What action is going to be taken?

> Seems the military is really pushing the Muslim religion on our troops. What is your organization going to do about this?
> http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/07/29/troops-told-to-refrain-from-eating-drinking-in-front-muslims/?intcmp=latestnews
> (name withheld)
> Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!-Psalms 33:12

Dear (name withheld) –

Thank you for your email to MRFF. Mikey Weinstein has read your note and asked me to respond. As background, in addition to being an MRFF supporter, I am an Air Force Academy graduate (’85), a USAF veteran and a Christian.

Before addressing the specifics in the Todd Starnes article, I should explain how MRFF works, which may help to clarify your question, “What is your organization going to do about this?” MRFF gets involved in religious freedom issues on behalf of military members who contact our organization for assistance. To my knowledge, no one has reached out with regard to this particular issue, but if/when someone does, they will get the same type of response and support that is afforded to anyone who asks for MRFF assistance. The sectarian influence at the root of any request for help is never a consideration or influencing factor. MRFF is not “anti” any particular religious sect – rather, we are pro-Constitution.

So whether a threat to the Constitutional rights of a military member comes from Muslims, Christians, Atheists or any other conceivable group, the efforts of MRFF are the same in every case – specifically, “ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Specific to the Todd Starnes article, I’ve done some web research to see if I could find more information, but I’ve been unable to find anything that is not a restatement of the Starnes piece… so I don’t have any more context for what is going on than what Starnes has published. The reason that I think context is important is that I can think of two potential scenarios, one which does not raise a concern with me, and one does raise a concern in my mind and could be infringe upon Constitutional protections.

First, the scenario which does NOT necessarily concern me — if the instruction is being given in the context of conduct by US forces when deployed overseas.

When US forces are deployed to a host nation, there is a need to ensure that we will not act in a way that unnecessarily offends our host. I personally experienced this during my four deployments to the Persian Gulf region in the late-80’s, when I was an AWACS Air Battle Manager (throughout the late-80’s, we maintained a 24/7 airborne presence to monitor the Iran-Iraq War). We flew out of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When we were in Saudi, there were certain behaviors we needed to avoid in order not to cause offense, some related to what/when we ate or drank, some related to civilian attire (especially for the women), and some related to how we conducted ourselves when we were exploring the city during our off-duty time. The purpose of these guidelines was not to give prominence or favoritism to the Muslim religions; rather, it was to avoid committing a cultural faux pas that might create an issue with our hosts. Said another way, it was not sectarian favoritism, it was diplomacy. So in the case of this scenario, my personal feeling is that in this type of scenario there is no infringement of anyone’s Constitutional protections.

Second, the scenario which DOES potentially concern me — if the instruction is being given because the leader thinks it is personally important for military members to learn more about, and to show some deference to, Muslims.

If this were to be the case, whether or not the leader himself is a Muslim, I’d argue that he is using his position to promote a personal agenda with regard to a sectarian topic. In that instance, my feeling is that he has overstepped his bounds and is likely infringing upon the Constitutional rights of the military members under his command.

Again, I have no details about the context of the specific situation at USUHS. But as I stated earlier, the position of MRFF is that promotion or prominence given to ANY sectarian belief is to be avoided and in virtually any case (perhaps save the first scenario I described above) is inappropriate.

I would encourage you to learn more about MRFF, something I did last year. And I’ll admit that I started out as a doubter and likely critic, but after learning the facts I became a supporter. Despite what is claimed in some media outlets (including Mr. Starnes and his Fox cohorts), MRFF is neither anti-religion nor anti-Christian. If it seems that most of the situations in which MRFF gets involved relate to the actions of conservative Christians, that is only because it is that contingent of believers who seem most intent on advancing a sectarian agenda within our government, including our military.

I notice that your tag line is a beautiful verse from Psalm 33. As a Christian myself, I appreciate and value the sentiment. But as a concerned citizen and veteran, I also understand that the United States is NOT a Christian nation – rather we are a nation of diverse beliefs, including honorable people of no belief. Our laws and institutions, including our military, need to respect that diversity of belief and avoid advancing any specific sectarian agenda.

Thanks again for writing.


Mike Challman

Christian, Veteran and MRFF Supporter

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