Chaplain in trouble

Hello! I am writing to express my sincere opinion on what our Constitution of the US States entitles ALL Americans to. Freedom of religion. What our forefathers came to America for. They experienced oppression of their religious freedoms in other countries, so they came and created a new country which could guarantee that no person could be arrested, punished by imprisonment, or killed for expressing their God given right to worship freely! So, if that right is guaranteed by our Constitution, how can you reprimand a Chaplin for expression of his beliefs? And the right to talk about and share his beliefs? If I attend a service led by a Muslim believer, I would expect to hear the name of Allah, and his beliefs expressed, so why marvel that you may hear the name of God expressed by a Christian believer? If one attending a service doesn’t wish to hear, we should allow a service member the option of not attending. I understand that the Muslim religion doesn’t allow their believers to hear the name of God or Jesus the Christ, the son of God. So, please allow ear plugs at the very least for those not desiring to hear the word of God.
Thank you for listening and thank you for your sacrificial service to our country to protect our safety and our freedoms! God bless!

(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

Dear (name withheld),

Like you, we support the freedom of religion, freedom of religious or non-religious belief, and the freedom of choice in matters of conscience. Our Founders did as well, to the degree that they guaranteed those freedoms by implementing what is known as the separation of church and state so that no belief system could become or be suggested as being the preferred or “official” belief of our country.

That separation requires that no one in an official government position may impose or appear to favor one belief system over others. In the military, in order to protect these freedoms, there are prescribed ways in which religious expressions may take place, those ways having to do with the time, place and manner in which it occurs.

Therefore, a chaplain of a particular faith has every right to speak of her or his faith in designated and appropriate services. However, in a generalized official setting, when people of many belief systems are present, a chaplain in the uniform of a military officer has no business preaching his particular faith and should know better.


Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)

Dear Mr.Farrell,

Thank you for your reply. However, I and a host of other Americans disagree strongly with your decision, and will be sending letters to our Congressmen to repeal any and all action regarding government restraints on religious freedoms.
Re: reference to ‘separation of church and state, This specifically states that our government is not to make ANY laws suppressing our rights to Freely express our religion. Not how you stated it. I am baffled by your misunderstanding of our Constitutional rights!
As for your statement that he should know better; shame on you, sir! You should know better than to infringe on the religious freedoms of those you serve with, and those who pay your salary!
I will be sharing this with my representatives, and ask them to enforce our law regarding the free expression of religion in Congress, AND our military!
God forgive you,
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

Dear (name withheld),

You are apparently baffled by a number of things, including and beyond our constitutional rights.

It’s not my decision you object to, it’s the genius of Thomas Jefferson and the law of the land. As you apparently don’t understand but I trust your Member of Congress does, the way in which we protect religious freedom in this country is by ensuring that neither the government nor anyone in a position of authority who speaks with its imprimatur may promote her or his religious belief in a manner that suggests or implies the approval and sanction of the U.S. Government.

In the military, because it is an arm of the government, there are specific restrictions on religious speech imposed on those in authority for that very reason.

I personally find it a source of concern that so many people who enjoy what they think of as a very deeply held faith find this carefully crafted principle to be threatening. I would have hoped that such committed believers would be secure enough in their faith to understand the beauty of a government that recognized and protected not only their own belief system but those of all others as well, no matter their source.

The very fact that you arrogate to yourself the right to speak for God with regard to forgiving me suggests a self-assumed proximity that, one hopes, you might find embarrassing on reconsideration.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)

Response from MRFF Advisory  Board Member Joan Slish
Dear (name withheld),
When you contact your 2 State Senators and 4 Representatives in Iowa, make sure you enclose the following laws. If not, I will be more than happy to contact them for you. 

I have no idea where you get your information concerning us but they deliberately leave out important facts concerning religious neutrality in the military.


Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said “We do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”


In other words, the majority doesn’t rule over the minority where First Amendment rights are concerned.


She also said “The Establishment Clause (the first part of the First Amendment) prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions, which may interfere with the independence of the institutions, give the institutions access to government or governmental powers not fully shared by nonadherents of the religion, and foster the creation of political constituencies defined along religious lines. The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. Disapproval sends the opposite message.”


Her statement is based on past SCOTUS Establishment Clause rulings regarding entanglement of any government entity with religion:


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 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


AFI (Air Force Instruction) 1-1, section 2.12, which reads in part:

“…leaders at all levels in the Air Force must ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief or absence of belief.”


Leaders at all levels include Chaplains.


Any military entanglement with religion violates the Constitution, Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878), Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy and AFI 1-1, section 2.12.


You are woefully ignorant of the plight of our early Christian settlers where one sect was imprisoning, beating and killing persons of another sect. Not to mention the slaughter of Native American Indians to take their lands.


There were also state approved religions which all persons had to pay taxes for – regardless of their religious affiliation.


Separation of Church and State is also freedom FROM religion, hence no need for ear plugs.


Here’s the backdrop for the First Amendment of the Constitution. This is a brief summary and I suggest you research the historical facts listed here.


When Virginia was founded it established the Anglican Church as the state’s official religion based on the state sponsored Church of England. In order to hold any official position in the Virginia government you must be a member of the Anglican Church.


All citizens of Virginia, regardless of their religious affiliation, had to pay taxes to support the Anglican churches throughout the state. The Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists fought this by petitions but were ignored.


Jefferson felt that to make anyone pay a tax to support the Anglican Church or any church was wrong and in 1777 penned the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. After becoming Governor of Virginia in 1779, he brought the bill – known as Bill No. 82 – before the Virginia Assembly. It didn’t become law until 1785.


The following paragraph from the Virginia Statute is the basis for the First Amendment. It didn’t need this whole paragraph written out in the amendment because the people of that time understood what it meant.


“We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”


This bill gave the people freedom FROM religion in all aspects of their lives. No longer were they forced to attend religious services, pay taxes to the state to fund the state sanctioned religion or kept from holding a job in the government.


Jefferson wrote the Statute of Religious Freedom, whose preamble indicted state religion, noting that “false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time” have been maintained through the church-state. To “compell a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”


In his Notes on Virginia (1782), Jefferson wrote: “Millions of innocent men, women and children since the introduction of Christianity have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned. Yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. . .”


Even in boot camp the soldiers have freedom from religion by not having to attend church but their punishment for staying away is cleaning their barracks.


The Treaty of Tripoli was signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796.It was submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797; a mere 8 years since our Constitution went into effect. If what was written was wrong in anyway, there would have been uproar. But, it passed unanimously and confirmed that America was not founded on Christianity.

Treaty of Tripoli:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The Constitution reflects our founder’s views of a secular government protecting the freedom of any belief or unbelief.


The historian, Robert Middlekauff, observed, “The idea that the Constitution expressed a moral view seems absurd. There were no genuine evangelicals in the Convention, and there were no heated declarations of Christian piety.”


“The Salem witchcraft was the rock on which the theocracy shattered”. George Lincoln Burr (1857 – 1938), Professor of History and Librarian at Cornell University


“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787


“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” 1787-1788

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

“The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”
James Madison, 1819, Writings, 8:432, quoted from Gene Garman, “Essays In Addition to America’s Real Religion”

“Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.” 

James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments


“God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government.”
Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, 1773


“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”

James Madison 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments


“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


The Unites States is not a theocracy and according to our Founding Fathers the Constitution is not based on Christianity or biblical law.


As defenders of the Constitution we fight for the separation of church and state and make sure the military abides by 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 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.


As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.”


You have your “sincere opinion” while we have the facts (above laws) to back up our stance.


Joan Slish

MRFF Advisory Board Member.




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