Concerned

Hello. To whom it may concern. 
 
I am a bit confused. This organization is so busy trying to erase anything Christian for all military functions, so far the latest not getting a speaker to speak for the prayer breakfast at Ft Riley, which I was going to attend up until i found out its no longer going to be one for Victory Week….what about out civil rights as a Christian? Do we not count for anything? Just looking for clarity and understanding.  Thanks for your time. 
(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),
Separation of Church and State laws require that there be no entanglement with a government entity and religion, which I will explain below.
If the military wants to have a prayer breakfast it must be inclusive of other religions on base.
General Boykin is a controversial person who hates Muslims, Jews and LGBT people of which there are some in Fort Riley. To knowingly bring in a speaker that would cause division among our soldiers is despicable.
Our military is not a Christian military (Crusaders – Warriors for Christ) fighting a holy war. Our military is secular under the Constitution and Supreme Court laws.
Boykin’s anti-Muslim statements go back to 2003 when, as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, he spoke in uniform at a number of churches making statements that we were in a holy war with Islam.
The most infamous of these anti-Muslim statements was when he said, referring to battling a Muslim warlord in Somalia:
“I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”
At another one of these church appearances, he compared the war on terror to a Christian war against Satan.
Boykin’s making these statements in uniform led to a Pentagon investigation, which found that he had violated military regulations by failing to make clear he was not speaking in an official capacity when speaking at these churches.
Boykin was also publicly rebuked by President Bush for his anti-Muslim statements:
Boykin publicly stated in 2010 that Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment” because “those following the dictates of the Quran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with sharia law.”
In 2012, Boykin was forced to withdraw from speaking at a prayer breakfast at West Point because of his Islamophobic statements:
In 2014, he was caught on a hot mic accusing President Obama of using “subliminal messages” to promote the agenda of al-Qaeda.
He has also, on many occasions, spread conspiracy theories about President Obama, such as claiming that Obama, through health care legislation, intended to raise a force that he compared to the Nazi Brownshirts:
In 2014, he said while speaking at one event that Jesus would be coming back toting an AR-15:
“The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 it says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A might warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe … I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies ‘cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword. And I believe now – I’ve checked this out – I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.”
He also “jokingly” blamed the Jews for all the world’s problems, saying, “The Jews are the problem. The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.”
In addition to his bigoted Islamophobic and antisemitic remarks, he has also made anti-LGBT statements, among other things calling the military’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” the “absolute destruction of our military readiness and our military morale.”
The reason is looks like we are stopping Christianity from doing things in the military is because it’s the ONLY religion that violates the following laws regarding religious neutrality in the military:
“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
To place the Christian god above all others is in violation of Reynolds v. U.S., Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Lemon Test and especially Parker v. Levy.
Yes, Christians do count but to bring in a speaker that is so hateful of others that do not believe the way he does is unconscionable.
The prayer breakfast is being rescheduled “due to a number of scheduling conflicts … the breakfast will be rescheduled for a later date.”
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 and supporters (300 in total) of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are Christians. In fact, 96% of our 45,000+ soldier clients are Christians – Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodist, Lutherans, Baptists, etc. We fight for the rights of these Christians more than any other religion but it never makes the news.
Here is our Mission Statement:
I hope this clears up any concerns you had.
Blessings,
Pastor Joan
MRFF Advisory Board Member

 Dear (name withheld),

You certainly still have your rights to expression. There is a succinct analogy that might help here: Your right to swing your fists stops at the bridge of my nose.

In the case of Jerry Boykin, he’s used his position to infect his subordinates and others with the virus of Islamophobia. He’s made patently un-American claims publicly and on record which make him unfit to be a mentor in any way to any active duty service members.  He was forced to retire after violating countless regulations and was such a stain on the uniform he wore that he earned direct condemnation from the President himself.

As we learned in Parker v Levy, not all speech is protected in the military.  Not if it detracts from the mission.  Boykin is an ideological defector from the United States and flouts his belief that this country should be overthrown and a theocracy built in its place.  He’s spread conspiracy theories about our current president. His message is not religious, is political. He is a lobbyist, not a pastor. As such, he has no business having access to the impressionable minds of our young service members.

I hope this clears things up, but if you have any more questions feel free to ask.

Thank you,

Blake A Page
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Special Assistant to the President
Director of US Army Affairs


Dear (name withheld),

I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear about the gender suggested by your name but I’m happy to help sort out the things that confuse you.

First, our organization is not “trying to erase anything Christian for all military functions” as you assert. Our mission is to ensure that the law and military regulations are honored in terms of making sure that no one religion or belief system is promoted over others in the military. The separation of church and state, as I’m sure you understand, is fundamental to the protection of everyone’s freedom of belief or non-belief.

Second, as to your concern about the prayer breakfast at Fort Riley, that event was cancelled by those in charge and, we’re told, will be rescheduled at a future date. So nothing will prevent you from attending once a new date is set. We assume the cancellation had to do with the fact that there were a great number of objections raised once the identity of the invited speaker became known. Mr. Boykin, who was for some reason scheduled to speak, is well known for giving voice to grotesquely intolerant views that are inconsistent with responsible military positions and certainly not representative of a true Christian perspective.

As far as your “civil rights as a Christian” are concerned, we are doing everything in our power to protect them. Yes, you certainly do “count for anything.” Your beliefs are your own and deserve to be protected exactly as much as do those of others who believe differently.

Ones religious or non-religious beliefs are important and must be honored and protected. But in order to be consistent about honoring the separation of church and state, religious expression in the military must be done in the proper time, place and manner.

I hope that helps clarify things for you.

Best,

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


 Good Day –

Thanks for your note to the MRFF. Mikey Weinstein has asked me to provide a response to your concerns.  Like you, I am a Christian; I’m also a USAF veteran.
Despite how the conservative media mischaracterizes us, the MRFF is not “trying to erase anything Christian for all military functions.”  We are neither anti-Christian specifically nor anti-religion generally. Rather, we are a Constitutional advocacy group 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.
We recognize that the Constitution, which every current and former member of the US military made a solemn pledge to support and defend, demands neutrality in our government and military institutions with respect to sectarian religious beliefs (including non-belief). We unequivocally support the right of all military members to believe or not believe whatever they choose to believe or not believe. When we raise concerns, they are the result of some military leader attempting to advance or promote a personal sectarian religious belief at an inappropriate time, place, or manner. But we do not oppose the right of that same leader to hold whatever beliefs he desires — we only speak out against inappropriate conduct, regardless of the nature of the particular belief behind the conduct.
Now, specific to the Gen Boykin invitation — I have no hesitation in stating, as a Christian myself, that much of his conduct in recent years has been beyond the pale and he is an embarrassment to every intelligent, patriotic, Christian American. Worse still, he is a danger to the principles of the Constitution and to the safety of American military forces around the globe.  If you are unfamiliar with the outrageous things he has done under the color of his authority as a military leader, a simple Google search would be enlightening. I’ll presume whoever extended the invitation to speak at the prayer breakfast was unaware of the general’s past conduct — at least, I certainly hope they were unaware. Otherwise, the motivation behind the invitation becomes very troubling. In my view, Gen Boykin is the poster boy for inappropriate conduct by a senior military leader as it relates to religious beliefs. It was entirely appropriate for the sponsoring group to disinvite him.
Hope this perspective helps. Thanks again for writing.
Peace,
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

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