This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a report from radical TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which religious right activists and many on the far-right quickly embraced, but which didn’t stand up well to scrutiny.

CBN reported, in an apparent “exclusive,” that five Muslim-American soldiers at Fort Jackson in South Carolina “were arrested just before Christmas and are in custody. The five men were part of the Arabic Translation program at the base.” If true, it’s the kind of development that would likely have broad political and policy consequences. Except, as Marc Ambinder noted, CBN appears to have gotten it wrong.

[T]he Army says it’s not true. No one has been arrested. The National Security Council was not aware of any arrests, a spokesperson said.

After the Ft. Hood massacre, the Army increased its counterintelligence presence at Ft. Jackson, a training base, because it is home a large number of non-citizen Muslims recruited under the Army’s “09-Lima” translation program.

A few months ago, special agents from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division opened an investigation after receiving a tip that some Muslims at the base had communicated with others overseas, and that a group of Muslim non-citizens had tried to poison other soldiers. That investigation is open — but no evidence has been found to support the tips, according to the Army.

In a follow-up piece, Ambinder added that the CBN report was “completely wrong,” adding, “And in its wrongness, it’s damaging because it provides fortification for those who believe that Muslims are infiltrating the ranks of the U.S. Army and intend to poison good Christian soldiers. Indeed, I detect a bit of religious competition in CBN’s reporting. After all, it is CBN.”

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Gallup reported this week on the states with the highest and lowest rates of church attendance. The results fell largely along regional lines: “Mississippians were the most frequent churchgoers in the nation in 2009, as was the case in 2008, with 63% of residents attending weekly or almost every week. Nine of the top 10 states in church attendance are in the South; the only non-Southern state is Utah, with 56% frequent attendance. At the other end of the spectrum, 23% of Vermont residents attend church frequently, putting it at the bottom of the list of churchgoing states. Other states at the bottom of the church attendance list are in either New England or the West.”

* Nearly four out of 10 Texans believe in young-earth creationism, and nearly a third believe humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

* It’s always heartening to see Americans’ sense of decency shine: “Last week, the Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Nashville, TN was vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti….The hate crime came after a local news station aired a controversial, inflammatory report about another local Muslim community. Since the hate crime at Al-Farooq, however, there has been ‘outpouring of neighborly support’ for the mosque, with neighbors helping to clean up the graffiti…. At least 150 people — ‘including spiritual leaders from several faiths’ — also went to an open house at the Islamic Center of Nashville on Saturday to learn more about the Islamic faith and pledge ‘support for local Muslims in the wake of last week’s defacement’ of Al-Farooq.”