Not a “Hate Mail”

Mr. Weinstein,

 

First, I want to thank you for serving in our military. As the son of a decorated veteran, I know what our men and women in uniform have sacrificed, and I do appreciate your service.

Second, as you can see, I am a paralegal. I have been practicing for over 25 years. I understand that you were in JAG, and that you likewise have a legal background.

Third, (although I must admit it came as a bit of a surprise) I read that you are a registered Republican.

 

All that having been said, I must register with you that I take great umbrage at your implied classification (on the MRFF website) of those who do not agree with your position as “haters”; i.e. “Click here to access selected hatemail from detractors”. Surely, in your legal career, you have studied the Constitution of our United States and I would hope that you fully understand the First Amendment since, if you consider it, that is the very reason you are able to do what you do.

Classifying those who hold an opposing view as “haters” is a classic ploy out of Saul Alinsky’s Handbook for Democratic Liberals.  Your classification of any opposing expression as “hate” runs counter to the grain of the First Amendment – which, by way of your military service and the sacrifice of so many fallen brothers and sisters – applies to EVERY American.  It is for that very reason that, although I am thoroughly aggrieved by what you are doing and I believe that your intentions are sadly misguided, I do understand that you have the right under our Constitution to do it.  However I would adjure you to realize that I, and others like myself, have as much right to stand in opposition.

 

In closing, I do want you to know that you are breaking my heart. It is not just the fact that you are joining so many others who wish to completely erase God from this country in what almost seems like an unsettling attempt to ultimately have Christianity completely outlawed, but also because I fear for you on that fateful day when you are standing before God and are called to give an account for your actions. I don’t know that you are going to be able to defend this to Him, or that you are prepared to face that moment.

As I said in the Subject line of this email, it is not a “hate” email; to the contrary, it is a “concerned” email. If you can classify that as “hate” because I do not agree with your actions, then I fear that there is truly no hope for you.

 

Sincerely,

(name withheld)


 

Good Day, (name withheld) –

Thank you for your reasoned and gracious email. Mikey has read it and asked me to respond. I am a volunteer who supports the MRFF in a variety of ways; I’m also a lifelong, committed, and active Christian; a USAF Academy graduate (’85); and a USAF veteran.  There are two aspects to your note which I would like to address — the notion of “hate mail”, and the suggestion that the MRFF’s mission is to “completely erase God from this country.”  In my view, the conclusions you’ve reached in each area is incorrect.
First – regarding hate mail —
I can assure you that no one at the MRFF would consider your note to be “hate mail.”  It is not critical content that makes something hateful, it is the manner in which it is presented.  For example, just this morning I responded to two other correspondents who emailed the MRFF to express strong opinions.
In the first email, the writer suggested that Mikey should keep his “big Jew nose out of it!!” [“it” being the issue of the MIA display].  That writer went on to express a wish that Mikey should “go to hell Jew boy and rot!”
In the second email, the writer opened with, “FUCK YOU MIKEY WEINSTEIN”, then went on to call him a “pansy ass” and suggested that Mikey’s honorable military service was “wasted”. He closed with this gem, “You should have been a hand job.”
I hope that you would agree with me that this sort of correspondence can be called nothing if not hateful.  And these are even the worst of the bunch. I’ve seen emails that express, in great detail, a desire that Mikey’s family members should suffer painfully and die and excruciating death.  Others are explicit threats to the welfare of Mikey and his family. So to suggest that the MRFF does not receive legitimate hate mail is woefully incorrect… and even more tragic is that nearly all of the worst correspondence comes from individuals who claim to be Christians.
Second – regarding freedom of religion in this country —
The mission of the MRFF is very specific.  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.  That means we support the Constitutional right to religious freedom of all manner of believers, including Christians.
Unfortunately, what has happened in this country over the past 20 years or so is that some people have become increasignly confused. They have come to expect that Christianity should be given preference over every other belief or non-belief. When situations occur such as the MIA display that is in the news, some (not all) of my fellow Christians immediately claim that the removal of a specific sectarian religious point of view from a display that should honor all POW/MIA, including the ones who were not Christian, is some sort of attack on Christianity.  It is nothing of the sort.
The truth of America’s greatness is that our governmental institutions acknowledge and support the pluralistic nature of American religious beliefs. Nobody gets to claim a first position, not even my own beloved Christianity.
Hope this perspective is helpful. I’d be glad to continue this discussion if you desire to do so.
Peace,
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

Dear (name withheld) –

I am writing in response to your March 1, 2016 email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”).  I hope I can shed some light on the true mission of MRFF, as well as the hate mail we receive, as it seems you misunderstand our work.

