Confused

I have read several of Mr. Weinstein’s quotes concerning  religious proselytizing especially in the military. I don’t understand why he feels so threatened by someone voicing their opinion concerning their beliefs. Everyone has an opinion and whether it is right or wrong does not mean you have to listen, except or receive. The only religion that I am aware of that gives you a choice to convert or die is the Islamic Muslim religion which states in the Koran that any person that is not a convert or will convert to Islam including a Muslim is an infidel and will  be eliminated. Catholics, Jews, Protestant, Buddhist, Seventh day Adventist, Ladder day Saints, Scientology, New Age Movement, Satanist, Atheist, Agnostic or any other religion, all have an agenda to proselytize. Christians just happen to be moved by their beliefs in Jesus Christ and want to share what He has done with them, through them and for them. Whether you believe their beliefs are rehortric or truth it is up to the person to receive. If I can talk you into something then most likely someone else can talk you out of that one thing unless a stronger power has changed you. The Christian religion is about the Holy Spirit entering you and changing your heart. It is based specifically and absolutely on Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of man. This is called having Faith in Christ Jesus due to the fact we  are all sinful in  need of a savior/redeemer to take this burden of sin that man is unable to remove. Our sin separates us from a Holy and Righteous God. It also states that Jesus arose from the dead on the third day and then ascended to the right hand of God the Father.  Unlike the other religions you are constantly working to prove or gain approval by your actions or deeds. Jesus completely removed the sins of the world. You or anyone has to believe this is true or not. As mentioned earlier Christianity is received by one way and that is “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God who loves you. Loves you enough to take a penalty or guilt by others do death so they/you can have life and have it abundantly.

 

Did you see that? God’s remarkable compassion and favor “drawing you” to Christ. So how in the world can someone proselytize you or anyone?

 

I am not sure why this is so offensive to you or anyone because if you don’t agree don’t listen. Say, I am not interested and would rather not speak about it. We don’t live in a communist country that requires a person to act, believe and live a set way.

 

You seem to be very educated individuals at least from a academia standpoint so why are you so bent on stopping something that is unstoppable. If Christianity is truth, then a person no matter what their education level or military status says; does not convince you that Christianity is absolute. It is the God of Christianity Jesus Christ that impresses and causes the conversion. Since you are Jewish then you certainly understand that Abraham was not confronted by a person he was confronted by God and by three angels. He was considered righteous because of his “FAITH”!

 

If you look back in history there have been numerous dictators, kings, rulers and authority figures that have tried to stamp out the belief in Jesus Christ all to no avail. I don’t understand why you are so threatened by Jesus Christ??? Why are you so angry?? I don’t agree with the stance that Target is taking concerning transgender and homosexual restrooms. I just will not go to Target anymore…simple.

 

Maybe you are angry because their just may be some truth in what “TRUE” Christians are saying”. No one has authority over you. There are laws to abide by and there are powers that enforce them but no matter what power, authority or laws we have if Christianity is about JESUS CHRIST then you will NEVER stop it because there is no defense.

(name withheld)


 

Dear (name withheld),

Your commitment to your particular version of religious faith is clear, even though much of your message is not. We have no problem with you believing what you believe, just as we have no problem with others believing as they choose.

You are mistaken to think anyone here is threatened by your belief system. You are welcome to it, just as are those who have other beliefs. The MRFF is only interested in honoring and protecting the separation of church and state, as proposed by the founders of this nation and established in law. This practice, which is fundamental to America, is intended to protect everyone’s right to believe or not believe as she or he chooses. So the government, or in this case the military which is part of the government, may not promote one particular belief system over the others.

So you see, when in the military your need to spread the Christian faith must be constrained by law and military regulations so that it only takes place at the proper time and in the proper place and manner. I hope that helps you to understand the situation more clearly.

As to the rest of your message, your slur against Islam, your assumption that anyone here is angry at or fearful of Christianity, your inference that the founder of the MRFF’s heritage has anything to do with the work of the organization and your ignorance about sexuality are a pathetic mixture of nonsense and bigotry.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Directors)


 

 Dear (name withheld),
Your email is the perfect example of what we fight against; the unsolicited, unwanted proselytizing by Christians. 
You’re at the end a long list of others who have proselytized to Mikey and us, in the hopes of bringing Mikey to “salvation” so that the heavens will open up, the Angels will sing Hallelujah and God will say “Well done, thou good a faithful servant.” Every one of you wants that notch in your belt because they finally got Mikey to “see the light.” Good luck with that.
 
