MRFF, Allies Demand Removal of Unconstitutional Religious Displays at Travis Air Force Base

Published On: December 12, 2011|Categories: News|15 Comments|

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Friday, December 16 2011

KCRA SACRAMENTO – Federal Lawsuit Over Holiday Display?

Click here to read article

ABC NEWS 10 – Holiday displays bring out humbugs at Travis AFB

Click here to read article, watch video at ABC News 10

MILITARY.COM – AF Base Under Fire for Crèche, Menorah Displays

Click here to read article at

Thursday, December 15 2011

ABC NEWS 10 – Holiday display sparks battle at Travis AFB (WITH VIDEO)

Click here to read article, watch video at ABC News 10

THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE (INSIDE BAY AREA) – Nativity, menorah displays cause stir at Travis Air Force Base

Click here to read article at Inside Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE – Travis AFB asked to move menorah, nativity

Click here to read article at SFGate

THE REPORTER (VACAVILLE, CA) – Group wants Travis Air Force base to remove nativity, menorah displays

Click here to read article at The Reporter

THE BALTIMORE SUN – Holiday Decorations Cause Stir on Travis Air Force Base

Click here to read article at The Baltimore Sun



MRFF flexes legal muscle as it sends letter via prestigious international law firm Jones Day to 60th Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Dwight C. Sones demanding immediate end to conspicuous violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment

Excerpt from Jones Day letter:

“The Travis AFB display… sends an unmistakable message to viewers that the Air Force endorses the beliefs and tenets of two monotheistic religions. The display contains two central components: (1) a large Nativity scene featuring figures of the baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the wise men of Nazareth; and (2) a Menorah that  celebrates what the Jewish people believe to be the miracle of Hannukah, i.e., the lighting of a Menorah following the desecration of the Second Temple. There is no doubt that a reasonable person, upon viewing these
two religious symbols, would believe that they convey anything but a religious message.”


Click here to read Jones Day letter


Click here to read follow-up letter

“Illusion of a pluralistic environment” shattered: American Atheists Military Department request for display rejected by USAF chaplaincy

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In my capacity as the American Atheists, Inc. Military Director, I’m writing to inform you the latest news in the situation at Travis Air Force Base.

Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings is an atheist stationed at Travis. Rawlings contacted American Atheists about putting up an Atheist-themed display as well. The display was intended to go up next to the Nativity Scene and the token Jewish Menorah. American Atheists offered to pay for and provide an equivalent display for Staff Sergeant Rawlings to submit.

Unfortunately, the illusion of a pluralistic environment was shattered when Rawlings was told by his USAF chaplain that he could not participate. His chaplain claimed to be following the orders of his higher headquarters;  the Air Mobility Command commanders and their guidance. Justin Griffith, the Military Director at American Atheists immediately recommended that Staff Sergeant Rawlings contact the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. MRFF’s highly visible fight for equality at Travis Air Force Base has recently been demanding the removal of the potentially discriminatory displays. The unconstitutional “potential discrimination” is now an ugly reality.

The California Council of Churches IMPACT, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation are standing up for bedrock United States Constitutional principles. American Atheists Military Department sees nothing strange about these bed fellows. It is painfully obvious that non-theists are being discriminated against at various levels of the command structure. The situation regarding USAF Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings proves the fact that the Air Force commanders at Travis are not simply allowing ‘all groups to have their space’. This is just another wretched example of fundamentalist religion (in this case, fundamentalist Christianity) demanding special privilege over others, including many of their fellow Christians. These leaders need to stop the systematic bending of long-standing laws, policies, and regulations immediately.

Very respectfully,
Justin Griffith
Military Director – American Atheists, Inc.
Fort Bragg, NC | (239) 689 0323


California Council of Churches IMPACT, which represents 1.5 million members from 5,500 mainline Christian congregations, asks that religious proselytization and promotion of Christian holidays be left to churches and NOT the armed forces.

(below: all emphasis added)

California Church IMPACT

December 12, 2011

Colonel Dwight C. Sones, Commander

60th Air Mobility Wing, USAF

400 Brennan Circle

Travis AFB, CA 94535

Dear Colonel Sones:

We are supporters of Military Religious Freedom Foundation and are writing to you
with respect to the display of a large Nativity scene at Travis near the main roads in

As you might imagine, we are very fond of Christmas and all its meaning and glory. It is one of the two most important parts of our faith story – the opening of the tale
offering hope and promise even at the darkest time of the year. We love the
message and our 1.5 million members within 5500 California congregations tell it
with passion and commitment annually.

That said, we do not require or desire any aspect of our government to do the same. While we are fervently Christian, we are dedicated to freedom of religion that
insists our nation thrives for its lack of official endorsement of any religious view of
any kind. Our “American Exceptionalism” comes from this lack of official
endorsement of religion,
and that extends to displays such as what Travis AFB has.

