Please change your name

Please take Military out of your name; you do NOT represent the Military what so ever

Please take freedom out of your name: You are not for freedom or freedom of speech

Please take Religious out of your name. You have demonstrated you have no religion.

What does that make you. NOTHING

God bless America and may He have mercy on you.

(name withheld)


Hi (name withheld),

How are things in Abu Dhabi?

Judging from the unfortunate tone of your email I’ll assume you’ve seen

or heard one of the short and biased attacks on the MRFF in the matter

of Major General Olson’s inappropriate actions. Because the coverage

from those outlets intent on savaging the work of the Military Religious

Freedom Foundation has been so widespread of late there have been a

lot of messages to respond to, so I hope you’ll understand if I, instead of

clarifying things for you point by point, copy here part of a response to a
person who was also offended. It was offered by an Air Force officer, an

Academy graduate who is a devout Christian and a strong supporter of


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.

If you’ve stayed with me this far you’ll now have a better idea of the actual

situation that has been so broadly trumpeted and ill-described. There are serious

issues here, some that Captain Challman didn’t mention, such as the fact that this

“religious” event quickly became a political event, the tone of which caused some,

including one of the original sponsors, to leave and express their indignation.

Unfortunately, Major General Olson was not one of them.

I hope this provides a more clear picture of what the MRFF is responding to.


Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


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