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MAJOR MRFF ACHIEVEMENT

MRFF Cease & Desist Letter
Leads to U.S. Navy Recruit
Training Command (RTC) Restoring Religious Support Programs

May 2015

On April 22, 2015 MRFF was made aware that Capt. W. Douglas Pfeifle, Commanding Officer of the U.S. Navy RTC in Great Lakes, IL, had approved the removal of outside volunteer religious lay leaders for Unitarian Universalist, Earth Centered, Buddhist, Bahai, Christian Science, and Church of Christ faiths.  This action was apparently taken pursuant to the advice and action of Chaplain (CDR) Ted L. Williams who had attempted, and failed, this action under previous RTC commanders.  MRFF President and Founder Mikey Weinstein contacted Capt. Pfeifle on April 22, 2015 to file a complaint and demand remedial action on behalf of 252 MRFF clients and to clearly point out the obvious errors in Chaplain (CDR) Williams’ interpretation of applicable U.S. Navy Regulations.  After failing to respond to MRFF’s initial demand in a reasonable amount of time, MRFF’s legal representative Robert V. Eye sent a notice to Capt. Pfeifle that MRFF intended to seek available relief for affected U.S. Navy personnel who were begin denied their right to religious freedom in substantially the same or similar fashion of other personnel under Capt. Pfeifle’s command.
 
On May 1, 2015 Dr. Ronald A. Crews, Executive Director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty sent a letter (co-signed by Mikey Weinstein) to Capt. Pfeifle requesting reversal of his decision and re-instatement of volunteer religious lay leaders until such time as a uniformed leader could provide the same worship services for personnel under the RTC command.  In this joint letter, Dr. Crews and Mr. Weinstein stated, in part:
“We have testified before the same Congressional panels.  We have spoken out on the same incidents in the services.  And, we are always on opposing sides, but in this instance it is easy for us both to say that the Navy went too far and is clearly in violation of the Constitutional religious liberty rights of American sailors at the Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois.”
In response to this letter Capt. Pfeifle responded to Dr. Crews and Mr. Weinstein on May 5, 2015 that “I am confident that RTC policy, including the command religious program (CRP) which provides for the religious and spiritual needs of our recruits (and staff), is in full accordance with Navy regulations and the United States Constitution.”
On May 11, 2015 Mikey Weinstein informed Capt. Pfeifle that MRFF’s legal counsel was moving forward in seeking Federal Court action to certify disenfranchised Navy recruits at the RTC as a protected “class” to enable injunctive relief from the Federal Court.  This same letter demanded Capt. Pfeifle to cease and desist his ongoing actions effectively disenfranchising the religious freedoms of Navy recruits under his command.  On May 14, 2015 the Chicago Tribune, which had previously reported on the RTC commander’s decision, reported that “commanders at the Great Lakes naval training center began the process Thursday of inviting back civilian volunteers to serve recruits who are Unitarian Universalists, Baha'is, Buddhists and Christian Scientists.  In the meantime, a spokesman said, the Navy has found active duty uniformed personnel at the nearby base to lead worship for recruits who want to be part of a Church of Christ congregation or earth-centered community at its only boot camp.”

Scroll down & read below to learn more


MRFF CAUSES NAVY TO DO A 180°: CHICAGO TRIBUNE

After dismissals,
naval training center invites
back 4 religious volunteers

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • Following the sudden dismissal of a half-dozen religious leaders last month, commanders at the Great Lakes naval training center will invite back four civilian volunteers to serve recruits who are Unitarian Universalists, Baha'is, Buddhists and Christian Scientists.

  • In the meantime, a spokesman said late Wednesday, the Navy has found uniformed personnel to lead worship for recruits at its only boot camp who want to be part of a Church of Christ congregation or earth-centered community.

  • Some critics of the April decision, including the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that in the past has sued the Pentagon for ignoring policies that ban mandatory religious practices, levied measured praise for the decision to invite the religious volunteers back.

  • "I congratulate the Navy senior leadership for reversing course here and setting their sights on supporting the U.S. Constitution," said foundation head Mikey Weinstein. "At the same time, I don't want to be overzealous in congratulating them because they were heading for a train wreck in federal court."

Click here to read full article at Chicago Tribune (Limited access; registration or subscription may be required)


CHICAGO TRIBUNE
COVERS CONTINUING RELIGIOUS
OUTRAGE EXPOSED & FOUGHT
AGAINST BY MRFF

Great Lakes naval center
dismisses religious
volunteers for minority faiths

MRFF promises to fight until
religious tolerance restored, respected

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • Great Lakes Naval Training Center has dismissed a number of civilian volunteers who offered services for a handful of minority religious traditions, including Unitarian Universalism, the Baha’i faith, Buddhism, Christian Science, Church of Christ and Earth-centered traditions, also called nature worship.

    The ouster, conveyed to volunteers last month, echoed a similar expulsion last May that dismissed Muslim leaders. That decision was rescinded a month later, with a caveat that if uniformed personnel were available to lead, volunteers would be asked to step aside.

