Unforgivable ignorance of U.S. Constitution and history

Today, for the first time I encountered your Facebook page and your website. I am a devout and practicing Roman Catholic, baptized when I was two months old. My father was a World War II. veteran, and although Catholic, he and my mother raised the family to understand and respect (and defend) the secular intentions of the Founding Fathers and the meaning of our only federal governing document, the U.S. Constitution. The United States is not a Christian country, and the Constitution never mentions God or Jesus Christ. Most of our Founding Fathers were Deists and/or Freemasons. They had a legitimate beef against several flavors of Christianity and were running FROM a theocracy.

This being said, have I been asleep? Tests of religious belief have been uniformly illegal in the political sphere for most of my life. That should be more than guaranteed in the military. If we don’t or can’t defend our defenders from bigotry, I forsee a quick voluntary reduction in force.

I read a good deal of your hate mail. I was personally sickened by the pathetic anti-Semitic slurs and the convoluting of anti-Semitism and paranoid homophobia. Mr. Weinstein, as a practicing Catholic, I apologize to you on behalf of all educated Christlans who are strict interpreters of the Constitution and know something about history.

Respectfully,
(name withheld)


Hi (name withheld) –

Mikey Weinstein shared your email with me, and since you and I have a common background I thought it would be good to send you a note. I’m a volunteer at MRFF, a USAFA graduate (Class of ’85), AF veteran, and like you a life-long Catholic (baptized at 6 days old, in my own case).

And like you, I felt like I’d been asleep at the wheel when I’d first began to learn more about the battles in which MRFF finds itself, especially since much of it has been fought at my own Alma Mater. But unlike you, my initial approach to MRFF was more from the direction of a potential critic. In fairness, though, my perspective at the time was informed by anti-MRFF sources, so it’s no surprise that my opinion was already skewed in that direction. But I undertook an effort to become better educated about the issue of religious freedom in our military, and also to become better informed about the mission of MRFF. By the end of that learning process, I was entirely convinced of two things — (1) the threat which MRFF opposes is very real; and (2) the mission of MRFF is absolutely necessary.

Actually, I became convinced of a third thing, too — Mikey Weinstein, despite being quite publicly reviled by some of my (and Mikey’s) fellow Academy graduates/classmates and also by a number of conservative commentators, is a man of great personal character and integrity, and he deserves my public support.

So your email really resonates with me. I’ve gotten quite an education in my time supporting MRFF. It’s sad, as you noted, that the worst of the vitriol and hate spewed at MRFF comes from supposed Christians; it’s just disgusting.

Even among those who are less awful (and more articulate), there remains a very strong belief that ANY limit on religious expression is tantamount to a restriction on religious belief. But the fact is that, in the military, there are restrictions on expression in a number of things. Where religious expression is the case, there are very appropriate limits on the time, place and manner in which a military member, particularly someone in a leadership role or with seniority over others, expresses a sectarian belief. As I’m sure you can imagine, a subordinate is placed in a very difficult situation when a superior proselytizes; the rigid hierarchy of the military does not allow a subordinate to disobey, dispute, or even simply disagree with a superior.

As Catholics, I think that you and I have an easier time understanding that there are many other ways in which we can ‘express’ our faith. Mikey Weinstein has shared in some of his talks the difference between Christians who emphasize the Great Commandment versus those who emphasize the Great Commission. I think it is fair to say that Catholic tradition, generally speaking, is founded more on the former — a focus on love and service — while the conservative Evangelical tradition is more the latter — to explicitly “preach the gospel to every creature.” For many Evangelicals, this can only be done by proselytizing. So when these people perceive even the most reasonable limit on the time, place and manner of expressing a personal religious belief, they see red.

But those folks are not even the biggest threat to Constitutional protections. There exists within Evangelical Christianity a subset that is exceedingly dangerous because they believe that the United States must be infused with [their version of] Christianity. While I am a Christian myself, I can easily see the problem with that, and from your note I know that you do, too. These Dominionist Christians want nothing less than for [their version of] Christianity to have dominion over all aspects of American life, including the government, the military, and the public education system.

People often ask — why is it that MRFF only seems to go after Christians? The simple answer is that it is invariably Dominionist Christians who are committing the most egregious violations of the Constitution. If/When it happens that any other group does similar things, MRFF stands opposed to them, too. As you noted in your email, the oft-repeated assertion that America was founded as a Christian nation is simply not true. Rather, your observation about “the secular intentions of the Founding Fathers” is right on the money.

The presence of Dominionists in positions of power and authority in the military, where they can (and do) take direct action to advance their goals, is not the only risk they pose. They also work hard to get more moderate Christians to support their efforts. They’ve done a pretty doggone good job of convincing many people that groups like MRFF pose a threat to free religious belief and practice by all Christians. That is what I once thought, but it is a myth. The reality is that Dominionists believe strongly that there is only one ‘correct’ version of Christianity — their own — and anyone who resides outside of that narrow frame of reference will find no friends among the Dominionists, not even other professed Christians (and certainly not any non-Christians or non-believers).

I share all of this as prelude to a simple request — it would be great if you would join the effort to oppose religious extremists who threaten the Constitutional protections of Americans who don’t share their beliefs. For me, it would be wonderful if you became involved with MRFF in some way. If you are interested in learning more, I’d be happy to continue this dialogue, or there are many other good people who could answer your questions and offer their own perspective.

Thanks again for taking the time to write to MRFF.

Peace,

Mike Challman
Christian, Veteran, MRFF Supporter

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