Military bibles

Dear MRFF and Mikey, I noticed that you are protesting use of bibles.  Can you tell me what you have done to stifle Islamic freedoms in our country?

(name withheld)


Dear (name withheld),

We deal only with religious neutrality in our military according to our laws – thus our name.


If we get a complaint that a Muslim has overstepped the following laws in the military then we would intervene.


But, our laws protect the freedom of all religions in America:


“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom


We are neither an atheist organization nor are we anti-Christian. Mikey is Jewish (and prays to the same Father we do 3 times a day) and 88% of the Board, Advisory Board, volunteers and supporters (300 in total) of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are Christians. In fact, 96% of our 45,500+ soldier clients (1 can represent many) are Christians – Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodist, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals, etc. We fight for the rights of these Christians more than any other religion but it never makes the news.


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. Kurtzmacase in 1971 and ruled in favor of the Establishment ClauseSubsequent 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


One of the reasons that were taken into consideration was that the bible was never included in the original POW/MIA table.

Col. John M. Devillier is the installation commander and his spokesman paraphrased AFI (Air Force Instruction) 1-1, Sections 2.11.and 2.12:

“Our leaders and personnel are encouraged to accommodate the free exercise of religion and other personal beliefs, including freedom of expression unless it has an adverse impact on mission accomplishment,” he wrote. “Air Force leaders must carefully balance constitutional protections of individuals’ free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs with the constitutional separation of church and state. They must ensure their actions cannot reasonably be construed to officially endorse, disapprove of, or extend preferential treatment to any faith or absence of faith.”


The bible on the table violates AFI 1-1, sections 2.11 and 2.12, the Constitution, Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878), Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy.


Plus, the Christian bible on the table does not represent all of the POW/MIA’s.


If you want “to stifle Islamic freedoms in our country” I suggest you contact your Congressman. They are the ones that make the laws; we uphold them.


Pastor Joan

MRFF Advisory Board Member


Dear (name withheld),
No, we think Bibles are great. We just oppose the use of a religious icon in a government-sponsored or approved display. It violates the separation of church and state.

So just as we’re not stifling Christian freedoms, we’re not stifling any other belief systems freedoms.

I’m sure, once you comprehend the significance of the separation of church and state in ensuring the freedom of belief or non-belief of the women and men in our military, you’ll better understand the situation.


Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


(MRFF Board of Advisors)


I have read your emails and just want to respectfully remark that there was a misquote in one of them.  The First Amendment does not state that there must  be a separation between church and state.  It states:

Amendment I

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.
    Notice that it specifically states that Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  How, then, does display of a Bible relate to establishing a religion?  But removal of a Bible, or any religious document, would be prohibiting the free exercise of anyone in their religion.
(name withheld)


I don’t believe I said the First Amendment specifically says anything about the separation of church and state. It reads as you cite it, of course. The separation of church and state is the legal position that derives from the understanding of the ‘no establishment’ clause in the First Amendment.

For example, as James Madison said, “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.” Or, as John Adams put it, “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

There are many misconceptions about our country and its founding that leave some people confused. It’s unfortunate that some people feel their faith is being attacked, but no one here is attacking any faith; what we are doing is ensuring the protection of the freedom of religion for everyone, no matter what religion or belief system she or he chooses. That’s what is intended by the First Amendment.


Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Good Day –

Mikey Weinstein shared your email and asked me to respond — if you’ve already heard from others, I apologize for my tardiness.  As for who I am — I’m a lifelong Christian, USAF Academy graduate (’85), USAF veteran, and for the past several years a staunch supporter of the MRFF and its efforts. Our mission is to ensure 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.
Given that our purpose is as I’ve highlighted above, your email leaves me confused.
To give you a straight answer to your question, “Can you tell me what you have done to stifle Islamic freedoms in our country”, the answer is — we have done nothing, just as we’ve done nothing to stifle the freedom of Christians or any other religious group in our country.
The concerns we’ve raised about the inclusion of the Christian Bible in the POW/MIA displays in several VA buildings are not about limiting anyone’s religious freedom. Rather, we’ve raised valid concerns about the inappropriateness of including any religious book or message as part of a display in a government setting. It’s inappropriate on two fronts. One is Constitutional, and there are plenty of very good arguments as to why this issue crosses that line — I won’t bore you with those arguments.
Rather, I want to address the second aspect by which I’d ask you to consider, as I have, whether the inclusion of a Christian Bible is the POW/MIA display truly fulfills the displays goal of honoring all POW/MIA and their families. As I hope you know, not all POW/MIA and their families are/were Christian – in fact, that brave group also includes individuals who don’t believe in God at all. So to suggest that a display of the Christian Bible serves to honor the entire POW/MIA  community is just silly.
“But wait,” you may say. “The Bible simply represents the “strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country.” In other words, some insist that it is just a representative symbol of faith in general. As a lifelong Christian myself, that claim still raises big questions in my mind. I’d propose a simple test to check whether or not the sentiment is sincere — If the religious element were the Koran instead of the Christian Bible, would those who object to removing the Christian Bible also raise a stink about removing that other “representative symbol of faith”?
You and I both know the answer to that, and it’s a resounding, “No.” Because here is what is really happening —  It’s not FREEDOM that some Christians are demanding here, it’s EXCEPTIONALISM.
The notion that any sectarian religious belief, even my own beloved Christianity, should be treated by our government as exceptional among the plurality of religious beliefs in America today is anathema to the principle that all Americans of all manner of belief (including non-belief) are equally entitled to the same religious rights, liberties, and freedoms. The only way for our governmental institutions to properly honor and respect that equality is to ensure the playing field is always level — and in the case of the POW/MIA displays, whether well-intended or not, that expectation of neutrality was not met.
Thanks again for writing to the MRFF.
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter






















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  1. J

    How does the presence of a Christian bible “violate” a person’s practice of his own religion?!?! Mr. Mike, tell the public one religion which require that there be no Christian bible in POW table, and, if there is one you can tell us, please which holy book mandates it. What do you think of Islamic call to daily prayer in an American town, played over loudspeaker in early morning and late night, heard by non-Muslim residents at their own home? Would your organization take action to limit the sound to business hours during weekdays and prohibit its early morning and late night daily sound? Or, would you let it stay?

  2. J

    Pastor Joan is scared, or cautious, to offend Muslims because the majority of terrorists these days come from their religion’s principles….but they shouldn’t be killing people just because someone offended them, though the principles may mandate offense against their religion, which is why it is a death penalty in some places to convert out of Islam sadly.

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