“Mikey”

Are you serious? Attacking American military? I’m really sorry your daddy didn’t love you!

I will pray to GOD for some help for your lost soul.

Kind Regards,

(name withheld)


 

Hi (name withheld),

Where to begin?

Yes, we are serious.

No, we’re not attacking the American military.

I’ll ignore the cheap comment.

Your prayers are always welcome; your judgment is not.

Launching an attack on people you don’t know on the basis of incorrect or at best partial information is not a wise choice. I do not assume, therefore, that because you’ve made an unwise choice you are an idiot.

Let me offer, should you care to know more about this thicket you’ve propelled yourself into, a bit of information that might be helpful to you when next you let your emotions override your good sense.

I’ll include below a thoughtful response to a more polite query on the same subject. The writer is an Air Force officer, an Academy graduate, a devout Christian and an MRFF supporter and defender. Read on.

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, relative 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 religious 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.

Peace,

Mike Challman

Christian, USAFA graduate, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

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