You people are sick

There are countless many more of us veterans who believe in God and who you seek to silence. You would do well to stop the hatred and love your brothers in arms regardless of their religious beliefs. Get a life.

(name withheld)


 

HI (name withheld)-

I’m glad that you wrote to the MRFF to express your concerns, because it provides an opportunity to correct some misconceptions that you hold.  In addition to being an MRFF supporter, I’m also a lifelong and active Christian, a USAF Academy graduate (’85), and a USAF veteran.

With regard to veterans (and active duty) who believe in God, you may be surprised to learn that there many of us are among the MRFF ranks — in fact, a majority of MRFF supporters and clients are people of faith.  What brings us together with others who may not share our beliefs, yet who are still honorable and decent people, is a desire to support and defend the Constitution.  Specifically, the MRFF is dedicated to ensuring 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.

I’d point out, as well, that the number of Americans (veterans or otherwise) who believe in God is not “countless”.  The last Pew report that I saw indicated that about 70% of Americans are Christians, another 7% are non-Christian religions, and remaining 23% are affiliated with neither of these groups. The ranks of today’s US military reflect this plurality of beliefs.  Think about what that means — 1 of every 4 military members does not share the beliefs of the religious majority… and we believe that each one of them counts, too.

So we’re not hating anyone because of their religious beliefs, and we don’t support or oppose any particular sectarian religious beliefs.  What we do oppose is behavior by military leaders that is inconsistent with the guidelines of the Constitution and application military instructions.

I assume you’ve been reading or hearing about the Maj Gen Olson situation…. so let’s look at that for a moment.

The most important thing to understand is 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.  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.  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


 

Your explanation still comes down to the insidious belief that if there is one person offended by another’s beliefs (that harm no one) then there should be harsh consequences to that person. I don’t care if you are an Atheist, Christian, or whatever you are contributing to the destruction of America’s institutions by attempting to eliminate religion expression wherever possible. There is nothing inconsistent with the Constitution with closely held religious beliefs of all faiths (or NO faith). On the other hand our nation was founded by men who believed that all men are created equal under God. No where in the constitution is freedom FROM religion guaranteed which is what Atheists seem to want.

 

As a US Army officer veteran from the Vietnam era I can assure you that the last thing a soldier from that era cared about was the religious beliefs of his commanding officer. He wanted outstanding leaders which we seem to have less and less of today both in the political arena as well as in the military.

 

As a citizen I count myself as a Constitutional conservative. I carry a copy of the Constitutional with me whenever a socialist friend tries to quote it out of context as they frequently do. I am not counting you or your organization in that category (I don’t know you), but your goals are consistent with the socialist agenda.

 

An example of the difference between the Constitutional conservative and the Socialist: If the Constitutional conservative doesn’t like SUVs he doesn’t buy one. If the Socialist doesn’t like SUVs he wants to ban them for everyone.

(name withheld)


 

Hi (name withheld) –

Thanks for your additional comments.  With respect, I’d suggest that you’ve misinterpreted what I said. The measure in a situation like Maj Gen Olson’s is not one of “offense”… it is one of appropriateness and compliance with one’s obligations as a military leader.
Consider this — as a Christian myself, I was not offended in the slightest by the beliefs that Maj Gen Olson shared. In fact, if I were to describe the ways in which God has worked in my own life, my testimony would probably sound very similar to the testimony of Maj Gen Olson.  Despite not being “offended”, I still recognize that the manner in which Maj Gen Olson participated in the NDP Task Force event was absolutely inappropriate. You may want to re-read the requirements of AFI 1-1, Section 2.12 that I sent earlier, which make it very clear that USAF leaders have an obligation to “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.”
Even more to the point, consider this report from the Air Force Times about Maj Gen Olson’s remarks —-  “At the end of his speech, Olson asks the audience to pray for Defense Department leaders, who ‘need to humbly depend on Christ.’ He also asks them to pray for troops preparing to deploy again so they can ‘bear through that by depending on Christ.’” (Jeff Schogol, Staff Writer, Air Force Times, May 15, 2015)
Without question, these remarks move well into the territory where Maj Gen Olson is expressing an opinion that other military members “need to depend on Christ” as he does.  How do you think that goes over with junior members of his chain of command, who don’t happen to be Christians?  Can they continue to have full trust and confidence that the General will not either consider them defective for not being Christian, or tend to favor subordinates share his beliefs?  (In the same vein, I disagree with your comment that it harms no one.)
Lastly, I’d just mention that I’m not surprised that you didn’t experience, during the Vietnam era, the sort of religious proselytizing and preference that has often been reported in the past couple of decades.  If you are interested to learn more about that, just do a web search for articles about the rise of the Religious Right. You will find lots of intelligent assessments about the impact of increased efforts to inject religious sectarianism into many areas of our government, including our military, in the years since the genesis of the “Moral Majority”.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, I greatly enjoy having this sort of discussion — it helps me to continue to refine and improve my own understanding of the issues.
Peace,
Mike

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