“Everyone has an opinion and whether it is right or wrong does not mean you have to listen, except or receive.”
“You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
How do you not “accept or receive” (and read) your email when your subject line is “confused”
How do our soldiers not “accept or receive” an invitation from the Command when in doing so will out them for further harassment, poor performance ratings, advancements withheld, put on “point” during war (we lost one client because of this) and drummed out the military on trumped up charges? And, this is no joke.
“The only religion that I am aware of that gives you a choice to convert or die is the Islamic Muslim religion which states in the Koran that any person that is not a convert or will convert to Islam including a Muslim is an infidel and will be eliminated.”
Oh, really? Then why did Jesus say this?
”But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, AND SLAY THEM BEFORE ME. When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. ” Luke 19:27-28
Or this?
US Army chaplain MAJ James Linzey, who, in a 1999 video, described mainstream Protestant churches as “demonic, dastardly creatures from the pit of hell “that should be “stomped out.”
 
This is the thinking of the military of today throughout the chain of command all the way to the Pentagon. They believe that the only “true” Christian is one that is “born-again” and has a “spiritual birthday.” All mainline Christians and those Christians born before 1952 when Bill Bright made up the 4 Spiritual Laws are destined to hell.
They also want our soldiers to be “government paid missionaries.”
“Did you see that? God’s remarkable compassion and favor “drawing you” to Christ. So how in the world can someone proselytize you or anyone?” 
Yes, I see that but as a lifelong Christian and then a Pastor I have seen more people come to church because they were drawn by the loving, compassionate, non-judgmental attitude of the followers of Christ – not by their words but by their actions in living out the two greatest, superior Commandments Jesus gave us “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
The world watches us to see if we keep these two superior commandments and if we don’t then the world wants no part of us. I’m seen many Christians who are good at proselytizing but their personal and home life are anything but the life of what Christ told us to be. They were hypocrites and non-Christians can spot them a mile away.
Just because God draws people to Christ doesn’t mean that you or anyone gets to decide (or assume) that everyone is ripe for conversion through proselytizing. The fact that there are some whom will not accept salvation proves that assumption wrong.
You have your opinion regarding proselytizing in the military but we have the facts and laws to back up our position.
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
Our military is secular and any military or government entanglement with religion is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Reynolds v. U.S., Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Lemon Test and especially Parker v. Levy.
The ONLY religion that disobeys these rules is the Fundamental Evangelical Dominionists (non-mainline) who have hijacked our military, put God above our laws (against Romans 13:1-2), ostracizes those that are not “born again” (main-line Christians that should be “stomped out”) and want to turn our fighting soldiers into modern day Crusaders…all in the name of Jesus.
No one here is angry at God or wants to stop Christianity in the military (again you assume too much) but there is a time, place and manner for it. Religion is supposed to be in the hands of the Chaplains – not Commanders or superior officers – and all invitations for anything regarding religion comes from them to their own parishioners, not base-wide, under our laws.
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 80% of the Board, Advisory Board, volunteers (300 in total) and supporters of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are Christians. In fact, 96% of our 45,000+ soldier clients are mainline Christians – Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodist, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals (not all Evangelicals are Dominionists but all Dominionists are Evangelical), etc. We fight for the rights of these mainline Christians more than any other religion but it never makes the news. 
We have liaisons on almost every base in the world and all emails and responses are blasted out to them to be dispersed in their areas.
We also have honorable and distinguished military personnel on our Board and Advisory Board whom we rely on for their expertise regarding religious neutrality in the military.
 
