Hey Scrooge

Dear Mr Grinch,

Wow way to go.  Way to deny Christmas gifts to needy children.  Somebody must have really done something to you to be this heartless.  What is your point?  What are you trying to prove?  How can some one put this much energy into something so ridiculous?  I can’t believe an American would be like this.

(name withheld)


 

 

Hi (name withheld),

It’s tiring, I have to tell you, to get these witless messages from people who know little about the issue and yet choose to shoot their mouths off in defense of something they don’t understand.

Let me try once again.

No one opposes gifts to needy children. The point, which you either missed, don’t care about or are offended by, is that overtly religious efforts, programs, prayers or other projects cannot lawfully be organized by, supported by or endorsed by the military command structure, which is part of the U.S. Government, because it violates the separation of church and state.

A program like this is fine if it comes from the chaplaincy, but not from command. If it had come from the chaplain, as it should have, there would have been no problem. The base commander has recognized that and rescinded the request and apologized.

How is it that you know more than he does? Or did you miss the fact that he has resolved the problem?

In any event, save your sarcasm for someone who deserves it, perhaps someone closer to yourself.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)

 


 

Dear (name withheld),

The story concerning the Christmas shoeboxes – based on information given to them from Christians – is full of lies, omissions and distortions.

 

We DID NOT stop anyone who wanted to pack the shoeboxes and those who said or hinted that we did are lairs.

 

Mikey is Jewish (and prays to the same Father we do 3 times a day) and 80% of the Board, Advisory Board, volunteers and supporters (250 in total) of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are Christians. In fact, 96% of our 42, 711 soldier clients are Christians. We fight for the rights of Christians more than any other religion.

 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) does NOT act on its own but at the request of our soldiers’ and their complaints of the blatant disregard and trampling of the Constitution and the Military Code of Justice; blurring the lines between the separation of church and state. Every complaint is vetted by Mikey who was a JAG lawyer at the Air Force Academy for 10 years; worked in the West Wing under Ronald Reagan; and held positions in private practice.

 

Our military is secular – which includes those of other faiths or no belief system – and it must not advance one religion over another according to the Constitution, Supreme Court rulings and the Unified Code of Military Justice.

 

It was the soldiers that put this action in motion because they know that religious activities must be in the hands of the Chaplains on Chapel grounds, not in the hands of the Commander on base-wide grounds.

The media and Christians lied by saying no laws were broken when the Air Force broke their own rules, the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, Reynolds vs. U.S., the Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy.

September 1, 2011, then-Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, issued a memorandum for all USAF commanders that stated plainly:

“Although commanders are responsible for these programs, they must refrain from appearing to officially endorse religion generally or any particular religion. Therefore, I expect chaplains, not commanders, to notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs.”

https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/docs/gen_schwartz_letter_religion_neutralilty.pdf
In Air Force Instruction 1-1, USAF top brass laid down the letter of the law in regards to religious proselytizing:

“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.” (Emphasis added)”

 

“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
3. Does not foster excessive entanglement between government and religion

 

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

 

We fought the total disregard for the laws and regulations stated above and that’s what we won.

The kids are still getting their shoeboxes because Operation Christmas Child is now in the hands of the chaplain(s) on base, where it always belonged, and is moving forward. We have no problem with this.

If the military would obey the laws and regulations they know exist concerning religious neutrality, they wouldn’t have to feel the full force of Mikey and MRFF.

It would be even better if Christians would stop being so deceitful.

I hope this clears up any misinformation you have heard.

Pastor Joan

MRFF Advisory Board Member


 

