MEDIA COVERAGE OF MRFF’S DEMANDS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL COMPLIANCE
Friday, December 16 2011
KCRA SACRAMENTO – Federal Lawsuit Over Holiday Display?
ABC NEWS 10 – Holiday displays bring out humbugs at Travis AFB
MILITARY.COM – AF Base Under Fire for Crèche, Menorah Displays
Thursday, December 15 2011
ABC NEWS 10 – Holiday display sparks battle at Travis AFB (WITH VIDEO)
THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE (INSIDE BAY AREA) – Nativity, menorah displays cause stir at Travis Air Force Base
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE – Travis AFB asked to move menorah, nativity
THE REPORTER (VACAVILLE, CA) – Group wants Travis Air Force base to remove nativity, menorah displays
THE BALTIMORE SUN – Holiday Decorations Cause Stir on Travis Air Force Base
MRFF AND ALLIES DEMAND REMOVAL OF UNCONSTITUTIONAL RELIGIOUS DISPLAYS AT TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE
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.”
“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.
Military Director – American Atheists, Inc.
Fort Bragg, NC | (239) 689 0323
ONE OF THE NATION’S LARGEST CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS CALLS FOR U.S. AIR FORCE TO REFRAIN FROM PROSELYTIZING, ENDORSING RELIGION
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.
Director of Public Policy
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.
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…
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