We would ask that you keep faith entirely personal for each and every individual. We support MRFF’s request that you move the crèche to the chapel grounds so that
Travis AFB is not perceived to be promoting Christian religious messages as if they
were national policy.
We believe that actually undermines the strength of our faith
and makes our non-Christian friends and families second—class citizens.
The men
and women of our nation’s armed forces deserve better if Christmas is not their
holiday, Christianity not their belief. We are capable of sending our own message
and celebrating our own joy without reinforcement from the Air Force. Chapel
grounds are the right place for this display,
and we respectfully urge you to move it
to that location.

If Christmas is yours, please accept my best wishes for a wonderful one for you and
your family and friends. Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.


Elizabeth Sholes

Director of Public Policy

Click here to read original CCCI letter

Nightline logo

MRFF’s Inbox

At MRFF, we receive an enormous amount of email both from
our supporters and our detractors, as well as service members
who have faced unconscionable incidents of religious bigotry.

“MRFF’s Inbox” allows us to share these emails with you.

Travis AFB Nativity Scene

Selected Excerpt:

Dear Mr. Weinstein,

I am writing to tell you about what is happening at Travis AFB, California. For the past few weeks and throughout the holiday season, the command at Travis has decided to display a very large Nativity scene, featuring Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, on the main corner of the base. It is nearly impossible to come onto the installation without seeing it. Travis serves a population of over 122,000 active duty, reservists, dependents, and retirees, who will drive past that scene to get anywhere on base. At night, the scene is illuminated by three, very large, very bright flood lights. This past week, the command put up a menorah next to the Nativity. The presence of these clearly religious displays on the main corner of the base deeply concerns me. I am not alone in my feelings of distress. I know many other people are similarly offended and confused…

(continued, see link below)

Click to read full letter and see photos of the display

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  1. Paul_B December 14, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Seen it. It’s a farcical attempt at “all inclusion”, and jumps from the non-affiliated holiday cards directly to “Yeah, Jesus!” It’s ridiculous to see on an Air Force base, and even worse that a SMSgt has to point this out.

  2. Rudolph The Rednose Reindeer December 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Regarding your action and position on religious symbols which have been enjoyed, allowed, and supported from the beginnings of this nation; your firm and its paid anarchists represent the perverse misuse of a constitution and our laws designed to empower the individual while not trampling on those individuals’ rights. The concept that your views should prevail over the Christian and Jewish foundations of this country’s majority, is a despicable ignorance of the basis upon what and how our freedoms were founded – God’s rights given to man. Personally, I cannot allow and will unceasingly participate in any and all actions against you, to force your misuse of our laws to cease and desist. All funding for and monies used in this obvious attempt to undermine the freedoms of Americans, Christians and Jews included, shall be relentlessly pursued and targeted for eventual prosecution. I cannot stress any more stringently the seriousness of your failure to ensure that OUR rights as Christians and Jews are protected, under the United States Constitution, and the resulting damage suits against you and your funds which will cause your funds to be expended to defend your minority views. This country is about to be restored, with its courts, its schools, and its religious communities – in this war on Christianity, on families, and on our country’s foundation beliefs.

  3. Paul_B December 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Ironically, the chapel just down the street from the Jesus-tainted Happy Holidays displays has no external adornments or displays for any religion or holiday, presumably because it is meant for use by all personnel.

  4. Katz December 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    It’s our right to have up whatever we want. Since the illegals seem to have rights so do we! “In God We Trust”, God Bless America, if you don’t like it leave the country you whinny idiots! I’m sure the soldiers didn’t fight for you to take their rights away!

  5. Christopher December 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    First of all what do you idiots think “Christmas” is or stand for? Christmas is the day our savior Jesus Christ was born, not santa claus or some other crap you people would have us all to believe. You want us to do away with our “symbols” as you put it but in doing so we are putting your “symbols” in it’s place. It’s not about religious freedom, you want the world to conform to your way of life, we have celebrated Christmas as the birthday of Jesus forever and now you idiots who would rather believe in nothing instead of something that matters think you should have it your way. So it’s not happy holidays it’s MERRY CHRISTmas! If you do not like it then pack your crap and move to a country that doesn’t believe in Christ, you would fit in there better anyway.

  6. YOU WILL BURN December 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    You idiots will BURN IN HELL. This great country, The United States Of America was founded on CHRIST, and was intended to STAY THAT WAY!!

  7. Trisha T December 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Wow. That loving god of yours will send us to hell? I’m sure your Jesus condones name calling as well. He would surely also call us all idiots for living in a country that provides freedom of religion (or freedom from religion). I would love to see where on the US Constitution it says that this country was founded on “Christ”.

    “There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.” ~Thomas Jefferson

    Religions are all alike—founded upon fables and mythologies.
    —Thomas Jefferson

    “The United States in is no sense founded upon the Christian religion.” George Washington

    “Revealed religion has no weight with me.” Benjamin Franklin

    “I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature.” Thomas Jefferson

    “This could be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.” John Adams

    “I disbelieve all holy men and holy books.” Thomas Paine

    “Religions are all alike, founded upon fables and myths.” Thomas Jefferson

    “In no instance have churches been the guardians of the liberties of the people.” James Madison

    “The Christian god is cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust.” Thomas Jefferson

    “What has been Christianity’s fruits? Superstition, bigotry, and persecution.” James Madison

    Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bibleis filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize
    mankind.” Thomas Paine

    “The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.”
    Abraham Lincoln

    If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise
    of fighting a foreign enemy.
    –James Madison

    “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” Susan B. Anthony

    “If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers ofpersecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both here (England) and in New England.”