Pastor Joan
MRFF Advisory Board Member

Good Day, (name withheld) –

Thanks for writing to the MRFF. I’m one of several MRFF folks who endeavor to offer individual replies to those who take the time to write to our organization. Unfortunately, I’m also rather slow these days in getting my responses out, and you may have already heard from others. If so, I ask your indulgence to consider one more perspective. In addition to being a staunch supporter of the MRFF, I’m also a lifelong, committed and active Christian and a USAF veteran.
I appreciate the perspective which you’ve shared about your faith. But I do want to point out a couple of misstatements that you make about the mission and focus of the MRFF.
Our activity has nothing to do with feeling “threatened” or feeling that a particular opinion is “offensive”. It has everything to do with a dedication 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.
I’m guessing that you are not a military veteran because I believe that someone who has served and who understands the realities of military life would not be so glib with comments like, “Everyone has an opinion and whether it is right or wrong does not mean you have to listen, except [sic] or receive”… and “Say, I am not interested and would rather not speak about it”… and finally this one, “No one has authority over you.”
Military leaders have enormous authority over their subordinates — they can literally order them to do something that may end in death. Further, the hierarchy of military organizations does not allow a subordinate to tell his leader, “I am not interested”, nor does a subordinate have the ability to simply walk away. Because of this unique environment within the military, it is critical that leaders do not allow either the actual or perceived use of their position as a platform to promote their personal religious beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs may be (including unbelief). That is the crux of the mission and focus of the MRFF.
Simply put, there is an appropriate time, place, and manner for the expression of any personal belief or opinion by military leaders, including expressions of personal religious belief. But when it is done at an inappropriate time, place, or manner it is the subordinates who suffer, and it is that constituency that the MRFF will always work hard to support.
Thanks again for writing, I’d be happy to continue this discussion if you’d like.
Peace,
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

Mr. Challman,

out of all the responses that I have received from MRFF yours has been the kindest and the most civil. I greatly appreciate your explanation and the points you make are very viable and true. You are correct, I personally was not in the military…I certainly wish I would have taken that career path because of the structure, gratitude, HONOR, experience and other rewarding attributes that a person receives and gives to be a military person. Not to mention the honor to serve and protect the U.S.

With that said what is the agenda of the MRFF? I have read the MRFF mission statement, about MRFF and Mr. Weinstein’s statement and I quote “We have managed to wage an effective fight against this religious fundamentalist scourge in the media, courts, and halls of the Pentagon facing violent opposition from those who seek to do grave harm to our service members’ rights”.

What grave danger are you referring too?

What religious fundamentalist group is jeopardizing the men and woman of our armed forces?

Media??- The liberal media hates everything about Christians unless you are living under a rock or listening to a different news cast than the rest of the world, I don’t understand.

What rights of the armed forces have been or tried to be harmed?

You are absolutely correct Mr. Challman, I am a Christian, saved by Gods mighty Grace in which He sent His beloved son to die on the cross for a sinful fool like me. Apart from the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ I am doomed to an eternity in hell.

I cant make you accept this belief nor would I want to. I would love to sit down with you and tell you what Jesus has done in and through my life but only if you desired. If I was a full bird Colonel active in the U.S.A.F I would not on no circumstances force, threaten or order you to listen or accept by belief in Jesus Christ. I would hope you would see Him in me and through me by the way I live my life on a daily basis. Sir, I greatly appreciate your desire to make a change. The MRFF may succeed in wiping out Christianity in the armed services but you or no one in this world will ever remove the voice of loving and caring individuals like myself from desiring to tell you and others about JESUS. Not force but tell. The ability to receive and accept JESUS is totally up to you SIR. I am so very sorry that you or Mr. Weinstein has been subjected to a radical fundamentalist so called Christian person or group that has approached you in a non-loving manner. This is not a reflection of Christ nor is it a reflection of His people.

May God bless you Sir

(name withheld)


 

Thanks for the response, (name withheld).

I can appreciate that you seem to live your faith in a similar manner to how I live mine. As the old saying goes (usually misattributed to St Francis but still a great sentiment), ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.’ Of course, that doesn’t mean we should never use words, but it does mean that we can and should proclaim our faith in all of our actions. This is especially important for Christians who on occasion find themselves in a situation where it may be inappropriate to use words. Christian military officers are just one group that can find itself in such a circumstance.

Believe it or not, there is a small portion of our fellow Christians who find that reality to be untenable. They believe (wrongly, in my view) that the only appropriate stance of a “true” Christian is to aggressively promote and proselytize in every circumstance. They actively push for the explicit dominion of their version of Christianity in all aspects of American life, especially our governmental institutions and including our military. In nearly every case, they also believe that the US is, or should be, an explicitly Christian nation.  It is this group who will happily ignore the Constitutional rights of non-Christians, and for that matter ignore, too, the rights of professed Christians who they don’t believe are genuine believers.
I hope you can see, as I do, that such a position poses a grave threat to everyone’s Constitutional rights. It is for that reason that the MRFF exists — we have no desire to “wipe out Christianity in the armed services.” But we DO desire that the promises of the American way of life, as expressed in our Constitution, be protected for ALL members of our military, both Christian and non-Christian, believer and unbeliever. That is the ONLY principle for which we strive at the MRFF.

I appreciate the opportunity to have this exchange with you. Be blessed.