Hi (name withheld) –

Thanks for taking a moment to write to the MRFF, because it gives me an opportunity to correct a serious misunderstanding on your part.  I’m a volunteer who has supported the MRFF for several years now; one of the ways in which I assist is through this sort of email correspondence. I’m also a lifelong, committed, and active Christian, a USAF Academy graduate (’85), and a veteran Air Force officer.
I’m quite certain that you’ve arrived at your misunderstanding about MRFF and the Dover AFB situation quite honestly. My guess is that you’ve read some of the articles that are appearing at conservative media outlets, which have been telling quite a tale — one that is wildly inaccurate.  So what has really happened?
First, you should know that the MRFF is neither anti-religion generally, nor anti-Christianity specifically.  Rather we are pro-Constitution and most of the supporters and clients of the MRFF are actually people of faith such as myself.  What brings us together with people of many beliefs, including honorable people who have no belief in God, is a commitment 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.  Further, we only get involved in situations where we are asked for assistance by members of the military, and when we do get involved we only ask that the military organization comply with all of its own rules that address the need for official ‘neutrality’ with respect to religion.
In the case of the Dover AFB situation — the MRFF has NOT voiced ANY opposition to the efforts of Air Force members who wish to participate in Operation Christmas Child. We’ve not called for an end to the involvement of individuals who wish to support that charity, or any other charity for that matter.  Now, I realize this is how the situation is being misrepresented in many conservative quarters, which is unfortunate because it is flat wrong.  In some cases it is little more than a disingenuous attempt to claim an attack on an evangelical Christian beliefs.
The ONLY objection raised by the MRFF is to the way in which the program was communicated and promoted… and that is because it was done in a manner that was inconsistent with governing laws and regulations. Specifically, there is an Air Force Instruction called AFI 1-1 which describes the obligations of AF leaders with respect to the promotion of sectarian religious programs.  Here is what AFI 1-1 has to say about this topic. I’d ask you pay particular attention to the second sentence —
“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.”
Again, MRFF’s sole objection at Dover AFB related to the manner in which a clearly sectarian religious effort was promoted. Frankly, the commander deserves great credit for acting swiftly and decisively to correct the misstep, although he is being unfairly vilified by conservative media outlets for having done the right thing.
What should have happened at Dover was for a program of this sort to be advertised via appropriate means, notably the chaplaincy. That is all that the MRFF asks.
So there are no “Scrooges” at MRFF who seek to take gifts out of the hands of needy children. We have not called for a cessation of the charitable effort, only a proper treatment of it. Personally, I hope that the notoriety the program has gained in the press recently leads to the best year ever for Operation Christmas Child.  But the treatment of this program, or any other religious-based program, needs to be done appropriately within the military structure… and that means not using official command channels to promote it.
Hope this perspective helps. Thanks again for writing, and as Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us, everyone!”
Peace,
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

Mike,I know you guys get fueled up on e-mails knocking your cause.  You get these e-mails because MRFF has established its image as a bunch of whiners and anti-religious (which you say your not which is hard to believe).  The fact that you even replied to me shows that you guys are a little over the edge.  I actually believe you guys don’t oppose giving to the needy. I wouldn’t be surprised if your organization actually does donate to charity.  But what is perplexing is the energy and effort in making a big deal about an officer suggested supporting operation Christmas child.  Who gets offended over something like this?

I’ve already been briefed by one of your friends on the Lemon test.  Here are some thoughts:

1. Suggesting that someone contribute to a charity that gives gifts to needy children wouldn’t result in  “excessive government entanglement” with religious affairs because the charity is sponsored by a religious organization.  At least to most rational people.
2. In the same light, it doesn’t advance or inhibit religious practice.  Unless giving to needy is religious, which our government does a lot.
3. The statute must have a secular legislative  purpose.  I don’t think we are talking about a statute here.

And sure the base commander rescinded.  He’s worried about his job.   Most officials now bow to political correct pressure, especially from groups whose primary ammo is the threat of a lawsuit.

Have a blessed day and remember….there aren’t any athiests in a foxhole.

(name withheld)

You seem to want to cling to the ‘atheist’ idea. Not much we can do about that except to once again explain that that is not the case.

As regards your other thoughts, any “government entanglement” is excessive in a secular society that guarantees the protection of all beliefs. As far as advancing religious beliefs is concerned, remember the camel’s nose under the tent. There are those, and there are plenty of them, promoting a specific agenda to make this a “Christian country” and ours a “Lord’s Army” fighting to advance Jesus’ name. I don’t know if you’re one of them or not. If you are, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, please recognize the danger they pose.

The image of the MRFF to which you refer has been created by the dedicated campaign of those very folks who hate having been smoked out and exposed by us. The fact that they hate us, particularly Mikey, and go to such lengths to call us anti-Christian, atheist, communist, etc., as well as to lay on a lot of antisemitic drivel because of Mikey’s last name, demonstrates the level of commitment on their part to succeed in achieving their goal. The sad thing, in my estimation, is that they don’t understand we have no objection to their belief system and are happy to let them evangelize all they choose to, but we will not tolerate their takeover of our military or our government. And if you don’t think that’s their goal, I urge you to look into dominionist Christianity.

As regards our being “a little over the edge,” I’m just trying to level the playing field. The tons of garbage, insults, death threats and assaults on the family that Mikey suffers for having the temerity to defend the constitution is unbelievable until you see it. I’ve seen enough of it to make me angry.