    Critics of the latest decision, including leaders of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a non-profit that in the past has sued the Pentagon for ignoring policies that ban mandatory religious practices, said Tuesday the dismissal trounces the recruits’ constitutional rights.

    “They’re basically deciding who are the religious winners and who are the religious losers and desecrating religious protection,” said Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. “This is absolutely establishing religion in direct denial of the First Amendment.”

  • Weinstein said if the Navy does not reverse course soon, his organization plans to seek injunctive relief on behalf of the recruits and Chantry. He said teenagers in basic training realistically can’t be expected to register complaints with their commanding officers. 

Click to read more


NAVY TIMES EDITORIAL SIDES
WITH MRFF, U.S. CONSTITUTION

"...the right to practice one's religion is a founding principle of this country,
and should not be abridged..."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


MRFF PRESS RELEASE

Military Religious Freedom Foundation Cease and Desist Letter to  Captain Pfeifle, Commander of Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois

Monday, May 11, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, NM –  The following is a cease and desist letter from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Founder and President, Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein.

Lieutenant Demeter, please kindly and timely pass along this urgent message to your Commanding Officer, Captain Pfeifle, Commander of Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes Naval Station.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation renews its demand that Captain Pfeifle immediately reinstate all lay leader led services which are currently suspended by him in DIRECT contravention of at least three specific portions of the United States constitution as well as Department of Defense and Navy directives, instructions and regulations.

Our foundation is moving ahead with alacrity to make provisions for our legal counsel team to prepare to have a Federal Court certify all Navy recruits currently unlawfully disenfranchised by Captain Pfeifle’s shockingly illicit order as a protected “class” to enable injunctive Federal Court relief. Continued failure by the U.S. Navy and Captain Pfeifle to reinstate full due process and equal protection rights to our 250 Navy recruit clients enduring the challenges of Navy Boot Camp at Great Lakes Naval Station will result in aggressive and very public litigation. There is ABSOLUTELY no way that Captain Pfeifle’s horrendous and legally unsupportable decision will be upheld and sustained in Federal Court. Please do the right thing and do it right now. There will be no more warnings prior to our planned enforcement litigation of our clients’ basic constitutional religious freedom rights. In other words, cease and desist immediately or we will see you in court.

Mikey Weinstein, Founder and President, MRFF; 505-250-7727.

For more information regarding this incident of constitutional violation by the U.S. Navy at the Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois,  please scroll down to learn more.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is the only civil rights organization devoted to protecting the Constitutionally-mandated Separation of Church and State within the U.S. Military.  MRFF is now representing well over 41,000 active duty armed servicemembers, veterans, and civilian personnel.

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MRFF COVERED BY NAVY TIMES

Boot camp officials
stand by decision to bar
some religious services

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Selected Article Excerpts:

Despite pressure from both sides of the religious divide, Navy boot camp officials are standing firm on their decision to bar more than a half dozen civilian volunteer religious leaders from conducting services on the base.

In late April, Capt. Douglas Pfeifle, head of Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Ill., ordered the volunteers, who represent a cross section of minority religious faiths, to stop conducting services on base. He also ordered that the recruits be given time and materials to worship on their own.

That provoked an immediate reaction from Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who lodged a complaint on behalf of one the volunteers, a practicing Druid, and gave Pfeifle 24 hours to reverse himself.

That didn't happen. But it produced some mighty strange bedfellows.

Click to read more


MRFF LEGAL COUNSEL DEMANDS THAT RESPECT, CIVIL RIGHTS BE ACCORDED TO RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Click here to enlarge


CAPT. PFEIFLE, COMMANDING OFFICER AT NAVY BOOTCAMP, CONTINUES SHAMEFUL DEFENSE OF
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY VIOLATIONS

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Click here to enlarge


MRFF & CHAPLAIN ALLIANCE UNITE
ON JOINT PRESS RELEASE AND LETTER

PRESS RELEASE

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Click here to enlarge


MRFF & Chaplain Alliance
Joint Letter

Click to enlarge and read full letter


MRFF DENOUNCES DISCRIMINATION WITHIN
U.S. NAVY, DEMANDS CONSTITUTIONAL COMPLIANCE

MRFF Attorneys' Demand
Letter to Recruit Training Command (RTC)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Click to read full 2-page letter


MRFF COVERED IN THE BLAZE

Navy Boot Camp Accused of ‘Repugnant and Illicit Behavior’ Over Recent Rule Change That Impacts Religious Minorities

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • A military activist is coming to the defense of a civilian Druid leader who reportedly received an email earlier this month telling him that he could no longer lead faith gatherings at the Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, calling the Navy’s treatment of religious minorities both “repugnant and illicit."
  • But Chantry has Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on his side — the leader of a group that regularly pinpoints perceived violations of the First Amendment in the armed forces, with Weinstein penning a letter to commanding officer Capt. Doug Pfeifle.
  • In his letter, Weinstein told Pfeifle that he has never “seen a commander authorize such a sweeping abuse of the religious freedoms of those under their leadership,” saying that it is perfectly acceptable under Navy regulations to allow volunteers to run religious activities for minority faiths on the premises. Read more

Click to read more


MRFF Counts the Hours Waiting for U.S Navy Capt Pfeifle's Response Per His Letter
Dated April 23rd 2015

Click here to read letter


MIKEY WEINSTEIN ISSUES E-MAIL DEMANDING ANSWERS FROM
NAVY BOOT CAMP LIEUTENANT

Subject: When?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lt. Demeter, when will MRFF be hearing from Capt. Pfeifle and/or his Recruit Training Command (RTC) leadership as to our approximately 250 MRFF sailor recruit clients’ just demands to have their Constitutional religious freedom worship rights restored at Great Lakes?!... time grows short... NO ONE (especially those wearing the uniform of our armed forces) should have to endlessly wait for these precious and guaranteed freedoms... listen carefully, sir, they are NOT “civil privileges”, Lt. Demeter, they are “civil RIGHTS”!!