    “I looked around for God’s judgments, but saw no signs of them.”

    “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch

    towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

    “Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen

    centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

    “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?”

    “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”
    -letter to Wm. Bradford, April 1, 1774 James Madison

    “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11: Written during the Administration of George Washington and signed into law by John Adams.)

  8. Paul_B December 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I find it more difficult every day to remain on active duty, and continue to defend the rights of these idiots who would so clearly take mine away if they had the chance.

    Trisha, that’s a great collection of quotes. Unfortunately, I doubt that any of the ranters will bother to read them, and or notice the parade of founding fathers throughout.

  9. Windy December 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    I can’t say it any better than these two gentlemen have.

    “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”
    – Robert A Heinlein

    If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be–a Christian.
    – Mark Twain’s Notebook

  10. Robert S. December 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Glad to see that after 2000 years his name still strikes fear in the hearts and minds of Atheists.

    Atheists: Killing other peoples joy wherever they find it.

  11. Roman M December 19, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Wow I am amazed. Ok so you either you have the right to express your religion or you don’t. By saying you cannot have a Nativity Scene or a Menorah is saying you are not allowed to express your religious beliefs. By forcing them to take it down you are siding with Atheism. So then would you go and complain the Air Force for suppressing the right for people to express their religion? I think not, but what this group is suggesting is dangerous. Everyone needs not to be so sensitive and pay more attention to themselves instead of others.

  12. Chad December 20, 2011 at 1:27 am

    You can’t control people. If you don’t believe in a religion that’s fine, stop pushing you views on other people. I’m not religious, but you don’t see me going around ripping nativity scenes out of peoples front yards. Respectfully, go fuck yourself.

  13. Trisha December 20, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    @Roman M

    ~As I stated above, of course you can have your Nativity scene, or Menorah. No one can deny you that it America; but the Establishment Clause of the the First Amendment of the US Constitution expresses that the government cannot show preference over one religious belief and not another, such as in a public display. When the military base showed preference with the Nativity scene, the Menorah went up, but many other religions and beliefs went unrepresented. America is a land of equality for all, theoretically, not only for those in the majority.

    “”The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions …The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.

    This is sometimes referred to as the “Endorsement Test.” A law which fails this test is found to be unconstitutional because it “endorses” religion or religious beliefs in such a way that it tells those who agree that they are favored insiders and those who disagree that they are disfavored outsiders. The other side of the coin would be the “disapproval” of religion or religious beliefs in such a way that those who agree with the beliefs are told that they are disfavored outsiders while those who disagree with the beliefs are told that they are favored insiders.”””
    —-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, on how the Establishment Clause should be read.

    ~~ We can do it within our own homes or at the church or a synogogue if our choice. Nobody is stopping people from putting up christmas lights and decor in and around their homes in the US, as far as I know. We all have the right to express our preference over one religion over another. This is guaranteed to US citizens within the First Amendment of the US Constitution under the Free Exercise Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    If you read the article again, it is more likely that the military base/chaplaincy was suppressing the rights of Atheists to express their good tidings and promote their lack of belief in gods or religions.

    Just an observation, but you seem as equally fired up about this case as those directly involved. We all need to become more tolerant as a people. We all need to become a little more light hearted. We all need to practice respecting each other’s differences.

  14. Jim Smith December 23, 2011 at 8:31 am

    MRFF does not support the U.S. Constitution (maybe someone else’s?).

    Has MRFF actually read the entire 1st Amendment? Does the phrase “or…prohibiting the free exercise thereof” mean anything to you people?

    Congress has never “established” a religion as our national religion. England did that several centuries ago, which the early English pilgrims to America had fled due to persecution (the Protestant Orangemen and Catholics still have a testy relationship to this day). Since the Travis AFB display includes at least two faiths plus non-faith related displays, there is no preference being shown as a de factco “establishment” of religion.

    The MRFF is a joke, and should press on with more pressing issues rather than shilling for another religion: Athiesm.

    re•li•gion: the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.

    Athiests have a clear, negative set of beliefs and their practices tend to revolve around frivolous lawsuits that attempt to squelch the Constitutional First Amendment rights I have sworn to defend against all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC.

  15. Neil December 25, 2011 at 12:11 am

    The Menorah was up before the nativity. This display has been practically the SAME for the last 17 years I have lived here (I retired out of Travis in 1995).

    You folks got handed your tails. Next time get your facts straight. All you have is one upset Sergeant that didn’t follow proper channels and is now acting like he’s God’s…oh wait, the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s gift to secular humanists and mankind. No where near enough for a federal case (Has the MRFF even won a case ???). Everyone knows it. But send in your “end of year donation money” folks.

    Can’t wait for this upcoming meeting you are advertising on your main page :-)

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