Mikey . . .
My name is Dave Nolte and, to begin, I want to thank you and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation for the incredible civil rights activism you do in support of so many thousands of our wonderful United States military troops. I’m a 1967 graduate of the University of Iowa ROTC program, a 1971 (M.Div) graduate of Yale University’s Divinity School, a 1985 honor graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College (Ft. Leavenworth), and a Chaplain (COL) US Army (Retired) who has only recently become aware of the MRFF and its excellent, important work.
I was stationed in Germany in the 1980’s when two Harvard law students challenged the constitutionality of the Army Chaplaincy. This challenge was ultimately not successful thanks, in part, to the highly effective efforts of Rabbi and lawyer Israel Drazin . . . an Army Reservist who was called back to active duty by the Chief of Chaplains to participate in the Chaplaincy’s defense. Central to that defense was the underlying principle that the primary legal reason for the existence of military chaplains and chaplaincy is to assist commanders in ensuring every service member’s First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion, as well as freedom from the coercion of any form of governmental “establishment” of religion.
Chaplain Drazin completed his active duty as a Brigadier General, contributing one more essential service to the chaplaincy — special Chaplain schools outlining for all Army chaplains the implications of this court case for their shared ministries. In my case, this experience left me with a deep and abiding concern for our precious First Amendment protections as applied to religious and spiritual matters . . . understanding that unless everyone is free, no one can be truly free.
Exploring your web site, I’ve been shocked to see that the lessons taught by Chaplain Drazin have been, in recent years, so widely neglected. I fear that some of my “brothers and sisters in the Lord”, in their understandable enthusiasm for their own particular visions of faith and faithfulness, are inadvertently supporting and encouraging a “de facto” Theocracy in our Armed Services — in violation of those very principles of religious liberty which are so intrinsic to the Constitution which every service member is pledged to support and defend, if necessary to the death.
Please receive this note as a word of encouragement, and please count on my prayerful and active support of the MRFF mission.
David M. Nolte