yesterday

Just wanted you guys to know I went to my appointment at the local VA clinic yesterday.  I got there a little early, so I picked up a Bible in the waiting room and read from the book of Psalms while waiting to see the doctor.   When I told the receptionist about your campaign against this sort of thing, she couldn’t believe it.  She said she often sees patients pick up the Bible and read while they are waiting, and that they have never had any complaints about the presence of the Good Book in the waiting room. 
This got me to thinking….. in the 1920’s and 30’s, Lenin and Stalin repeatedly purged libraries of all books deemed to be “harmful” to society and destroyed them in huge bonfires.   Sounds a lot like what you guys are trying to do, albeit in a more subtle way without the bonfires.
(name withheld)

Response by MRFF Advisory Board Member John Compere

Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Army (Retired)

 

Dear (name withheld),
Attached in response to your email is a rational explanation in plain language of the factual, historical & lawful relationship between our Constitution, any religion & veterans like you and me. Hopefully, you will find it informative.
 
Lenin & Stalin did not provide individual liberty for citizens of the former Soviet Union. Our Founders provided the American Constitution & Bill of Rights guaranteeing our citizens, among other liberties, separation of church & state with both freedom from & of religion that keeps government (which includes the DVA) out of religion & religion out of government. In other words, the Department of Veteran Affairs is prevented by our Constitution & the long established law of our land from promoting any religion (which includes religious writings). How would you feel if you had found only the Islamic Quran provided by the DVA for reading in your local DVA clinic?
 
Most Sincerely,
John Compere
Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Army (Retired)
MRFF Advisory Board Member

THE CONSTITUTION, ANY RELIGION & OUR VETERANS

 

The mission of the US Department of Veterans Affairs is to serve our veterans by providing them care and benefits earned through their military service – not promote a religion or its writings. The US Constitution 1st Amendment expressly prohibits our secular government or its representatives (which includes the DVA) from promoting a religion. Religion is private, the DVA with its operations and funding are public. DVA personnel may privately practice a religion or no religion, but they may not lawfully use their DVA office, position or employment to publicly promote private religious beliefs or impose them on veterans. This problem seldom arises when DVA leadership demonstrates intelligence, integrity and adherence to the DVA mission, our American Constitution and the long established law of the land.

 

The Constitution 1st Amendment provides, respectively, 3 basic religious liberties for all Americans:

 

Freedom from religion – our secular government is prevented from “respecting ” an establishment of religion (promoting, supporting, favoring or endorsing any religion). It is the right of all Americans to be free from religion imposed by the government or its representatives.

 

Freedom of religion – our secular government is prevented from “prohibiting ” free exercise of religion. It is the right of all Americans to privately practice any religion or no religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans. It does not include the right of the government or its representatives to impose religion on Americans.

 

Freedom to speak about religion – our secular government is prevented from “abridging ” freedom of speech. It is the right of all Americans to speak publicly about religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans. It does not include the right of the government or its representatives to impose religious speech on Americans.

 

There should be no misunderstanding about the operative verbs of these first 3 clauses of the 1st Amendment. All one has to do is first read them and then look up the definition of “respecting ”, “prohibiting ” or “abridging ” in any American dictionary.

 

Historic separation of church and state is a fundamental liberty of free people that keeps private religion out of public government and public government out of private religion. It is clearly the intent of our Founders as confirmed by the Constitution and its 1st Amendment, indisputably documented by countless public records over 3 centuries, publicly acknowledged by every President since Thomas Jefferson, continuously confirmed by our US Supreme Court, and permanently embedded is the established law of our land. The Constitution pointedly provides “no religious test ” shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust (Article VI). These are inconvenient truths history deniers and religious revisionists intentionally ignore and deceitfully dispute.

 

Simply stated, we Americans have the right to our private religious or non- religious beliefs, but we must respect the rights of others to determine and enjoy their own beliefs (the same right we demand for ourselves). This is a timeless universal principle known as the “GOLDEN RULE” and even commanded by Jesus in every New Testament version (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). The obsession of self-righteous religionists to publicly force their private religious beliefs on others without extending them this basic human right is the height of human hypocrisy, violates all moral teaching and creates continuous civil conflict.

 

Founder & 3rd President Thomas Jefferson penned this classic public confirmation: “Believing…religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God…legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the American people which declared that legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion’…thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” (Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress, January 1, 1802).

 

The late Republican President Ronald Reagan acknowledged, accepted and applauded this critical constitutional liberty in a public speech – “We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.” (Valley Stream, New York, October 26, 1984).

 

Christian evangelist Billy Graham in a 1985 sermon at Washington National Cathedral praised constitutional separation of church and state – “We enjoy the separation of church and state and no sectarian religion has ever been and we pray God, ever will be imposed upon us.”.

 

Unfortunately, the wisdom of the late American humorist Will Rogers is too often applicable these days – “ There is no argument in the world that carries the hatred that a religious belief one does.” (“The Best of Will Rogers, Bryan Sterling, M. Evans & Company 1979, page 193).

 

John Compere

Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired); former Chief Judge, US Army Court of Military Review; disabled American veteran (Vietnam); Military Religious Freedom Foundation Advisory Board Member; and Texas rancher.

 


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

 

Hi (name withheld   ,

Glad you enjoyed the reading. Just for the record, we have no problem with that if you bring your own Bible. The problem is the VA, as part of the government, cannot be promoting one religious belief system over others. So unless they make holy books, tracts and religious publications representing all belief systems available, they’re in violation of not only the law but also military regulations.

Since this question has gotten you thinking, you might spend some time reading the U.S. Constitution. Unlike Lenin and Stalin, we’re not about destroying books, we’re only interested in protecting the Constitution and people’s right to believe as they choose.

Best,

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Response from MRFF Supporter Mike Challman

 

Hello again, (name withheld) –

I know you’ve already received a response from BGen Compere, who has described the errors of your position more succinctly and effectively than I ever could. Still, I’d like to share a couple thoughts of my own since you and I did have some prior correspondence.

In my view, and aside from the obvious Constitutional issues already articulated by the general, you make two fundamental flaws in your argument:

Flaw 1 – You are not personally offended

The key issue is not, and has never been, about ‘offensiveness’. It is only about ‘appropriateness’ — specifically, whether or not the time, place, and manner of promoting any sectarian religious belief by a governmental agency is appropriate. The MRFF does not challenge actions we consider personally offensive. We only challenge actions that are inappropriate from a Constitutional perspective.

Flaw 2 – It’s just a book, so what is the big deal?

The big deal is the principle that is threatened by the inappropriate promotion of any sectarian religious doctrine. I’m curious – you didn’t offer a cogent response to a question I asked you previously, about where you think the line should be drawn. My sense is that you don’t think there should be any line at all, but correct me if I am mistaken about your position.

—————

As for your attempt at a Lenin/Stalin comparison, that is ridiculous on its face. The MRFF has never challenged either the existence of any religious literature. And we have never challenged the rights of any citizen to hold any religious belief (or non-belief) – in fact, the truth is the opposite. We are firmly committed to defending those rights for every military member.

Thanks for taking the time to write to us again.

Peace, MC


 

 

 

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