Mandatory religion

No one would have been required to attend the prayer breakfast at FT Riley.
If your organization values freedom of religion and freedom from religion, you should probably know what a prayer breakfast entails.

Please don’t infringe upon free speech.

(name withheld)


Many of our clients feel an unwillingness to participate in events like a prayer breakfast are noted and have a negative effect on one’s career. If you’re in the military, or have been, I should think you’d understand that.

However, that’s not the issue here. Mr. Boykin is a notorious bigot whose free speech is laced with homophobic and Islamophobic rants as well as paeans to Christian supremacy. He is, of course, free to feel as he does and express his feelings. But it is our view that those feelings should not be endorsed by the U.S. military in providing him a platform. Do you feel his is the kind of message that should be promoted, even inferentially, by the United States military?

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Good Day, (name withheld) –

Thanks for writing to the MRFF and sharing your thoughts — I’d like to offer a response from my perspective as someone who has been supporting the MRFF’s efforts for several years, and who is also a lifelong, committed Christian, USAF Academy graduate (’85), and veteran USAF officer.
Rest assured, the MRFF knows what a prayer breakfast entails. That is not what led to our objection to the Gen Boykin invitation. We voiced concern because we also know quite a bit about Gen Boykin and his past controversial statements, made in an inappropriate time, place, and manner, on a variety of things related to religious belief. To quote from a recent Op-Ed by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff when Gen Powell was Secretary of State —
“In 2003, for instance, he [Gen Boykin] spoke at several churches and said such things as the U.S. was “a Christian nation” and was in a “spiritual battle” against an enemy that hated the U.S. “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian.”    He even compared his Christian god to the Muslim god and found the latter severely lacking and not a true god like Boykin’s god.   All this Boykin did while dressed in the uniform of the United States Army.”
The most damning aspect of Gen Boykin’s conduct is highlighted in the last sentence of the excerpt.  Now, agree or disagree with the personal beliefs of Gen Boykin, it is indefensible that he would make such statements in uniform. From my own perspective, Gen Boykin represents a very clear threat to Constitutional principles and a great threat to the security of American forces throughout the world.  Said another way, the MRFF objected to Gen Boykin’s invitation not because we oppose religiously-minded people eating breakfast together, but because Gen Boykin is an inappropriate choice to be asked to speak at a base-sanctioned event, for the reasons I’ve mentioned above and more.
If you’d like to read Col Wilkerson’s entire Op-Ed, you can find it at http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/6/2/1533662/-The-Travesty-in-Kansas
Thanks again for your email.
Peace,
Mike Challman
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter

Dear sir,
Thank you for your civil response. I have been in the military for over 10 years and I have never attended nor felt pressured to go to a prayer breakfast.
All members of the military should be free to choose whether or not to listen to something such as this. However I do agree with you that the decision to have this speaker at a military sponsored forum was at a minimum a poor one. However I do feel pressured to attend various diversity and cultural events that are organized and sponsored by the military. If we promote one, all should be equally promoted. If we deny one, all should be equally denied.
Thank you.
(name withheld)

Hi (name withheld),

I’m glad to hear that you’ve never felt pressured about a prayer breakfast. I suspect the sense of pressure some feel has to do with the belief systems of those in authority at a given base.

And I understand your point equality of opportunity, but if I may, I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. There is certainly a governmental interest in promoting an understanding and appreciation of diversity. For one thing, such an understanding provides improved unit cohesion. I don’t agree that this can fairly be compared to the harm done by sponsoring an inflammatory and bigoted speaker.

Best,

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)

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