Best,

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


 

 

Mike,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. You are the fourth person from your organization to do so. I guess what I misunderstand is why an organization would spend so much time and energy threatening an officer (and actually replying to me) because he suggested contributing to a charity that was sponsored by a religious organization?  No one was forced to do it.  And who gets offended over that ( yes, I saw that 14  or so people did).  Take a look at the Lemon test:

1. Suggesting that someone contribute to a charity that gives gifts to needy children wouldn’t result in  “excessive government entanglement” with religious affairs because the charity is sponsored by a religious organization.  At least to most rational people.
2. In the same light, it doesn’t advance or inhibit religious practice.  Unless giving to needy is religious, which our government does a lot.
3. The statute must have a secular legislative  purpose.  I don’t think we are talking about a statute here.

I do have to ask when does being pro-constitutional conflicts with the teachings of your religion.  I understand that we have to follow laws.  But should you go out of your way to actually force people from being able to mention God or anything religious?   Going therefore and teach all nations…this is not it.

I know you guys aren’t against the charity or giving to the needy.  But I don’t think you guys realize how crazy all of this sounds.  Like the chaplain who wrote a paper about the origin of ‘no athiests in a foxhole’, and the guards at a base main gate who said have a blessed day?

The commander acted swiftly because he was afraid he was going to lose his job.  Most people in positions today bow very easily to political correct pressure.

Again, I appreciate you detailed response. I just wish you guys would use your energy and intelligence for something positive.

Regards,

(name withheld)


 

 

Hi (name withheld) –

Thanks for sharing your further thoughts. I think it’s safe to say that you and I have different opinions about whether or not there is some degree of ‘line crossing’ that is acceptable before an objection is raised.  I’m a zero-tolerance guy… the lines are very clearly drawn, and should be well understood by all, so there is no good reason to allow for a ‘small’ violation.  The slope is too slippery — if we allow ‘some’ violations, who decides when enough is enough? Or if we allow violations by someone whose beliefs match our own, what is to be done when someone with opposing beliefs crosses the same line?
As for you getting responses from several of us, that is nothing more than proof that we are a passionate bunch, firmly convicted in our view of Constitutional rights and protections.
As for your “Lemon test” assessment, I must disagree with you there, as well.  As you note yourself, that test is most often applied to the creation of laws… but when it is applied to a situation such as the one we are debating, I think the key measures are this —
1. While Operational Christmas Child does have a ‘secular’ aspect of being nice to needy children, that is far from its primary purpose. Just read Franklin Graham’s own description of the program’s mission and purpose on his website to see that evidence.
2. As noted above, Operational Christmas Child absolutely has a primary purpose of advancing a particular sectarian religious agenda.  And more to the point, the verbiage of the email that started this kerfuffle explicitly highlights the religious aims of the program.  Give it another close read if you don’t believe me.
3. Without question, this sort of sectarian religious communication via official command channels absolutely leads to ‘entanglement’ between government and religion… or more specifically in this case, it establishes a clear connection between the office of the commander and the religious purpose of the charity.
Further, the root issue is not, as you suggest, about whether or not anyone is “offended”.  Right is right, and Constitutional protections are Constitutional protections, and neither of those things is decided by either a measure of relative offensiveness or by appealing to what the majority of people may or may not like.
You ask, “when does being pro-constitutional conflicts [sic] with the teachings of your religion?”  There is nothing in this instance (or in another MRFF engagement of which I’m aware) where there is conflict between my beliefs and actions as a Christian and my convictions about the US Constitution.  NO ONE is being prohibited from either holding to their own religious belief or to supporting Franklin Graham’s charity.  The ONLY issue at hand here is how such a thing is promoted within military channels.  Again, I get it that you think this is not much of a big deal, but to some of us ANY crossing of that line is a big enough deal to warrant an objection.
And as for “going therefore and teach all nations….” I can assure you that when I was an Air Force office, I practiced and lived my faith every day. I did so through the values which I exhibited and to which I held myself, and in the manner in which I treated others, and in my efforts always to act as a servant leader.  But at no time did I explicitly invite my subordinates to consider doing something because it would honor God. Why? Because that is not the mission of the USAF, and it would not have been consistent with my obligations as a military leader.
I’d also suggest that you don’t give the commander in this case enough credit… or at least, you presume to know something about his intentions that you can’t possibly know.  I read the clarifying email he sent, and I assume you did so, too.  It clearly describes the position of someone who has reflected on the situation and arrived at a reasonable conclusion.  To merely dismiss him as being “afraid” is unfair and unwarranted.
Lastly, I understand very well how “crazy all of this sounds” to anyone who is reading about it at conservative media outlets.  But you can’t blame the MRFF for that.  Instead, you can blame those who write stories about how a bunch of nasty atheists want to deny presents to poor orphans, and those who write headlines like “Atheist Group Demands End To Air Force Support of Charity”…. and you can blame those who characterize MRFF supporters as “Scrooge”, which only serves to advance the same baldfaced lie.
Peace,
Mike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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