 

Regarding the classification of certain correspondence as “hate mail,” you are correct that people absolutely have the right to oppose our actions and to express such opposition.  However, I must disagree with your opinion that we classify “any opposing expression as hate.”  Putting aside the logistical fact that separating the mail we receive into only two categories has the benefit of simplicity (“pro” and “con,” as opposed to “super pro,” “kind of pro,” “hateful,” “balanced opposition,” etc.), I assure you that much of the correspondence we receive absolutely earns the label of “hate mail.”

 

While you reference the category of “hate mail” included on our website, you do not state how many letters you actually read.  Because you refer to these letters as “opposing expressions,” I am going to assume that you read only the tamest of the letters included in that category.  It should be noted that we do receive letters that express a genuine, tactful disagreement as to our mission and/or the requirements of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  Unfortunately, these letters are only a fraction of a fraction of the correspondence we receive from “those who do not agree with [our] position.”

 

Instead, the majority of this correspondence is so repugnant, when I use the term “tame,” I am including letters that use racist and/or anti-Semitic slurs, such as “kike,” “raghead,” “Jew boy,” etc.; letters expressing the desire that we at MRFF burn in hell; and letters that include only indirect threats of harm (i.e. explaining the type of pain we “deserve,” rather than pain the author actually intends to inflict).  I have personally been called a certain four-letter word beginning with “c” so many times the term no longer has any meaning to me.  Mikey easily reads ten times the number of emails I do each day (probably more) and is not only called names so despicable I refuse to put them in writing, but actually receives true threats to his personal safety, as well as to the safety of his family.  Most of these letters are not included in the selected hate mail posted on the website, but we receive them constantly.

 

These messages are not mere expressions of opposing viewpoints.  They are hate – pure and simple.  The fact that these writers have the right to express such ignorance and contempt neither bestows any validity upon their “opinions” nor requires MRFF to give them any sort of credit as valid arguments.  Not every opinion demands equal consideration.

 

My point is that, while you may consider the two categories of mail included on the website to be overbroad, we at MRFF have a full understanding of the difference between hate mail and expressions of contrary opinions or positions.  I know this may sound overly dramatic, but I am not exaggerating when I say that we regularly face true hate – and it cannot be confused with a simple difference of opinion or opposing viewpoint.

 

The second point I wanted to clarify is the mission of MRFF, which is to protect the religious freedom of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, cadets, and veterans.  We do this by ensuring that the mandates of the Establishment Clause and Article VI are obeyed by military superiors.  You are mistaken in your belief that we seek to “erase God from this country” or “ultimately have Christianity completely outlawed.”  In fact, more than 96% of our over 45,000 clients are Christians who suffer religious discrimination and/or persecution.  We not only have no problem with the practice of Christianity, we fight tirelessly to protect the rights of Christian service members, along with the rights of all service members of other religious faiths, or no faith.

 

As a paralegal, you may know that the endorsement by a state actor (such as the military or any branch thereof) of one religion over others, or of religion over non-religion, constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause.  Although the vast majority of our work concerns the wrongful acts of fundamentalist Christians (for example, including a Bible in the recent POW/MIA Missing Man Table), that is not because we are adverse to Christianity.  Instead, it is because the complaints we receive from service members experiencing religious coercion, retaliation, or proselytizing overwhelmingly involve constitutional violations by fundamentalist Christians.  We simply have not received similar complaints about a military superior demanding those under his command to pray toward Mecca, observe the Pagan Sabbats, or deny the existence of any deity whatsoever.  The issue is not that we have a problem with Christianity, but that many fundamentalist Christians within the military seem to have a problem with the Establishment Clause.

 

We are devoted to defending the constitutional rights of all brave men and women in uniform who sacrifice so much to defend our constitutional rights.  That is how we will defend our actions if we find ourselves standing before the God you believe in.  We protect our protectors.  In contrast, the hate mail previously discussed – including vile insults and threats of harm – is primarily written by self-proclaimed “Christians.”  If you are going to fear for anyone explaining their actions to God, I sincerely suggest you worry more about those who claim to be Christian, yet ignore its core principles.

