He’s been investigated by the Senate for financial misconduct. He’s called himself a “Christian extremist.” His fraudulent practices have been exposed by his own employees. He’s Islamophobic, homophobic, and believes that America is a Christian nation. He needs a private jet because commercial airplanes are filled with demons.
Any one of the above things should make televangelist Kenneth Copeland an obviously inappropriate and outrageous choice to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast observance at any U.S. military installation. And yet Copeland has been invited to do just that, and is scheduled to speak at the February 1 prayer breakfast at Fort Jackson, South Carolina — the U.S. Army’s largest training installation and home to the Armed Forces Army Chaplaincy School and Army’s Drill Sergeant School.
But there’s something else that makes Copeland an even more outrageous choice to speak to any military audience. He has claimed that PTSD isn’t real because it isn’t biblical, saying on a 2013 Veterans Day episode of his TV show:
“Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, and it doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there [referring to a Bible verse he had just read] will get rid of it.”
Copeland’s guest that day, Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton, wholeheartedly agreed, adding that warriors in the Bible fighting in the name of God were “esteemed” and in the “faith hall of fame” because they “took so many people out in battle.”
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) the organization for which I work, isn’t often in agreement with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), but we were certainly on the same page when it came to our disgust with Copeland’s PTSD remarks, to which the SBC’s Ethics and Liberty Commission responded:
“[F]or them to denigrate the suffering of men and women traumatized by war — and to claim biblical support for their callow and doltish views — is both shocking and unconscionable. … Rather than downplaying the pain of PTSD, they should be asking God to heal our brothers and sisters.”
According to the announcement in Fort Jackson’s newspaper, The Fort Jackson Leader, about Copeland’s being the speaker at the prayer breakfast, one of the themes of the breakfast is “spiritual fitness.” Another is “prayers for the nation,” a theme that Copeland is equally ill-suited for if his past prayers for the nation are any indication.
Will his prayer for the nation at the Fort Jackson prayer breakfast go something like what he said on the 2016 TV show during which he told Christians that if they didn’t vote for Trump they’d be guilty of murder? That one went like this:
“This is God’s nation, and nobody is going to take it away from him. … Now I want to get that clear right now, in the name of Jesus. No man, no woman, no Democrat, no Republican, no socialist, no communist can take this nation away from God! I don’t know what it is about that you can’t understand, but I’m telling you right now God Almighty is head of this nation, not people! Jesus of Nazareth is Lord over the United States.”
Yes, this is who our service members who attend this prayer breakfast, some of whom are quite likely to be among the countless service members affected by PTSD, are going to have to listen to — a man whose version of “spiritual fitness” includes being able to just get rid of PTSD with a Bible verse.
And for those non-Christians who want to attend this event, which is supposed to be for people of all religions, well they’ll just have to suck it up and listen to a man who has proclaimed that “Jesus of Nazareth is Lord over the United States.”
Therefore, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, on behalf of its fifty-six clients at Fort Jackson who vehemently object to Kenneth Copeland’s speaking at their prayer breakfast, has demanded via an emailed letter to Fort Jackson’s commander, Major General John P. “Pete” Johnson, that Copeland be immediately disinvited and replaced with a less offensive and more inclusive speaker — maybe even one who can fly to South Carolina on a regular airplane without being afraid of demons.