A leading church-state separation legal group is calling on the commander of a U.S. Army base in Germany to take action against a field-grade Air Force officer who has been leading Christian worship services from the balcony of his military housing apartment.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation sent a letter on Tuesday to Col. Jason W. Condrey, the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, calling for disciplinary measures to be taken against Lt. Col. David McGraw.
MRFF, which advocates for a strict separation of church and state, says it’s representing 28 military complainants (21 of which are Christian) who object to McGraw’s “Sunday Christian Porch Preaching” at the Kelley Barracks, an apartment complex that houses mostly military families with four kids of more.
According to an email sent to MRFF by a concerned resident of the apartment complex, on March 15, McGraw began hosting Sunday services for the two apartment buildings that overlook the barracks playground. For the past eight weeks, the email explains, McGraw’s services have drawn more attendees and have increased in duration.
The email says song sheets for the weekly services have for the past four weeks been distributed to the doorsteps of all the apartments in the buildings.
“At four weeks into this, the song and scripture flyers are now being placed on individual doorsteps of residents to join in to what is essentially an evangelical worship service that is happening outside of the multitude of virtual services being hosted by the Military Chaplains,” the email told MRFF.
The concerned resident told MRFF that as the services have happened unabated for the past eight weeks. The resident fears there could be “no end in sight.”
“This has also become a draw for people that are missing in-person worship service, so there are more than just residents of our housing community showing up,” the resident explained. “There are people now standing around in between the buildings to participate in the service. This is very much against the social distancing guidelines set forth for military members and their families.”
A concerned resident of Kelley Barracks who spoke with The Christian Post on the condition of anonymity after being connected through MRFF said McGraw’s services are now averaging about 30 minutes in length.
“There is now prelude music that goes on for 15 minutes prior to the service starting,” the resident said. “It started off with a couple of songs off the balcony and it turned into a full sermon. The biggest concern is that while we do have our faith, we are also required to be a military community.”
“Stuttgart is on a significant lockdown. We had one of the highest numbers of positive [coronaviurs] cases in all of the European bases including Italy,” the resident added. “I think we hit over 100 cases at one point in time. We must be a community, especially here on a base like this where there is a large religious component. We try to be delicate about stepping one another’s toes.”
The resident argues that while it’s perfectly fine to host a Bible study in one’s home, “you should not be able to hold others hostage and disallow their quiet enjoyment in their own homes.”
“They absolutely know that this is something that would not be OK if someone used the architectural acoustics to announce the Call to Prayer of those in the Muslim faith,” the resident wrote in the email.