 

Thank you for your letter.  I hope I have adequately responded to your concerns.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

 

Sincerely,

 

Tobanna Barker

MRFF Legal Affairs Coordinator


 

Mike, thank you for your prompt and courteous reply – (please, call me (name withheld) )

I stand corrected on the point of “hatemail”; unfortunately, there are those who call themselves Christian who are what I term “CBD”s – Christians By Default. They are not Jewish, not Muslim, do believe there is a God and well, their parents called themselves Christians, so – by default they must be Christians also. “Ye shall know them by their fruits” – simply “calling” oneself a Christian, or going to church, does not make it so – any more than sitting in a garage and making revving noises makes one a car. And so, ‘nuff said. The examples you gave are abhorrent, and  I do hope that Mikey does not include those of us who are “true” followers of Christ with that hopeful lot who attempt to align themselves with Him, yet bear no witness, save a poisonous one.

Nevertheless, I maintain that there is increasing hostility towards Christians and Christianity in general that I don’t believe is being helped by the actions of the MRFF. As I said in a “P.S.” email, I looked around the website a bit more and I was quite taken aback by the obvious vitriol that was evidenced by the messages on some of the “bricks” in your wall. I came away with the sadness that the wall that is being built in the name of the 1A is becoming a dividing wall not between church and state, but between Christians and non-Christians.

Rather than championing the removal of any religious expression, I posit that it would be more fruitful overall to champion the inclusion of all – indeed, the 1A declares that Congress shall not establish any religion, however, it also declares that it shall establish no restriction upon the “free practice thereof”. So, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, would it not be more benefitting to champion the inclusionary aspect of our beloved country? After all, we have been established by our inclusivity – ask the generations of immigrants who have trod our shores. I believe it would also serve to keep the dividing wall that Mikey envisioned as a wall keeping the government out of our choice of beliefs, rather than a wall that serves as a divisive line that cuts through our citizenry.

I just find it disconcerting and sad that Mikey’s focus has been on the first part of the 1A, to the de facto exclusion of the second part.

(name withheld)


 

Hi (name withheld) –

A couple of thoughts to share after reading your latest response.
First, regarding the ‘haters’ — I wish it were as you say, that the individuals who conduct themselves so shamelessly are some sort of casual or uninformed “CBDs”. Unfortunately, the majority of these people are quite the opposite — extremely active and devout in their Christian faith, and equally convicted that part of their mandate as Christians is to push for the dominion of their particular beliefs over all governmental functions and agencies, including the military.  One of the reasons that I became active with the MRFF is a specific desire to counter what I believe are misguided and un-Constitutional goals of a small, active, and very dangerous portion of my fellow Christians.
Second, regarding your suggestion of a policy of ‘inclusion’ rather than ‘removal’ — my question for you is, just how would you do this, practically, in a situation such as the POW/MIA display? Do you think it is even possible to fairly represent all manner of beliefs held by the diverse POW/MIA community, and the larger veteran community? Interestingly, it was just a short time ago that the MRFF raised concerns about a sign on a military base that conveyed a specific sectarian religious sentiment (Judeo-Christian, not surprisingly).  Our first request was for the sign to be moved to the chapel grounds — a request which was rebuffed.  Our second request was to erect similar signs that conveyed other religious sentiments — again, request denied.  Admittedly, the multiple sign proposal was to a degree intended to make a wry, and totally appropriate point, and it did the trick. It forced the revelation that the goal of the sign is exactly what it’s supporters denied — to promote a specific religious sentiment.
Personally, my own sentiment is that ‘inclusive’ approaches such as you’ve suggested would require accounting for every religious belief (and non-belief), something that is impractical at best.  Even more so, I think that a focus on religious beliefs misses the point of the common purpose shared by all members of the US military. In my view, the document that best represents the common purpose and the highest principles which every US military member fought to defend is not a religious document — it is the US Constitution.  That is the document which every US military member swore to support and defend.  Why not use that in a situation like the POW/MIA display, to represent the values and principles which actually do bind all service members to one another?
Peace,
Mike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Pooka

    Dear “Name Withheld” —

    Before you speak —- check the mail….

    Here’s some of it ———–

    Sorry we missed you in Afganistan and Kuwait. A set of crosshairs is saved for you

    Do that again asshole and I will lead the picketing of your office and home.
    YOu shoul like that publicity.

    –and as usual, as pointed out in the book — “You Can be a Good Speller, or a Hater —- But Not Both” ——- they usually don’t spell well.

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