Peace,
Mike Challman

Dear (name withheld) –

 

I am writing in response to your May 12, 2016 email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”).  While I respond to many letters, I must admit that yours was very thoughtful and you make some interesting points.  That said, it is clear to me that you misunderstand the mission of MRFF.

 

Your position consists of three points: (1) People do not have to listen to or accept the religious beliefs others share with them; (2) Belief in Christianity involves the Holy Spirit changing a person’s heart, so no mere person can convert another; and (3) If Christianity is “truth,” no efforts can stop it.  Please allow me to address each of these points.

 

(1) Your first point might seem reasonable upon a cursory glance, but it completely disregards the context of a military environment.  As ordinary citizens, we are free to say, “No, thank you,” when a neighbor, classmate, coworker, or stranger approaches us to share their religious beliefs.  I can choose to not shop at Hobby Lobby or patronize Chick-Fil-A because I disagree with the beliefs and actions of their owners – just like you can choose to not shop at Target.

 

However, service members do not have this same freedom of choice.  When a leader at a military academy begins a required event with a prayer, cadets are not free to simply leave the room.  When a military superior invites his or her subordinates to religious events, the freedom to decline is an illusion – particularly when those who attend are subsequently favored.  Further, retaliation is a very real consequence suffered by service members and cadets who refuse to participate and/or report such constitutional violations.  Our clients come to us with such complaints because they are legitimately afraid of the consequences they will suffer if they personally stand up for their own rights.

 

Moreover, service members should not be expected or required to ignore constitutional violations.  Even if they can choose to not recite the prayer delivered by their superior without fear of consequence, the prayer itself is a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  The law does not require any citizen to stand aside and remain silent when confronted with unconstitutional actions, even if doing so would be the easier choice.  Just as the police are not permitted to search our homes without probable cause even if we have nothing to hide, military superiors are not permitted to endorse one religion over others even if those under their command can hum a jaunty tune instead of listening such endorsement.

 

(2) MRFF is not concerned with whether service members are actually converted to Christianity.  Our mission is to protect service members from the wrongful attempt to convert them to any religion, as well as from religious discrimination and the wrongful endorsement of one religion over others, or of religion over non-religion.  These actions violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the prohibition against any religious test of Article VI.  Consequently, it is irrelevant whether or not Islam – or any other religion – proclaims that those who do not convert should die or otherwise be punished.  Our work is not about which, if any, religion is “right” – it is about whether actions within the military and related to religion obey the mandates of the Constitution.

 

You may be correct that all religions include an agenda to proselytize.  However, all of the complaints we receive involve the wrongful proselytizing, coercion, or retaliation by Fundamentalist Christians.  Therefore, our work primarily consists of challenging the recitation of Christian prayers, the erection of Christian displays, the invocation of a Christian God, and other actions of military superiors who identify as Christians.  While you may see our work as a fight against Christianity, nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, over 96% of our clients are Christians of various denominations who have suffered religious discrimination or persecution.

 

Interestingly, your point that only God can truly draw anyone to Christ actually supports our mission – If, as you claim, “the Christian religion is about the Holy Spirit entering you and changing your heart,” regardless of the actions of mere humans, then the proselytization, coercion, and/or retaliation by military superiors is clearly nothing more than a violation of the constitutional rights of service members.

 

(3) Just as MRFF is not concerned with whether service members are actually converted to any religion, we are concerned with stopping Christianity.  We are not working to stop or refute the beliefs of any religion.  Our mission is solely to protect all of our brave men and women in uniform from unlawful religious proselytization, intimidation, discrimination, and persecution.  These service members sacrifice so much to protect our constitutional rights – including the right of religious freedom – and we work tirelessly to ensure that they are free to exercise those same rights.

 

We are not threatened by Jesus Christ, nor do we desire to “stamp out the belief in Jesus Christ” or “[stop] the unstoppable.”  Again, we do not claim that Christianity is wrong or that any religion, or no religion, is right.  This country was founded upon democratic principles and the Constitution forbids the establishment of any religion – regardless of the merits of any such religion.

 

I stated earlier that your email was thoughtful and you made some interesting points.  Yet, all the thoughtful points you made concern the validity of Christianity without regard to the mandates of the Constitution.  The First Amendment forbids the establishment of ANY religion – even if one religion might be the “truth.”  You admit that “there are laws to abide by and there are powers that enforce them.”  Well, we are one of those powers and our mission is to enforce those laws.

 

 

Blessed be,

 

Tobanna Barker

MRFF Legal Affairs Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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