FAITHFUL SUPPORTER…ALMOST

Hi, I’m a retired Naval Aviator and an Absolute Atheist.

It seems petty to me to go after something as harmless and inoffensive as a the simple “God Bless the Military” sign.

After all, a very high percentage of soldiers, sailors, flyers, etc. are Christians….whether or not it is just another false supernatural concept.

And certainly the VAST majority of American Citizens at least think that they are Christians.

The Great needs (which MRFF fulfills) are the attempts to FORCE any religion down troops throats. Geeze! it should be O.K. to have Chaplins of various faiths administer to troops as long as attendance isn’t compulsory, etc.

With those of us who are agnostics or atheist comprising such a minority, and having to fight a difficult uphill battle to keep our Constitutional protection from persecution, it seems foolish to me to attack the trivial religious crap that crops up!

(name withheld)


 

Hi Mr. (name withheld),

 

Thank you for your service to our country. I understand we have a minor difference of opinion regarding the threshold of what crosses the line with church/state separation. MRFF takes a strong position on that problem, based strictly on Constitutionality. I’d rather not bicker over such differences and simply thank you for your support of MRFF.

 

Regards,

Dustin Chalker

MRFF Atheist Affairs Advisor


 

Dear (name withheld),
It is true that a high number of service members are religious, and that non-Christians are in the minority.  I don’t believe in any gods myself, so I guess we have at least that in common.
The reason that I support MRFF when we pursue issues like the sign at MCB Hawaii is experience.  I’ve had the experience of countless Americans question my right to equal treatment because “it say’s IN GOD WE TRUST right there on your money!”  and because “the Constitution was founded on God, that’s why we put the ten commandments in the court house!” and “well if you don’t want to pledge allegiance to God then you just don’t love our country!”
All of those arguments, in there typically apoplectic form, have legitimate foundations in government supported cultural artifacts.  When dealing with the sort of people that make those arguments, no proof from a history book will quiet their indignant belief that this country was made for Christians because they can pull out a dollar bill and see in their hands that the US Government claims we all trust in their god.
Cultural artifacts extend beyond what are issued by the federal or state governments directly.  They also come from employees, or other representatives, such as military leadership.  For example there are the christian POW tables in DIFACs throughout the Army (I don’t know if the Navy has the same tradition).  These memorials, intended to honor our POWs are adorned with Bibles to represent their faith in God.  So do we not honor non-Christian POWs?  There are mandatory formations with prayer before and after.  So do the soldiers that don’t bow their heads deserve to be singled out, threatened with not graduating from Air Assault school for refusal to pray?  When an Air Force dental clinic is lead by Christian leaders that hang posters on the wall worshiping Jesus, and play Christian music is anyone hurt?  What if that same leadership believes so strongly that their clinic is for Christians only that they accuse the non-Christian who gets stationed their of witchcraft and has her fired without due-process?
These apparently small signs are the writing on the wall.  They give Christian Supremacists confidence to deride their subordinates and disrupt unit cohesion, discipline and morale.
That’s my take on the matter anyway.  I hope I was able to at least explain my position clearly.
Blake A. Page
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Special Assistant to the President
Director of US Army Affairs

(name withheld),
I see your point and understand your take on the sign but our 72 clients don’t see it that way.
You state that you are retired and I don’t know what year that was, but the proselytizing by the Christian Dominionists has grown exponentially in the past 10 years, that I’m aware of.
Our clients fear for their very careers because they have seen soldiers of other faiths and those with no religious beliefs who have stood up for their own rights and suffered dearly. They have been harassed (you’re going to hell, not Christian enough or not the right Christian), given poor performance ratings, advancements withheld and some kicked out on trumped up charges. Some were given a written job to do and once completed was handed off to someone else who got the credit.
The sign isn’t as “simple” as it seems. It’s another action to chip away at the very Constitution and Supreme Court rulings that keep our government religious neutral.
“Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.” Thomas Jefferson, to the Virginia Baptists (1808) ME 16:320.
This is his second known use of the term “wall of separation,” here quoting his own use in the Danbury Baptist letter.
This wording of the original was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause.
Jefferson’s concept of “separation of church and state” first became a part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Reynolds v. U.S.98 U.S. 145 (1878). In that case, the court examined the history of religious liberty in the US, determining that while the constitution guarantees religious freedom, “The word ‘religion’ is not defined in the Constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted.” The court found that the leaders in advocating and formulating the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty were James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Quoting the “separation” paragraph from Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, the court concluded that, “coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.
 
In 1878 “separation of church and state” became part of the Establishment Clause BY LAW.
The Supreme Court heard the Lemon v. Kurtzman case in 1971 and ruled in favor of the Establishment Clause.
Subsequent to this decision, the Supreme Court has applied a three-pronged test to determine whether government action comports with the Establishment Clause, known as the Lemon Test.
Government action violates the Establishment Clause unless it:
1. Has a significant secular (i.e., non-religious) purpose,
2. Does not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and
3. Does not foster excessive entanglement between government and religion.
The sign fits into all 3 and therefore it is a violation of the Establishment Clause.
Parker v. Levy:
“This Court has long recognized that the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society… While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. … The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it… Speech [to include religious speech] that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command.  If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected. (Emphasis added) Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733, 1974
The sign broke both the Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy and is constitutionally unprotected.
If we allow this sign to stand on base instead of the chapel where it belongs, we are failing our soldiers and their equal rights under the Constitution. It’s not petty, harmless or inoffensive and we will not allow them to feel like second-class citizens.
Just because Christianity is in the majority doesn’t mean they can ignore others. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “In America, we don’t count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”
Exactly! And we won’t allow Colonel Sean Killeen to count heads either.
Pastor Joan
MRFF Advisory Board Member

Hello (namewithheld) (if I may), Mikey’s been swamped by the torrent of incredibly vile e-mails he’s getting on this issue and he asked if I could make a reply to you.

