Regarding Nativity at Gitmo

I was hoping you could forward this to Mike Weinstein.

Mr. Weinstein,

I am a Christian. I read your book regarding the treatment of your sons and their Jewish faith while serving in the military. I felt that Christians should have given other religions their church while they worshipped in a basement or a room instead. I sympathized with you and your sons, and I have since stood up for religious freedom in the military. But, I have to say, I cannot agree with you regarding the removal of the nativity scene. Because Christmas is a national holiday in America I felt like you overstepped your authority. I also feel you are falling down a slippery slope where you will lose supporters like myself due to your over-stretching of your hands.

Thank you for your time,

(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),

Mikey has read your email and asked me to respond.

Sorry this is late due to the overwhelming emails we receive and all that goes with celebrating Christmas.

We value and appreciate you supporting religious freedom in the military and don’t want to lose your support over a misunderstanding.

We got an email from a soldier at GITMO that was happy it was moved to Chapel grounds – where it belongs. She said:


Christmas is a national holiday but not everyone celebrates it and this includes some of our soldiers.

The military has strict laws about promoting one religion over another.
You will not see any other religion decorate the dining halls. Imagine the backlash if our Muslims soldiers did that.

If they put up Santa and his Elves and Rudolph with his reindeer, there would not have been a problem. There is with a Christian Nativity scene placed in a secular area.

Mikey and the MRFF DO NOT act on their own but on the complaints of soldiers who see the blatant disregard for the Constitution and military law where religion is concerned.

Mikey did not overstep his authority. We adhere to the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, military law and the Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court heard the Lemon v. Kurtzman case in 1971 and ruled in favor of the Establishment Clause.

Subsequent to this decision, the Supreme Court has applied a three-pronged test to determine whether government action comports with the Establishment Clause, known as the “Lemon Test”

Lemon Test:

1. Any law or policy must have been adopted with a neutral or non-religious purpose.
2. The principle or primary effect of any law or policy must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.
3. The statute or policy must not result in an “excessive entanglement” of government with religion.

If any government entity’s actions fit into one of these three, then it is a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Nativity scene fits this violation. If the base thought they were well within their rights to put the Nativity scene in the dining halls they wouldn’t have moved them.

As you probably know, we are not an atheist organization nor are we anti-Christian. Mikey is Jewish and 75% of the Board, Advisory Board, volunteers and supporters of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are Christians. In fact, 96% of our almost 36,000 soldier clients (1 can represent 50) are Christians. So, we fight for the rights of Christians more than any other religion.

If you go to our website and click on “About” and then “Foundation Voices” you will see that we also have distinguished military personnel on our Advisory Board that we rely on for their expertise on what can and cannot be done on military bases. In doing so, we are not overstretching our hands.

I hope this clears up any concerns that you may have.

Pastor Joan
MRFF Advisory Board member

Pastor Joan (and Mikey),

I am sincerely thankful that you took the time to write me back. I was extremely bothered with the treatment of Mr. Weinstein’s children in the military, and I felt Christians weren’t truly showing others what it means to be a Christian. With that being said I am still confused by your response regarding the nativity scene. Christmas (not Winter Solstice or Hanukkah) is our national holiday therefore making Christ part of that holiday. How is the nativity scene not allowed to be ANYWHERE in our country? If Hanukkah was our national holiday then I would welcome a menorah, the icon which represents the holiday, to be placed anywhere people please. I couldn’t imagine going to another country when celebrating their nationally recognized holiday (holy day) and demand they take down their religious icons that represent that holiday.

As a Christian I am not offended by Santa Claus because I do not believe in him. Why are people offended by Jesus if they do not believe in him? Ben Stein said it best, “who is more irrational, a man who believes in something he does not see or a man who is offended by something he doesn’t believe in?”

Mr. Weinstein, you were on the right road when you tried to give military men and women freedom to worship while serving our country, but you have lost my support when you removed an icon that represents a holiday recognized by our American government. You have now crossed into territory that shows me you are offended by things that you don’t believe in…which I find to be quite child-like.

Once again, I thank you for your time and your response. I will continue to pray for our men and women as they serve our country.

My concerns still remain,

(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),

Thank you for your kind response.

We have nothing to do with nor are we responsible for Nativity scenes not being allowed ANYWHERE in our country. People are still allowed to put up Nativity scenes at churches, businesses and homes. Parades are common throughout America with Macy’s being the largest.
When you join the military the rules change. Our soldiers give up many freedoms that we take for granted when they join. They lose the freedom of speech because they are not allowed to talk back to their superiors. They are told when to eat, when to sleep, when to work, what clothes to wear, how to wear their hair and when to work. And, they are told the rules and regulations that must be followed. Life inside the military is different than the life we enjoy.

One of the rules is that all religious displays must be on the Chapel/building grounds of each religion. They must not be on neutral/secular grounds.

From GITMO: “For the record, the base says the display was improperly placed due to non-military contractors operating outside the rules… Both Nativity scenes will be moved to the courtyard of the base chapel, said Kelly Wirfel, a spokeswoman for Capt. John Nettleton, commander of the base in southeastern Cuba. The displays were set up by foreign contractors who manage the two dining facilities…”

At Shaw AFB the Nativity scene was put up by an outside church by the lake – not by our Airmen/women. This is the FIRST time the Nativity was not on Chapel grounds. 41 OFFICERS – who know the rules – complained about the misplaced Nativity by this outside church that had no business doing it on base.

The Nativity scenes were put back on Chapel grounds – where they belong according to the rules – by GITMO and Shaw.

There would have been no perceived war on Nativity scenes if the non-military contractors and an outside church hadn’t taken into their own hands to operate outside of the rules.

Christmas celebrations in America from the 1620’s to the 1850’s were culturally and legally suppressed and thus, virtually non-existent. The Puritan community found no Scriptural justification for celebrating Christmas, and associated such celebrations with paganism and idolatry.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution.

In 1870, Christmas became a Federal Holiday (paid holiday)– for Federal employees only and only in Washington D.C. It was expanded to all per diem Federal employees in America in 1885 and the Postal Service in 1916. The states determine which federal holidays are paid to their employees and businesses are allowed to do the same.

Mikey didn’t remove “an icon that represents a holiday recognized by our American government.” The bases acknowledged that the placement of the Nativity scenes was against military rules and put them back where they belong. It wasn’t to get rid of the scenes entirely but where they were placed.

Again, Mikey acts only on complaints from soldiers and relies on the distinguished military personnel on the MRFF Advisory Board for guidance. He is not being child-like. He vets every complaint before acting on it.

And, Mikey has a blended family of Jews and Christians.

Pastor Joan

MRFF Advisory Board member

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