to whom it better concern:

This demand letter is sent to you on behalf of TENS OF THOUSANDS members of the United States Air Force, and the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of American citizens, who are utterly disgusted and shocked by the brazenly illicit and wholly ridiculous and disgusting attack you have perpetrated upon a loyal and distinguished general of our Armed Forces for your unpatriotic, traitorous publicly attempt to silence and remove this good man from his official commission.

Historically, from the time of the American Revolution, ALL of our military leaders — up to and including the most recent U.S. wars that have been fought — have in their own way given thanks to Providence, as IN GOD WE TRUST. General Olson was only following suit in the precedence set down by General Of The Army George Washington, no more, no less.

If you people cannot tolerate the Constitutionally-protected exercise of expression by any member of our National Armed Forces, then get the hell out of our Country quickly and remove yourselves to Russia where you can try to peddle your insane drivel of trying to silence and remove persons in good standing just because you don’t agree with them. we are sick and tired of your neo-Soviet agenda of attempting to remake America in the image of Stalinism you crazy people seem to want.

Repeat, stand down and immediately retract your idiotic attack upon Air Force Major-General Craig Olson and, in fact,
we also demand your subversive organization issue a publick apology to Great Silent Majority of the Military and General Populace
upon whom you people have injured the basic fabric of our Body Politic!

(name withheld)
for the First Citizens of America (R)

Hi (name withheld) –

This is probably the most interesting email to which I’ve had an opportunity to respond on behalf of the MRFF.  In it, you express a number of misconceptions, both about us and about America generally.  I’d like to share a few things for you to consider, if you are willing.  I’m a lifelong, active and committed Christian; a USAF Academy graduate (’85) and a veteran USAF officer, as well as an MRFF supporter.
First, you need to know 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

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1 Comment

  1. sable

    As a Veteran, I absolutely endorse your condemnation of Major General Olsen’s remarks at the NDP. I’ve read them. He could have expressed his gratitude in a sensitive and non-confrontational manner that did not step over the line. He knew the regulations and chose to ignore them. The DOD should uphold the regulations and Major General Olsen should accept the consequences of his choice.

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