Operation Christmas Child

To whom it may concern,
You should be ashamed of yourselves, but I know you wont be. You put a stop to people helping other people all because YOU have a problem with religion. Last I checked people in the military are adults and can make their own decisions on weather or not they want to participate in things like this. Why do you feel that your existence is necessary? If someone does not want to participate in religion, they will not do it, but because of your beliefs you keep those that WANT to participate in religious humanitarianism from doing so. The only losers in this situation are the poor children of distant countries that would have received the gift from these generous people. 
Hang your head in shame, you took gifts out of the hands of children…
GOD BLESS!
(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),
No one is taking the “gifts out of the children’s hand.”
We’re taking the religious announcement out of the Commander’s secretary’s hands and placing it into the hands of the chaplains where it belongs.
We don’t have a problem with religion but we do have a big problem with the military ignoring the Constitution, Supreme Court laws and the UCMJ.
We are not an atheist organization nor are we anti-Christian. Mikey is Jewish and 80% of the Board, Advisory Board, volunteers and supporters (244 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. Religious activities must be in the hands of the Chaplains on Chapel grounds and disseminated ONLY to their parishioners, not in the hands of the Commander or his secretary on base-wide grounds.
On 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.”

The essence of this aforementioned 2011 memo from General Schwartz was essentially codified into official Air Force orders when it was followed in August 2012 by a similarly crystal-clear set of regulatory standards expected of all Air Force personnel worldwide. 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)”

The email concerning OCC was sent by the Commander’s secretary – Ms. Branch – and broke the Air Force’s own rules.
There are other laws regarding religious neutrality in the military.
The religion of the majority in our military does not rule over other religions or those of no religious preference, under the Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment (Establishment Clause) of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise (Free Exercise Clause) thereof . . . “(1st Amendment)
 
The Establishment Clause comes before the Free Exercise Clause for a reason; the Free Exercise Clause is subservient to the Establishment Clause – not the other way around as some Christians would like it to be.
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.
1.      Any law or policy must have been adopted with a neutral or non-religious purpose.
2.      The principle or primary effect of any law or policy must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.
3.      The statute or policy must not result in an “excessive entanglement” of government with religion.
If any government entity’s actions fit into one of these three, then 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
Ms. Branch broke every law and military regulation and is NOT constitutionally protected.
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. Religious activities must be in the hands of the Chaplains on Chapel grounds and disseminated ONLY to their parishioners, not in the hands of the Commander or his secretary on base-wide grounds.
Lt. Col. Donald Tasker, commander of the 436th Force Support Squadron, recognized the illegality of the email Ms. Branch sent and issued the following:
No worries…soldiers are still able to participate in filling the shoes boxes if they wish to do so.
GOD BLESS YOU, TOO!
Pastor Joan
MRFF Advisory Board Member

Hi (name withheld), –

Mikey Weinstein asked me last week if I’d like to reply to you, but I have been slow in doing so. Still, I want to toss in my two cents because it’s clear to me that you have reached a wrong conclusion about the objection raised by the MRFF, re: Dover AFB.  As for who I am — I’m a lifelong, committed, and active Christian, a USAF Academy graduate (’85), and a veteran Air Force officer.
So no, I certainly don’t have a “problem with religion”.  For that matter, MRFF is not an anti-religion group. Rather, we are pro-Constitution and we advocate on behalf of military members when they request our help.  Specifically, we are 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.
With regard to the Air Force specifically, that means expecting all military leaders to honor their obligations as spelled out in AFI 1-1, which says the following — “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.”
Our sole objection at Dover AFB was the manner in which a clearly sectarian religious effort was promoted. 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 doing 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. And as far as I know, no one at Dover AFB has been prohibited from participating in Franklin Graham’s evangelistic efforts, so I’m unclear as to how it is that we “took gifts out of the hands of orphans”.
Hope this perspective helps.
Peace,
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

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