A top Navy chaplain who wrote a book several years ago attacking Islam, calling the religion “evil,” and urging the United States to launch a “jihad” against the faith, has been fired from a prestigious theological institute after officials at the school recently became aware of the chaplain’s controversial book.
The chaplain’s dismissal comes nine days after an investigative story I wrote exposed his stance on Islam as well as the chaplain’s numerous degrees and training which were obtained through discredited diploma mills, one of which was the subject of a criminal investigation.
Waite came under scrutiny last year after a senior researcher for the government watchdog group The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an organization that seeks to enforce the separation of church and state in the US military, discovered that Waite appeared in uniform on a website for a fundamentalist Christian group. Waite used his position as a Navy chaplain to promote the fundamentalist organization in what appears to be a violation of long-standing military rules.
In an email I obtained, John Morgan, president of the Graduate Theological Foundation (GTF) in South Bend, Indiana, wrote to members of his faculty March 20 that Lieutenant Commander Brian K. Waite was “dismissed” from the school’s faculty and “is NO LONGER affiliated with the Foundation in any capacity” because of offending material in Waite’s book, Islam Uncovered. The book, which was first discovered by MRFF last year, was not included in Waite’s lengthy bio that was once posted on the foundation’s website.
In the book, Waite writes that the Islamic faith itself was culpable for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Undoubtedly our world will experience additional terrorist attempts or strikes all in the name of Allah. Some of these attacks may occur within the borders of our own nation by the remaining cell groups interspersed and hiding among the Muslim population of the United States. My words may make a number of Muslims in this country and abroad very uncomfortable. To them I would say, ‘Deal with it!’ The suspicion that you encounter is merely a consequence to your own belief system. …” Waite’s book says. “…Should Islam be immune from attack because it calls itself a religion? If Adolf Hitler called Nazism a religion, would we be speaking German today? Evil is evil, no matter what nomenclature it hides under.”
The publisher of the book, HeartSpring Media, withdrew the book from bookstore shelves after they discovered that Waite had plagiarized much of the material and that the supporting blurbs on the back cover of the book from prominent members of the religious community had been fabricated. Waite is also the author For God & Country: One Chaplain’s Perspective of War and the Life Lessons Learned, published in 2005, also by HeartSpring Media.
In addition to relieving Waite of his teaching duties, Morgan, the GTF president, said the school has scrapped its Military Ministries program which Chaplain Waite presided over in an effort to “distance ourselves profoundly from his name and his ideas.”
“It has come to our attention that a ‘former’ member of our faculty, Brian Waite, has written a book which is now withdrawn by the publisher attacking Islam!” says a copy of the email written by Morgan sent to Muslim faculty members. “Please know that we have dismissed him from our faculty and terminated our military ministries program… If anyone enquires of You regarding Brian Waite (a military chaplain serving in Iraq), please assure them that he was appointed to the faculty without our knowledge of his book or his feelings about Islam. Please know that the Foundation as an institution and myself as its President are deeply committed to our Islamic program, faculty, and students.”
Neither Waite, who is currently assigned to the U.S. Navy Operational Ministries Center in Norfolk, Virginia, nor a Pentagon spokesman responded to telephone and email queries seeking comment.
Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the MRFF, said Waite’s dismissal from GTF was welcome news.
“We at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation heartily commend the Graduate Theological Foundation for its expeditious action in removing Chaplain Waite from its faculty,” Weinstein said. “Sadly, the United States Navy has not only allowed this well recognized plagiarist into its Chaplains Corps, it has also taken absolutely no action whatsoever to rid this miserable disgrace from our nation’s honorable armed forces.”
GTF scrubbed its website removing all references to Waite and in an interview Thursday Morgan said the school is now referring all students interested in military ministries studies to Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.
“After it became know to us that Mr. Waite wrote this book we immediately terminated our relationship with him,” Morgan said in an interview. “We had no knowledge whatsoever about this publication. If we had he never would have been appointed to our faculty. We have Muslim students and faculty and our Islamic studies program is very well respected. Our Islamic faculty are practicing Imam’s. In fact, there are a wide range of religious studies at this school and there is simply no place here for a person like Mr. Waite whose views on Islam are not only offensive but conflict with our beliefs and practices.”
In the summer of 2005, GTF launched the Military Ministries program offering chaplains who are on active military duty doctorates in military ministries and philosophy in military ministries. Waite was appointed director of school’s military ministries program in July 2005 and taught chaplaincy classes at the school on a periodic basis.
Waite’s resume says he holds two doctorates, a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Georgia’s Covington Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in Religious Studies from American Christian College and Seminary in Oklahoma.
But his credentials are a bit misleading since they were obtained through unaccredited institutions.
Indeed, Covington Theological Seminary is just one of the religious institutions that has been identified as a “diploma mill,” and has been found to award degrees to students through “correspondence” studies. Covington had received its accreditation status by The International Accrediting Commission for Schools, Colleges and Theological Seminaries (IAC) of Missouri, which was caught up in a federal investigation more than a decade ago for accrediting more than 150 higher learning institutions that failed to meet the most basic standards under the US Department of Education, the Generally Accepted Accrediting Principles, and the Council on Higher Education (CHEA).
