Army Poster Removal

Hello…..my understanding is that your organization is designed to protect the rights of people to worship as they choose, and to have the right to not be forced to worship by another. I’m trying to figure out how a sign “For God and Country” could possibly offend ANYONE. If there was a sign that a military recruiter placed out front of his recruiting center that said, “For freedom and Cash” I would probably laugh or smirk, but I certainly wouldn’t care enough to get offended or take action. Instead, your organization comes across more about censorship….the banning of 200 year old religious sayings from public life seems a bit Facist to me. I think you’re walking a fine line here…I say just live and let live, not everyone is going to see things that way you do, get over it…..for every one person who cheers your removal of a silly sign, 50 more will be offended by your actions….which leads me to believe you’re not really interested in protecting people as whole, but prefer to censor a large number of people to please a small number of people–this just doesn’t seem very American to me….my 2 cents anyways……….have a good day.

(name withheld)


 

Dear (name withheld),

First, I would like to thank you. Honestly. I mean that with no means of provocation and with no intent to insult. We receive thousands of message of hate, many of them containing death threats. Many people are incensed and angered over the work we do. Others are confused and lash out. Some are downright hateful.
When we encounter messages that are truly inquisitive and respectful it truly is a breath of fresh air.
The sign in question was indeed a violation of the establishment clause of the 1st amendment to the US Constitution. Were it not, then the Army would not have acted so quickly to take it down. We didn’t go after this sign with malice or with the intent to offend anyone. The military is a funny beast. It’s not merely just another government job – it’s also an international diplomacy effort, whether one wishes to view it that way or not.
The actions of a few mere soldiers, or hell…even a single individual in uniform…can have rippling second and third order effects for not only everyone in uniform – but the State Department, USAID, the White House, NATO, etc. I’m sure you get the picture and I don’t wish to insult your intellect by continuing further.
The US Military is an arm of the government. Therefore the government does not have the ability to exercise rights as it is not a citizen of itself. So the government can take no stance on the “god” issue, something for which I am very thankful. I would not want the government dictating to me how, when, and what deity I must worship. Nor, I imagine, would any Americans were they forced in such a way either.
It is true what you say of “For God and Country” being a motto used in the armed forces. However, it is not indicative of the entire armed forces or even anyone in the regular military. The Latin phrase ‘Pro aris et Focis’ is the phrase used for the Chaplaincy, and had this sign been used to attract people looking to join the chaplaincy it would have been innocuous. However, this sign was directed towards getting people to join the Special Forces. It was clearly targeted towards recruiting religious people of a specific persuasion into the special forces – and something strongly lauded by the Christian extremists in our nation.
Many people immediately disregard the concept of “Christian extremists” whenever I bring it up, but it is a real threat and a pervasive one. I know because I used to be one of them before the veil was lifted from my eyes. There are still around 30,000,000 Americans who believe in a conservative government ruled by biblical law – they are called “Dominionists” and follow dominion theology.
While they are a minority of Christians nationwide, they still make up a significant number of American citizens. And the closer you get to the Special Forces community the more embedded they are. We are taught from a young age that it is our duty to take over all branches of government (including the military) and to transform the nation into a “christian nation” to make America become like the Israel of the Old Testament. 
 
It truly is a pretty scary proposition now that I am outside of that life and believe that forcing and coercing people into that life is wrong. How do you think Islamic extremists will take this sign? They may not need it to use as propaganda and fodder to get new recruits….but us helping them by violating our own Constitution isn’t getting us anywhere.
When people respond to our actions they are merely thinking about the first order effect of what we have done (taking down a poster). If we had a truly intellectual populace perhaps they would consider the second and third order effects of what we are trying to prevent when it comes to matters like these.

 

Very Respectfully,
Paul Loebe
Special Projects Manager
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Chicago, IL
*Disclaimer: Although I am a Marine Staff Sergeant I do not speak on behalf of the Department of Defense, United States Marine Corps, or any affiliated branches.*

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2 Comments

  1. Nicely done Paul Loebe! Nicely done!

  2. There is a point alluded to in the main e-mail and in this reply that should be made more strongly and more often: religious proselytization has no more place in the military than political prosyletization. The sign “For God and Country” is just as wrong as a sign “For Obama and the Democrats” would be. Likewise an invitation (much less an order) from a superior to a subordinate to attend a religious meeting or rally is as out of place as an invitation to attend a political meeting or rally.

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