MRFF intends to seek Federal Court approval to move forward and have those of its sailor recruit clients et al at Great Lakes whose religious freedom civil rights are being denied by RTC certified as a “class” for Federal Court class action injunctive relief as soon as possible if RTC refuses to expeditiously restore their shattered freedom of worship rights... MRFF and its litigators will presume that any RTC denial of its sailor recruit clients’ demands will effectively exhaust all RTC/Navy and DoD administrative remedies for them thereby allowing the timely Federal Court class action injunctive litigation mentioned earlier... plz forward this e-mail to any who need to see it at RTC and advise soonest...

thank you,

Mikey Weinstein

Founder and Pres., MRFF


MIKEY WEINSTEIN & MRFF ADVOCACY FEATURED IN
NAVY TIMES

Cancelled services at Navy boot camp spark outrage

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • John Chantry, a practicing Druid, was shocked to receive an email April 3 advising him that he was prohibited from continuing to lead earth-centered religious services for recruits at Recruit Training Command.

  • An RTC official who spoke on background said the volunteers were asked to leave in accordance with Navy guidance, which stipulates that a uniformed chaplain or a religiously accredited military member should conduct the service before the service pursues other avenues.

  • But Chantry, backed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and its outspoken founder and president, Mikey Weinstein, call the canceling of accommodations for minority religious groups a gross violation of the constitutional rights of recruits who practice minority religions, including Unitarian Universalists, Buddhists, Baha'i or earth-centered religions.

  • On Wednesday, Weinstein penned a letter to the RTC commanding officer claiming that more than 250 recruits have been impacted by the order, and gave Pfeifle 24 hours to reinstate the civilian volunteers at RTC. Weinstein said he is prepared to exhaust all "administrative means" or even go to court to get the order rescinded. "We have never seen a commander authorize such a sweeping abuse of the religious freedoms of those under their leadership," the letter reads.

  • To Weinstein, it is also a matter of safety, given that one reason recruits are given access to religious services is to bolster resilience, which can prevent suicide. "Today the hundreds of affected sailors want to know why it is that they will no longer be allowed to practice their religion," he wrote. "They want to know why that one refuge, which has bolstered them so much during this trying time, is being swept out from under them. I would like to know as well, and soon the American people will be asking you the same question."

Click to read more


MRFF DEMAND LETTER TO
CAPT W. DOUGLAS PFEIFLE,
RECRUIT TRAINING COMMAND,
GREAT LAKES, IL

Unconstitutional Elimination of Religious Support Programs

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Click to read full letter


Letter of Support from MRFF Director of Affairs (of Joint Base San Antonio), Victoria Gettman, Dated April 23rd 2015

Mikey,

As the MRFF Director of Affairs for Joint Base San Antonio, I am shocked and horrified at the recent news coming out of Great Lakes! I also volunteer for trainees in a military basic training. I work with the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) and run an Atheist and Humanist group on Lackland Air Force Base for the basic trainees. I am a civilian Humanist Chaplain with the American Humanist Association (AHA) and volunteer every Sunday to lead a discussion and support group for the trainees. Trainees of all backgrounds, non-religious and religious, attend our meeting and learn and grow together. Many religious minorities do not have support in other meetings and some are curious to learn. We started with a request from 1 trainee and have grown up to 167 trainees. We have over a 100 trainees of on average at the meeting EVERY SUNDAY. The trainees have shared story after story of their gratitude that we exist and how our meeting has given them strength, support and recharged them to continue on through the next week of basic training. Several trainees have stated that they don’t know how they would have made it through basic training without us. We even have parents that attend the meeting or email and inform us of the great benefit of support that our meeting provided their Airman. Volunteers are important to the support and morale of the trainees! We provide support and encouragement for all that attend our meeting.

I believe that commanders need to support their troops and provide everything necessary for the troops to be successful when available and not compromising the mission. It is abhorrent that unequal treatment is being provided to certain religious groups while other religious and non-religious are disregarded and demoralized. This is setting a very bad example to the new Navy recruits. It is sending a very clear message that they have to be a certain religion to have support and acceptance from the Navy. It is showing them that the constitution that they agreed to support and defend is not important enough for the Navy.

This atrocious, divisive and clear violation of equal opportunity needs to be rectified immediately. The troops deserve support to ensure their success.

I speak from my personal perspective and as a Humanist Chaplain. I do not speak for or on behalf of the military.


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