Faith of Service Men and Women and of Veterans

One of the most extraordinarily prideful things Man can do is to presume to speak for others.  It takes a seriously outsized ego to presume to speak for veterans.

I speak for only me when I say that you do not represent me and that bullying others into hiding their beliefs is outrageous.  It is contemptable to rip comfort from the hurting to satisfy your ego.

No one asks you to share the faith of service men and women but you insist that they share your hopeless position and deprive them of the comfort they seek by your actions.

I know my views do not matter to folks with so base a spirit but I get tired of seeing meanness towards veterans go unanswered.  Reprehensible conduct deserves notice.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/02/29/bible-removed-from-powmia-display-outside-va-clinic.html

Sincerely,

(name withheld)


Dear (name withheld),
I sincerely appreciate the candor of your message to us today.  All to often we receive notes of unrestrained hatred, so it is refreshing to have someone write their opposition to what we do with clarity of thought.
You mention that it is overly prideful for our organization to seek to remove explicitly Christian symbolism from an effigy which is designed to represent all American military veterans and POWs.  Do you believe that all American veterans and POWs throughout history have been Christians?  Do you conflate American patriotism with Christian nationalism?  If so, you have a very limited understanding of what our country stands for.
You may have forgotten that at its inception, our American nation’s motto was not the divisive “In God We Trust” but rather the all inclusive “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One).  The intent of our founders was to create a nation where all people would be welcomed and respected as equals.  Where the outcasts of other nations could come and make a future for themselves as equals under the law.  The United States is not, nor ever has been, a Christian theocracy, regardless of how strongly you believe that to be true.
We do not bully anyone, but we do demand that those people entrusted to represent all Americans abide by the strictures of Constitutional law and respect the great heritage of pluralism that made America great.
Perhaps one day someone might make America great again, give us our true national motto, squash the advance of Dominionism, and shun those who look to usurp control of our secular heritage through Christian reconstructionism and historical revision.  I am a veteran.  I am not a Christian.  That bible did not respect me.  That bible did not respect the millions of other non-Christians that have defended this country and its people.
Sincerely,
Blake A. Page
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Special Assistant to the President
Director of US Army Affairs

Good Evening,

I think that I actually understand your position because it is one facet of the broader position I hold.

I favor a rather absolutist view of the liberties protected by the first amendment to our constitution.  Freedom of speech and religion are branches of the same vine.  Their root is in freedom of conscience and that freedom is nothing if both the belief and the expression are not protected.

I have expressly not stated my religion because the freedom transcends any one belief.  I am a Christian but compelled belief is no belief at all and, so, Man is imbued with the need to reason and express.

Yes, the specifically Christian perspectives of military life were consuming when I served.  I do not doubt that it was unjust to those who did not share our beliefs.  However, this is no more just or good.

The expression of faith is protected by the first amendment as surely as the expressions of skepticism of and hostility to faith are protected.  All come from that inherent right to think, feel, and express.

So, while I think I understand the position, it is one that places limits on an inherent right and, likely unintentionally, it can be as cruel.  I hope that we agree that virtually anything that keeps a brother ot sister from taking their life, hitting their child, drinking themselves into oblivion, or bitterly turning on the world or our nation is a good thing.  Thus, we should be supporting the sailor who turns to religion, or yoga, or friendship, or serving in soup kitchens, or whatever else may restore them or keep them whole.

If freedom of conscience means only an inner dialog is permitted, we have gutted the right.  That is how such actions are taken and, dealing with many recently serving people, the hostility to their values and expressions of belief in the military itself has not gone unnoticed.

There is time to more fully encourage freedom of conscience in the military.  It does not have to be a hostile encounter whenever folks want to honor the dead.  We can do better than coexist.

Very Respectfully,

(name withheld)


Dear (name withheld),
Your words, while carefully chosen, are based on either a lack of comprehension of the reality of the MRFF’s work or a mindless and inappropriate defensiveness. I would hope you’d spend as much time as you’ve given to taking offense and expressing it here to trying to comprehend the reality being dealt with. If you do, you may come to regret your ill-thought reaction. Clothing oneself in righteousness is a perilous course.

No one here is attempting to speak for others. No one here is trying to “rip comfort from the hurting.”

Your ill-informed suggestion that either Mr. Weinstein or the people of the MRFF are insisting that those you assume are being victimized are being pressed to share our “hopeless position” suggests you know what that “hopeless position” is. Do you?

Do you know that 95% of those associated with the MRFF are Christians? Do you consider that or the belief systems of the rest of the people here hopeless? Or are you attacking people and an organization about which you’ve made assumptions that are as improper as is your high-toned self-righteousness?

The MRFF is working to protect the freedom of religious or non-religious belief of all the women and men in the military. As is stated in law and military regulation, the promotion of one particular faith or belief system by the government or the military is not allowed. All those in the U.S. military have the right to their own belief system. They also have the right to be free of proselytizing or promotion of any faith, whether their own or another, by the government or those in authority. They are free to practice their belief in a way consistent with said laws and regulations. It is understood to be a matter of time, place and manner.

I quite agree that “reprehensible conduct deserves notice.” Consider yourself on notice.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Dear (name withheld),

One of the most extraordinarily prideful things Man can do is to presume to speak for others.  It takes a seriously outsized ego to presume that all veterans are Christians.

Thank you for your service.

I lost an uncle, who was serving in the Navy during WWII aboard the USS Tasker H. Bliss (Operation Torch), when it was torpedoed by a German submarine U-130 and sank 4 hours later. His body was never recovered and his name is listed under Plot: Tablets of the Missing at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Tunisia.

It is not our view that the Bible has no place on a POW/MIA table but the Constitution and subsequent Supreme Court rulings that we must obey.

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

 

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 Bible on the table does not represent all of the 83,000+ POW/MIA’s. Within the missing are soldiers of other beliefs or of no belief system and to deny this is ludicrous, especially since my uncle was an atheist.

 

In other words, if you want a Bible on the POW/MIA table you have to include the Tanakh, Koran, representations of other religions and atheism in order to be in compliance with the Constitution, Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy. It’s either all religions or none but because some Christians don’t want to share the table, the Bible had to be removed.

 

The blame is placed squarely at their feet…not ours.

 

“I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect above another.”

Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Elbridge Gerry January 26, 1799

 

Pastor Joan

MRFF Advisory Board Member


 

Thank you for a thoughtful response.

I need to re-read, think, and pray on this before replying.  Given my work schedule, it may not be till tomorrow night that I am prepared to do so.

Please know that I do appreciate your taking the time to respond.

Sincerely,

(name withheld)


 

Thank you, (name withheld), and take your time. God bless.

Joan


 

Dear (name withheld) –

 

I am writing in response to your February 29, 2016 email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”).  You are plainly misinformed regarding our mission.

 

Contrary to your claim that we “bully others into hiding their beliefs,” we work tirelessly to protect the religious freedom of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, cadets, and veterans.  In fact, more than 96% of our clients are Christians who suffer religious discrimination or persecution while serving in the military!  We ensure that all service members of all religious faiths, or no religious faith, are guaranteed the same Constitutional rights that they sacrifice so much to protect for the rest of us.

 

We do not “presume” to speak for anyone – we are the voice of more than 45,000 brave men and women in uniform who cannot speak for themselves for fear of retaliation.  We do not “deprive” them of comfort, but guarantee them comfort and safety by making certain that the mandates of the First Amendment and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution are obeyed.

 

You are correct that reprehensible conduct deserves notice.  Constitutional violations are reprehensible and we not only notice them, we fight to correct them.

 

Thank you for your service.

 

Tobanna Barker

MRFF Legal Affairs Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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