In 1989, Missouri’s attorney general launched an investigation to determine the ease of which IAC awarded accreditation to schools, particularly Bible colleges, as long as the educational institutions had the cash. The attorney general set up a fictitious college, the East Missouri Business College, and rented a one-room office in St. Louis and issued a typewritten catalog with such school executives as “Peelsburi Doughboy” and “Wonarmmd Mann.”
Their marine biology text was The Little Green Book of Fishes. The school’s motto, translated from Latin, was “Education is for the birds,” according to Bears’ Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, written by John and Mariah Bear. “Nonetheless, Dr. George Reuter, Director of the IAC, visited the school, accepted their money, and duly accredited them. Soon after, the IAC was enjoined from operating and slapped with a substantial fine, and the good Dr. Reuter decided to retire.”
Waite’s other alma mater, American Christian College and Seminary, formerly American Bible College and Seminary, which itself was formerly the University of Biblical Studies & Seminary, permanently shut down in 2005 after losing their accreditation with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).
TRACS is a recognized accrediting association that also approved accreditation for Liberty University, Bob Jones University, and Patrick Henry College. American Christian College and Seminary, however, apparently didn’t meet TRACS’s rigorous standards. At the association’s April 2003 meeting officials refused to reaffirm the school’s accreditation because it failed to comply with numerous educational standards.
On the website for St. John’s church, a civilian Anglican church near the military station where Waite is stationed, he is listed as a Former Priest Associate and Chaplain-in-Residence. Waite’s bio on the church’s website contains additional information about his background that could not be verified with state officials. The bio states “Chaplain Waite is also recognized as one of the foremost traumatologists in the nation, holding certification as a Field Traumatologist with the International Traumatology Institute at the University of South Florida. He holds “Diplomat” [sic] status with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and has served as point person for Harvard University’s Crisis Response portion of the Kennedy School of Government’s National Securities Program.”
“Field Traumatologist” appears to be the lowest level of certification issued by the University of South Florida’s International Traumatology Institute. The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress provides applicants with certification in traumatology by simply filling out an application for a fee of $375, according to its website.
Military chaplains have come under fire from civil rights groups over the past several years for allegedly force feeding soldiers a form of fundamentalist Christianity originating from highly controversial, apocalyptic “End Times” evangelists and their mega-churches. Evangelical Christians have become such a dominating presence in the military’s chaplain corps that the Air Force held a four-day Spiritual Fitness Conference at Hilton Hotel in Colorado Springs in 2005 for chaplains and their families.
The presence of evangelical Christian chaplains in the military is certainly nothing new, but it comes at what some believe are widespread constitutional violations with the full knowledge and support of Pentagon brass. Chaplains and their evangelist counterparts who lead mega churches across the country have been invited to US military installations throughout the world and have been openly proselytizing to military personnel, in violation of the basic tenets of the United States Constitution. Under federal law, chaplains are only authorized to offer “spiritual guidance” to soldiers. They are strictly prohibited from using government resources to proselytize or convert soldiers.
Last October, Waite appeared in an advertisement published in Time magazine using his Navy chaplaincy position to promote another Christian organization. That would be another violation of Military regulations. Weinstein excoriated Waite for exaggerating his educational background as well as Waite’s alleged constitutional violations conducted in the name of religion.
Waite, who was formerly the pastor of a 3,600 member mega-church in Oklahoma City, first came under scrutiny last year after MRFF senior research director Chris Rodda noticed Waite’s photograph on a website for Revival Fire Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian organization. Waite was photographed in his Navy uniform which is prominently displayed on the Revival Fires website and was featured in a brochure for a 2006 camp meeting that advertised Waite as having “distributed thousands of Bibles provided by Revival Fires” in Iraq. He believes the organization has played an integral part on the war on terror.
“I believe Revival Fires truly became a genuine hero in the war on terror,” Waite says in a statement that appears under his photograph on Revival Fires’ website. “Not knowing where I was going to get a sufficient number of God’s Word for my men, I began to inquire from others about the possibility of securing bibles. The immediate response I received was that Revival Fires had provided literally thousands of copies of the Word of God for the U.S. Military. Needless to say, I could not pass them out fast enough. In an article in Oklahoma’s Ponca City News last August, Waite said that the distribution of Bibles to US troops in 2003 resulted in several dozen troops asking to be baptized.
“I personally saw 60 men come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I baptized 44 of them at midnight (for security reasons) in the Tigris River on Easter Sunday, with another 16 following shortly thereafter,” Waite said, according to the report in the Ponca City News. But Waite appeared to have exaggerated details of the baptism. However, photographs of the baptism, which were featured on the Baptist Press website clearly show that the ceremony took place not at midnight, but in broad daylight. Moreover, Waite said that 20 members of the military who asked to be baptized were turned away because they “did not seem ready to make such a commitment.”