Freedom of Speech

Why is it that you get to have your freedom of speech but Maj. Gen. Olsen does not? He did not go to a Air Force event, he went to an event for his religious beliefs. Freedom of speech is not one sided. You have a right to not believe in religion and not want it but he and many others have the right to believe and speak their minds. As true Americans I would hope you drop this against Olsen.
Thank you
God Bless


Hi (name withheld) –

Thanks for writing to the MRFF, and especially for expressing your thoughts in a polite manner — too many don’t extend that courtesy.  I’m a lifelong, active and committed Christian; a USAF Academy (’85) and a veteran USAF officer, as well as an MRFF supporter.  I’d like to give you some better information that you are likely receiving from Fox News or other sources, relatively to how the MRFF views the circumstances surrounding Maj Gen Olson’s speech at the NDP Task Force event,.

First, you may also be surprised to learn that the MRFF is neither anti-God nor anti-religion.  Many, in fact the majority, of MRFF supporters and clients are people faith, including me (as I’ve already mentioned).  We do not oppose any particular religion beliefs.

Second, you should know that we fully support Maj Gen Olson’s right to his religious beliefs, as well as his right to express those beliefs in an appropriate time, place, and manner.

Our mission as an organization is to ensure 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.  Part of that focus is to expect that all military leaders, especially those at the most senior level, are cognizant of their professional obligations and that they act appropriately

So if both of the above points are true (which they are), then why have we objected so strongly to Gen Olson’s speech?

The key issue with Maj Gen Olson’s participation in the NDP Task Force event is that he did it in an inappropriate manner, one which I believe is a pretty obvious violation of Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.12 which governs the actions of all USAF leaders in this area.  It may help to read the specific guidance in that AFI:


“2.12. Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause – Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.”


There are two important things to take away from that paragraph.  First, military leaders do not possess an unfettered right to free expression of their religious beliefs at any time, in any place, or in any manner.  So, all of the commentary that is flying about claiming that Maj Gen Olson has an absolute First Amendment right to do so is uninformed and incorrect.

Second, the final sentence of Section 2.12 is critically important.  Please take a moment to read that sentence, then reflect upon the particulars of the General’s speech at the NDP Task Force event

— He appeared in full uniform

— He did not make any statement to suggest that he was speaking strictly as an individual and not as a USAF leader

— Most seriously, at the end of his speech he expressed a belief that the Defense Department, and all US troops, all should “depend on Christ”     (as an aside… how do you think that went over with the many non-Christians in Maj Gen Olson’s chain of command?)

Put it all together, and he was over the line that is plainly described in AFI 1-1 for all USAF leaders.

So again, the issue is not that he spoke about his faith — it’s that he did so in a manner that conflated his personal views with his official position, and that was inappropriate.  Most of the static that we’re hearing in emails, and that I’m seeing on websites where this issue is being discussed, is driven by the misconception that the MRFF is opposed to Olson’ s Christian beliefs.  That is NOT the case.  As a Christian and former USAF officer myself, I understand very well the sentiment that he expressed in his speech — but again, the specific content of what he shared is not the issue.

Personally, I’m glad that Maj Gen Olson has such strong, heartfelt beliefs.  But I’m sad that he didn’t take the time to consider how the manner in which he appeared at this event might be construed, and that he didn’t take more care to ensure a clear delineation between his personal religious beliefs and his professional obligations.

Thanks again for writing.


Mike Challman

Christian, USAFA graduate, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter


Just a brief response to you and Mike Challman.

Since Mike professes to be a Christian, is not appearing in public in uniform and does not officially represent any United States Armed Force organization, why did he not choose to close his missive, concerning the MRFF web site, with a Christian response such as ‘God bless you’ or ‘In Christ’. Such would surely demonstrate his first allegiance and make his response, in favor of the MRFF putdown of Maj Gen Olson, more believable.

In Christ,

(name withheld)


Interesting feedback. You don’t consider a salutation of “Peace” to be an appropriate Christian sentiment? Very curious…….
And more broadly, do you normally make a practice of judging the quality of another Christian’s faith strictly based on how they sign emails? Even more curious…..

Not usually, but in some cases it just helps to establish validity. I lived through the “peace brother” era and know how empty the sentiment can be.
(name withheld)

Perhaps so, (name withheld)… yet at the same time, there are probably also people who can say “God Bless You”, or “In Christ”, but have not the love of Christ in their heart, which would make that sentiment equally empty.

Perhaps you and I should just agree that only God truly knows anyone’s heart, and only He truly knows who is or is not one of His own…. and the rest of us heed Matthew 7:1 and avoid judging one another.

Dear (name withheld),
Interesting feedback. You don’t consider a salutation of “Peace” to be an appropriate Christian sentiment? Very curious…….
And more broadly, do you normally make a practice of judging the quality of another Christian’s faith strictly based on how they sign emails? Even more curious…..

Mikey Boy, You may want to take some JAG refresher training; USAF fortunately didn’t see it your way:
And if you’re truly a Christian, you should be celebrating the decision.
(name withheld)

Hi Old Navy Dude –

Just what decision should I be celebrating?
MG Olson’s personal religious beliefs were never threatened, so it can’t be about that.
His right to express those beliefs in an appropriate time, place, and manner was never threatened, so it can’t be about that, either.
His decision to speak at a private sectarian religious event, in full uniform and under the color of his authority, was inappropriate in my view. As such, that is something that I cannot celebrate in good conscience, nor do I think it should be celebrated by any American who respects the U.S. Constitution.
Seems to me, all that happened here was to remind the roughly 20%-25% of Air Force members who are not Christians that one of their most senior bosses equates success in the military first-and-foremost with being a Christian. And that is nothing to celebrate, not if one accepts that our military is not, and should never be, a Christian force.


Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

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