Lt Col. Kenneth Reyes

Dear MRFF,

I just need to ask… what is wrong with your ORG? Why do you have the word Religious in your organization’s title?

You don’t promote Religious freedom, from what I read you promote Religious censorship. You promote the violation of The First Amendment.
If individuals are not happy with speeches or homilies or just an opinion, they have the right not to listen and they have the right to complain. But what about the speaker or the homilist, or the opinionator, why must you insist their rights be violated? Why does it not go both ways?
Oh, by the way. Did any of your complainers actually hear the chaplin’s homily?

You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
Respectfully,
(name withheld)


Dear (name withheld),

Mikey Weinstein, President and Founder of MRFF has read your email and asked me to respond on behalf of our foundation.

I am a Christian (Episcopalian in fact) who fully supports Mikey’s and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s attempt to protect members of the U.S. Military from unconstitutional religious influence in relation to their training, assignment, advancement and retention. We have the word ‘religious’ within our foundation’s title because it does not stand alone nor is its use copyrighted or otherwise owned by anyone. Furthermore freedom of religion includes freedom from religion by logical and legal extension.

Your complaint about MRFF’s action in this matter ends with the question “Why doesn’t it go both ways?”. This is why and your accusation of censorship is clearly unfounded in context of established policies of the U.S. Military:

AFI (Air Force Instructions) 1-1

2.11. Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline. Airmen, especially commanders and supervisors, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline in the Air Force or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force.

You should also be aware that 1st amendment free speech restrictions are in no way limited to the U.S. Military. If you have ever voted, I’m sure you’re aware that campaigning within close proximity of polling places is prohibited. Time, place, and manner restrictions on our 1st amendment rights, including free speech and religion, exist for a reason. These restriction are most often due to unavoidable competing claims of individual rights. Possibly uncomfortable, but clearly unavoidable by reason of logic.

Perpetuating the false statement that “There are no atheists in foxholes” not only denigrates the combat service of atheists, it projects a weakness of character onto atheists that has real world consequences and all to often leads to this type of administrative proceeding affecting the military careers of atheists:

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) maintains in its doctrine that a “Lack or loss of spiritual faith” is just cause to increase scrutiny of any given Marine. This clause is present in at least two USMC publications, including Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Headquarters and Service Battalion Order 5100.29 and Training and Education Command Order 5100.1.

“Lack or loss of spiritual faith” is included as a “Guidance/moral compass issue” in both of these documents under a list of risk indicators for use by “leaders at all levels” to “identify and address risky behavior or events that may lead to risky behavior, as soon as possible.” This apparent character flaw is juxtaposed with such things as “lack of courage,” “history of psychiatric hospitalizations,” “past or current substance abuse history,” and being “anti-social.” In the simplest terms, it is the current official position of the United States Marine Corps that those who do not profess a religious belief or choose to leave their religion are to be considered a potential hazard to themselves and the Corps and be placed under greater scrutiny than their peers.

The documents go on to include directives on how to convene a “Force Preservation Council” with the mission to evaluate and assist Marines that are identified as high risk through the checklist of undesirable traits (such as lack of religion).

(source: The United States Marine Corps Officially Declares ‘Lack of Spiritual Faith’ as a Sign of Instability, by Blake Page, Huffington Post, 7/25/2013)

An unconstitutional religious test by any other name is still an unconstitutional religious test. The combat service of an atheist, and there have been many, is no less valuable to the U.S. Military and the Constitution its members are sworn to uphold than Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Agnostics, whatever. Furthermore, this administrative process would go unseen and unchallenged if it were not for MRFF and its clients bringing this to light and challenging it. Looking the other way while this myth is perpetuated in an official capacity is what is truly shameful. MRFF chooses not to look the other way.

No one heard a homily, they read an article posted on the official website of the chaplain’s base. Furthermore, your use of the term homily actually bolsters MRFF’s position on behalf of its clients. Although there are several available definitions of what a homily is or should be, it is generally a sermon intended to put forth practical application of religious dogma. As you can plainly see from the USMC doctrine, the practical application of this so-called homily is clearly unconstitutional with real world adverse impacts to U.S. Service Members exercising their 1st amendment right to be atheists. Time/place/manner restrictions exist for a reason.

On a separate, but related topic, I sincerely hope your time sharing your personal opinion in this matter are separate from any billable hours under any active DoD or other federal procurement contract. If not, that would truly be something to be ashamed about.

Sincerely,

Andy Kasehagen

p.s. Please feel free to correct me if I misunderstood the proper context of your email and you were actually expressing the opinion of The Boeing Company. I would be more than happy to respond accordingly.

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1 Comment

  1. Tony Gazo

    Gentlemen,

    I would like to observe that having read Lt Col Reyes article I find nothing in it that violates the Air Force Instruction.

