very act of showing the limitations of sense knowledge presupposes that its limitations can be shown, and they can only be shown on the same type of evidence, drawn from a broader database.

We know that an optical illusion is illusory because we can subject it to more stringent empirical analysis, or simply because, as a matter of experience--either direct or testimonial--we have learned that a mirage is just a mirage.

Likewise we know that induction is incomplete because we know or can show the sample or the control group in the first place, and compare it to a larger potential pool.

By the same token, we know that a measurement is approximate precisely because we have a number of observable measurements to work with. And they are approximate within a certain range of variation.

This is why engineers build a certain margin of error into their designs. And this is why, as a rule, bridges and skyscrapers and aircraft are safe to use. Has Clark never flown on an airplane or driven across a bridge?

In other words, it is only because the senses are generally reliable that we are in a position to detect optical illusions or degrees of imprecision. Without that sensory benchmark, Clark and Cheung would have no frame of reference to observe--and I do mean “observe”--the limitations of sense knowledge.

It is only by comparing one observation with another than an observer is aware of any discrepancy to begin with.

iv) True, this leaves us with the question of why we should privilege some observations over others.

Without attempting to offer a general answer, it is sufficient for our present purposes if we privilege those observations which the Word of God has warranted. That’s a starting-point.

v) Cheung, for one, is using sense data to make his case against sense data. There he is, at his keyboard, with its alphanumerical keys, typing linguistic tokens onto a screen and sending them into cyberspace, to be read of someone else’s screen, through the material medium of optical fiber technology.

vi) If Cheung denies the possibility of sense knowledge, then perhaps he can answer me this one question: what evidence is there than Vincent Cheung even exists? Perhaps he’s a figment of the Cartesian demon? Certainly I find him nowhere named in my concordance of Scripture.

And how can I be sure that I haven’t overlooked a “not” or two in his case for scripturalism?

How, indeed, can I be sure I haven’t overlooked a “not” in a sentence of Scripture? How can I be sure the Bible is not a figment of the Cartesian demon?

For that matter, a rationalist with a faulty memory is in exactly the same boat as an empiricist with a faulty memory.

All the arguments cut both ways. So Cheung needs to be very careful that he doesn’t bleed to death as he hacks away at sense knowledge--for he is wielding a double-bladed sword, and it has a nasty habit of rebounding on the swordsman.