Disclaimer:  I’m not as a formal representative of MRFF, just a supporter, and Mikey might not always agree with my positions, nor should they be construed as ‘official statements’ by MRFF in any way.

I can understand your concern over what you perceive as making mountains out of mole-hills, but I hope I can convince you that’s just not the case and, by the way, I’ve been an hard-core atheist since early adolescence.

There are at least two major issues raised by the ‘Dog Bless’ sign at MCB Hawaii.

The first is that it violates Article 6, Clause 3 – “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” – and the 1st Amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” – of the U.S. Constitution (which the base C.O. swore – evidently falsely – to ‘protect & defend).

These are not ‘…if convenient’ or ‘…if it doesn’t offend the majority’ issues.  They are absolute foundational pillars of our republic. To flaunt them is to thumb one’s nose at the Constitution (and in the case of government service; to the oath of office). In the case of an educated, upper-level officer who should be well-versed in such issues; it can only be seen as an intentional statement of Christian supremacy in contravention of his sworn oath.

You also raise the issue of the U.S. (and, necessarily, the U.S. military) being predominantly Christian so (you imply) the MRFF, and non-majority members of the group, should ‘go along to get along’.  Viewed from another perspective though, this is submitting to the “tyranny of the majority“; a path that leads to chaos and the first steps down that path is ignoring those who would make us take that first step down it.  As you no doubt are aware, social movements can gain a momentum that becomes impossible to stop – the slide of the Wiemar Republic to the 3rd Reich being a prime case in point.

And, lest you think I’m over-dramatizing the issue, you should know, as an MRFF supporter, of Mikey’s (and all those who work with him) concern over the rampant Christian dominionism that pervades the U.S. military (and increasingly our civil society – witness the current GOP crop of quasi-fascist Presidential candidates whose primary concern is convincing their ‘base’ of the profound love of Jesus and the need to make the U.S. more of a ‘Christian Nation’).  One sign of that is that the symbols  of their religion be made public icons to the exclusion of all other icons of the ‘false gods’.  A few short steps down that path is ‘the bible or the sword’ as we’re seeing in Daesh-controlled ‘Syrac’or the Jewish fundamentalist settler-dominated Palestinian West Bank where conversion isn’t offered to the ‘other’; only death.

It is critical to understand that Abrahamic religious fundamentalists (regardless of ‘faith’ – Jewish, Christian, or Muslim) all adhere to the premise; that their so-called ‘sacred text’ is the unalterable ‘word of Dog’ and that blasphemy is punished by death (in all three!).  Further, in none of those ‘sacred texts’ is the concept of ‘democracy’ even mentioned other than to be condemned as heresy (another mortal crime) for placing man’s law above ‘Dog’s Law’.  So, when people (civil or military) say they want a biblical (or Qu’ranic) society, what they’re saying is that they want a theocratic state, nothing less… no democracy allowed!  The comparison to Daesh’s actions regarding Muslim ‘heretics’ (like the Shia or Yzidis), Christians (who are sometimes offered conversion), or Jews is not extreme; ignoring them and minimizing those who’d lead us to that dark place in the name of their Dog is!

Resistance if the only viable option.

I hope I’ve not run on too long and that I’ve made my case,

Best,

Rael


 

Hi (name withheld),

While you find the sign “harmless and inoffensive,” people with a deep belief in something to which the sign’s message runs counter, may not. You’ve heard, I assume, of the ‘camel’s nose under the tent.” Some information from the base indicates that the sign in question is only the smallest part of the proselytizing and promoting of religion and hazing of those who do not comply that goes on there.

So even if the sign was all of it and some who were discomfited by it chose not to complain, it would still be contrary to the law, an abridgment of the separation of church and state, and something the base commander should know better than to push on people.

You are correct that “a very high percentage of soldiers, sailors, flyers, etc. are Christians.” In fact, the same is true of the clients, staff and supporters of the MRFF. That doesn’t make it any more right than would be the casual use of racial or religious epithets when “everyone knows they’re not intended seriously.” Words and concepts have weight. The purpose of the separation is to ensure that every person’s freedom of religious choice or belief system is honored and considered as valid as is every other one. It doesn’t matter that the “VAST majority of Americans” are Christians. There is such a thing as the tyranny of the majority.

The MRFF has no objection to chaplains of different faiths administering to those troops who choose to take part. It’s a question of time, place and manner. In the case of the sign, it’s in the wrong place, at the wrong time and the manner in which it is displayed is inappropriate.

So you see, despite what you perceive as foolish, we respond when servicewomen and men register complaints to us. We’d rather nip these encroachments in the bud than let the perpetrators eat away at the laws and rules a little at a time until their missionary work is an established fact and felt to be “harmless and inoffensive” by some such as yourself.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)

 

 

 

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