    As a Chaplain Reyes has a duty to be faithful to his responsibilities and all he did in the article was raise the question of what one’s object of faith is. He – with significant restraint – merely poses the question.

    Had he gone further – which as a Chaplain he would have the right to do in his capacity as a religious officer NOT a command officer (the distinction is important relative to the purpose and intent of the AFI) – one might object but one might just as easily not read the article.

    If Reyes had stated that the object of his faith is the LORD Jesus Christ this would be a statement of fact and a free expression of Reyes own faith. As a Christian Chaplain he could do nothing else and by so doing he is not imposing his religious beliefs he is merely stating them. If a Chaplain can’t express his faith he has no business being a Chaplain and the military may as well remove the office from within the military. This outcome is the last thing I would want to advocate but it follows logically from the thinking and bias of the day. Had an article been written by a Muslim Chaplain what the “watch dog” organizations response have been?

    I am a graduate of the US Air Force Academy (class of 1978) and am appalled – and grief stricken- at the demise of this countries view to freedom of religion. The way faith was viewed in the 1970s compared to now in 2013 indicates a patent ignorance of the place for faith and the blessings that come from engaging in seeking God.

    I am a Christian saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ but at the Academy I was a Christian (raised Lutheran) with the Church being central to all I and my Family did but in my youth I was on my way to the pigsty as I personally experienced the full meaning of the parable of the prodigal son.

    It wasn’t until a couple years later at Pilot Training that a dear Christian confronted me with the Gospel (in the privacy of his own home) and I came to the realization that I knew of Christ but I didn’t obey Him (as His word clearly articulates in “if you love Me you will keep My commandments”). I was restored by Christ and have been His servant ever since; warts and all.

    In retrospect, I wonder why I didn’t attend Chapel during my Cadet days. I grieve at the fact that I didn’t and that the Chaplains didn’t confront me sooner. The fault for turning my back on Jesus is mine but aside from probably more work than the Chaplains could keep up with my guess is that there was plenty of opportunity to seek Jesus but I didn’t. God spared me just the same but it reinforces the question of why have Chaplains at all if they are not allowed to do their job?

    It seems that current thinking and priorities outweigh long-standing freedoms merely for the sake of political correctness (motivated by any number of abuses of power).

    The first amendment has been around since 1791 and prohibits “the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances”. The Reyes article does nothing to violate this amendment; in fact, it endorses it.

    By contrast, the government formulated view to “choice” and the resultant laws protecting a woman’s “right” to an abortion has resulted in the murder of over 50 Million babies since Roe v Wade. Since the 70s scientific evidence increasingly verifies that “it” is not a “choice” but instead a Child. Where are the “watch dog” organizations? Rather than going after this abomination many endorse and advocate this distorted view to rights protected under the Constitution and rather than honest debate alternative (and clear) views are vilified and/or entirely dismissed because they are contrary to the popular and “progressive” view to the matter.

    Since RvW other abominations have become priorities to this Country.

    We openly endorse – in fact cram down our throats – the “rights” of homosexuals (sodomites); the Department of Justice being one of the current administrations chief advocates given their “lavender law” career fair (http://www.lgbtbar.org/annual/career-fair/).

    Why isn’t the DoJ challenged by “watch dog” organizations for advocating a lifestyle that goes against Scripture and common sense. Had such a career fair been attempted in the 1970s it would be summarily dismissed because the culture had a better understanding of what advocacy of such lifestyles would result in. In 2013, we seemingly don’t care because we think that advocating ones “rights” as arbitrarily defined by a contrived cultural norm in the absence of (and in violent opposition) to any moral code is more consistent with what the Founding Fathers intended (or could even envision).

    Instead, we are now deluged (by the media and other sources) with the political appeal to “American Values” and yet no one (not even the President) dares to define what these values are based on; thus, values trump rights.

    This is not only absurd but it highlights the difference between conviction and expedience. The current mood relies heavily on misinformation and popular ignorance and in my lifetime the evidence is clear that misinformation and ignorance are dominant. Rather than standing on clearly articulated convictions the cultural/political arena is rife with examples of expedience to meet other objectives; culturally to socially engineer the popular academic thinking (e.g. it’s OK for daddy to have a boyfriend) and politically to stay in office. How is this any different to what Hitler did in the 1930s?

    From an historical perspective the purpose for protecting against establishing religion comes from the context of what took place in Europe in the centuries leading up to the American Revolution. The Founding Fathers wanted to do what they could to avoid forcing Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed persuasions on any individual but they had ABSOLUTELY NO intention to restrict the practice of religion. How times have changed! (Note: the Founding Fathers had no concept of other than Christian based religions taking a place in American society yet the amendment protects ALL religions just the same.)

    With more than a popular view to the matter, how dare we suppress a Chaplain’s mere question?

    LORD have mercy on the United States of America!

    In Christ.
    Tony

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