Prayer by AFA Football Players

Sir or Ma’am,

In reference to the recent publicity you have been receiving in regards to Air Force Academy players praying before their MWC Championship game against San Diego State University, I had a few comments.

The 1st Amendment prohibits the government from establishing a religion or laws establishing one, or prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

 

Based on the 1st Amendment, AFA players that are praying are not in violation the1st Amendment rights, as the government, nor the AFA, have established a religion in this case, nor are they restricting anyone’s free exercise of. With that, prohibiting these players from praying, would be a violation of their 1st Amendment rights. Players that feel “pressured” to pray would have to prove that a) they are punished for not praying, or b) a hostile environment is created as a result of their prayer. Simply saying “I don’t like it” does not qualify.

What is so hard about this concept for people to understand?

Furthermore, if you understand the Quran, and what the establishment of a Caliphate means, you would realize that it does not matter what football players at the AFA choose to do, as it is the responsibility of a Caliphate to spread the borders of the caliphate and to subjugate or kill those that are non-believers.

(name withheld)


 

Good morning (name withheld),

 

I understand your concern about the 1st Amendment, but laws have been built upon it.

 

AFI (Air Force Instruction) 1-1 Section 2.12, which reads in part:

 

“…leaders at all levels in the Air Force must ensure that 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.”

 

“Leaders at all levels” include the football coaches.

 

By allowing public prayer by the football players in Air Force uniform, command is officially endorsing one religion – Christianity.

 

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 [in any form] 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 football players’ right to public prayer is constitutionally unprotected.

 

As defenders of the Constitution we fight for the separation of church and state.

 

“…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (Article I, III)

 

This means that from the President to Congress to the military – no one’s job is based on their religion.

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (Establishment Clause), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (Free Exercise Clause).”(First Amendment)

 

The Establishment Clause means that you cannot favor one religion over another even though it is in the majority. This clause respects the RIGHTS of all religions. Our military is SECULAR and there are people of other faiths that don the uniform that love this country.

 

The Free Exercise Clause (which is subservient to the Establishment Clause) means that our soldiers are free to exercise any religion they want or no religion at all but cannot elevate one God above others.

 

“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

 

Prayer on the field fits into all 3 and therefore it is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

 

It is also violates AFI 1-1, Section 2.12, the Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy.

 

Yes, there are many cadets and soldiers of other branches of the military, who have been punished in a passive-aggressive manner by receiving poor performance ratings, advancements withheld, been put on-point during our wars numerous times and have been forced out of the military on trumped up charges – all because they will not be a part of Team Jesus.

 

Mikey IS NOT an advisor to Obama or the Pentagon. That is an outright lie.

 

We are not an atheist organization or are we anti-Christian. 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 (244 in total) of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are Christians. In fact, 96% of our 43,200+ (one can represent many) soldier clients are Christians. We fight for the rights of Christians more than any other religion but it doesn’t make the news.

 

Mikey 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 before starting the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in response to his own son being demonized at the Air Force Academy for being Jewish. Soon, others came to him for help because of religious persecution they were suffering that the chain of command overlooked and then it became an avalanche. Now it’s way more than a full-time job.

 

Read this article to get the full scope of what is truly going on: http://www.csindy.com/IndyBlog/archives/2015/12/02/usafas-tebow-prayer-stirs-controversy

 

Read our mission statement and see that we are for prayer consistent with time, place and manner under the laws and regulations set forth above.

https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/about/our-mission/

 

Check out the honorable and distinguished military personnel and people from all walks of life that support the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/about/foundation-voices/

 

Thanks for contacting us and I hope I cleared up a few things.

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Joan

MRFF Advisory Board Member


 

Dear (name withheld),

Thank you for your December 9, 2015 email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”).  While you correctly quote the text of the First Amendment, your conclusions regarding its application are erroneous.  Allow me to explain:

 

Yes, the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing a state or national religion.  However, the Supreme Court has held that passing a law establishing a religion is not the only action that violates the Establishment Clause.  Instead, an act or policy of a government entity or person acting in the capacity of an agent of the government violates the Establishment Clause if any one of the following is shown: (1) its purpose is not secular; (2) its principal/primary effect either advances or inhibits religion; or (3) it fosters an excessive entanglement with religion.  Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).

 

The military is certainly a government entity, as are military academies.  See Mellon v. Bunting, 327 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2003) (holding that a military institution is bound by the requirements of the Establishment Clause).  A public demonstration of prayer by USAFA cadets has no secular purpose and its principal effect clearly advances religion – specifically Christianity over other religions or no religion.  It further fosters an excessive entanglement with religion by creating the impression that the USAFA is a Christian, rather than military, institution.  Thus, the public prayer by USAFA football players fails every factor of the Lemon test.  Since failing only one factor is required to amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause, a constitutional violation clearly exists.

 

It should be noted that the Lemon test does NOT require others exposed to the act or policy to prove “a) they are punished for not praying, or b) a hostile environment is created as a result of the prayer,” as you claim.  Although our clients at USAFA can certainly establish both punishment and a hostile environment, it is not required to prove a constitutional violation.

 

As for your concern that prohibiting the practice of public prayer by these players would violate their First Amendment rights, this is simply not the case.  The First Amendment forbids the government from preventing individuals from practicing the religion of their choice, but it allows restrictions on the time, place, and manner such religion is expressed.  For example, while the government cannot prevent someone from practicing a religion that requires prayer or meditation every hour, it can prevent that person from stopping his/her car in the middle of traffic to pray or meditate.

 

This is particularly true in the context of a military environment.  “While military personnel are not excluded from First Amendment protection, the fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside.”  Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733, 758-759 (1974).

 

Ceasing the practice of public prayer by USAFA football players does not result in prohibiting them from practicing Christianity, nor does MRFF seek to stop the practice of Christianity at the USAFA or throughout the military.  Public demonstrations of prayer are not required for the free exercise of Christianity.  In fact, the Bible advises against such demonstrations:

 

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  Matthew 6:5-6.

 

MRFF has no problem with these players – or any other cadets – from praying before games or at any other time, attending church services, or celebrating Christian holidays.  Thus, prohibiting a public prayer demonstration prior to each game does not infringe on their right of religious freedom.  The Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause are equally vital to religious freedom in this country and ceasing the practice of public prayer at a military academy is a permissible time, place, and manner restriction that allows cadets to practice the religion of their choice without causing the USAFA to wrongfully endorse one religion.

 

Your reference to the perceived duty of a Caliphate is misplaced and, frankly, nonsensical.  Not only does it imply that only Muslims object to the wrongful endorsement of Christianity by a military institution, it further implies that if those violating the Establishment Clause are not “subjugated or killed” then no wrong is being committed.  As explained above, this is simply not the standard for establishing whether an act or policy violates the First Amendment.

 

Thank you for your input, but as you can see, we at MRFF are extremely informed regarding the mandates of the Constitution.

 

Blessed be,

 

Tobanna Barker
MRFF Legal Affairs Coordinator

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Yeshua Warrior

    The Air Force Academy has come out and said that players can pray in the end zone!

    http://christianfighterpilot.com/2015/12/09/update-usafa-responds-to-football-prayer-complaint/

  2. Connie

    Again with the misinformation YW. The Air Force said they would look into the situation, they did not say it was okey doke for the players to pray in the end zone.

    Reading comprehension is an issue with you, I’ve mentioned this before. Perhaps you should take a class or something?

  3. Yeshua Warrior

    Connie, did you even read the article that I posted a link too, No I guess not.

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