PS is a monthly Army maintenance publication; it is printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office. It is a comic-style presentation of “information for all soldiers assigned to combat and combat support units and all soldiers with unit maintenance and supply duties”.

In Issue 679, June 2009, from pages 27 to 34, a story intended to teach the importance of maintenance and equipment care is delivered in the format of the David and Goliath myth, from 1 Samuel of the Holy Christian Bible. I have begun writing a letter of complaint to PS, highlighting its apparent bias in favor of Christianity. In this letter I basically ask “where are all the other stories and myth-legends from other religious texts and traditions to impart the critical essence of taking care of one’s equipment?” Using the Christian story of David and Goliath, even for educational and illustrative purposes, is a bias in favor of Christianity by a government publication. I state that to refer to the role of Christianity in the history of the United States is not an excuse to preferentially select a story from the Bible to the exclusion of other holy texts and religions, nor is the fact that the majority of Army soldiers and American citizens profess to be Christians. Displaying one story while excluding others clearly demonstrates that the religion from which the story originates is acceptable to or perhaps the same as that of the publisher or those who selected and approved of the story’s publication. And even if they were to include other religious material, they would find themselves too inundated to provide a fair representation, which is what would be required in this case in order to be non-partisan. Better that they strive to restrict the published material to that of a secular nature, as is their norm.

I have included a PDF version of the PS issue that has the David and Goliath story in it. Feel free to open it up and find this and check it out. You'll see what I mean.

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You know, it's great that there was so much interest in this.

Anyways, i FINALLY sent off my response e-mail to this publication today. Here it is:

Concerning PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, Issue 679, June 2009, pages 27 through 34:
I was wondering when PS was going to publish PMCS lessons and information that are lodged in the context of other holy texts such as the Qur’an, the Talmud, the Taoist Daozang, the Book of Mormon, the Diamond Sutra, the Guru Grant Sahib, the Hindu Vedas, the Hindu Smitri, the Jainist Satkhandāgama, or the Rastafarian Kebra Negast? Or any other text besides the Bible? The story of David and Goliath originates in I Samuel of the Holy Christian Bible. Using this story, even for educational and illustrative purposes, is a bias in favor of Christianity by a government publication. Has a story involving legendary events or grand characters from a different holy text other than the Bible ever appeared within PS? Perhaps a Buddhist or Sihkism or Shinto figure is forthcoming in a later issue? To display one, simply because a maintenance lesson can be illustrated thereby, is to display to all that the material is acceptable according to one’s own religious views. Using the argument that it reflects the main religious bent of American citizens, or that it is a reflection of a religion which played a large part in American history is no proper defense, for the simple reason that your selection is exclusionary.

Furthermore, what grounds do you have to not include a story from the struggles of other armed forces throughout history? The story itself has nothing to do with America or the U.S. Armed Forces. So why not publish a similar depiction but with German or Russian armed forces? Or perhaps Italian or Turkish armed forces? Or some other cultural story lacking in religious regard?

That the story of David and Goliath was selected and allowed to pass the review and approval process is a reflection of America’s embrace of and history with Christianity, and a subtle yet passive, partisan endorsement of the religion itself when no other religious material appears from other holy texts or religious traditions. The lack of any other non-Christian religious material speaks volumes to this. And even if you were to go on to include other religious material, you would find yourself too inundated to provide a fair representation, which is what is called for in this case. And though your use of this story seems to not violate any notion of separation of church and state, such a violation here is not necessarily the primary concern. Even though there isn't really any religious content (that is, nothing that stresses Judaism or Christianity as the true religion(s), or proselytizes on behalf of those religions) and, considering that many Bible stories are used in contemporary culture in allegorical fashion, the fact of the matter is that it creates a certain perception.

The military is big on perception, such that it is informally said to be “Nine-tenths of the law”; here you have created the perception of favoritism, religious bigotry, and either preferential or ignorant discrimination. That is, I’ve no doubt that either your ignorance of other religious texts or your own religious beliefs (or perhaps even a lack of religious tolerance and a lack of regard for religious pluralism) lead to this story being selected and published. Nevertheless, a government publication should avoid the obstacles that this issue is laden with by sticking to its normal theme of publication, which is secular. Imagine an alternative letter you might have received had you included a story from one of the above mentioned holy texts, but no others: do this, and it might help you put things in perspective a bit.

2LT Joseph Adam Langston
MS, Platoon Leader




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