Kansas Prayer Breakfast

To Military religious freedom,

I have just read the post and complaint against Major General Julie Benz, and I want to say that it is full of half truths and skewed opinion.

I was at that prayer breakfast. Major General Julie Benz did not state that her main goal was to evangelize! And her statement of “lifting everyone and their families up to the throne room of God” was for their PROTECTION …. NOT for their conversion! I felt proud and safe to have someone of her caliber of integrity and intelligence to be at the head of an organization protecting our homeland!

Having one person’s concerns brought public in this way and in this manner does not show that this organization holds the same integrity. It shows that your title of “protecting the religious freedom’s of our military” has its own biases.

To have personnel attack her in such a manner as actually made me lose a little faith in our states military.

Sincerely,

(name withheld)


Response from MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein

…Hi (name withheld)…thx for taking the time to reach out……sadly, you are woefully uninformed about MRFF I’m afraid…MRFF currently represents more than 50,200 active duty and veteran members of the U.S. armed forces, about 96% of whom are practicing Christians……we have 113 outraged active duty and civilian clients on this matter of the Topeka Prayer Breakfast alone……..and so you know, the majority of them are Christians themselves….you are certainly entitled to your own opinions but NOT your own facts, ma’am…..what Bentz did was clearly violative of, inter alia, the No Establishment Clause of the of Bill of Rights’ First Amendment as well as the No Religious Test mandated in Clause 3, Article VI of that very same U.S. Constitution…she also violated important DoD regulationss, instructions and directives….including the obvious endorsement of a Non Federal Entity which is the Prayer Breakfast’s sponsor; the Christian organization called the Topeka Fellowship Inc. …..her obvious and sectarian, Christian, exclusivist evangelizing speech-given at that specific time, place and manner- was a tragic example of the horrid “tyranny of the majority” and fundamentalist Christian supremacy, exceptionalism and triumphalism…if she were a private citizen we’d have no issue…but she is NOT, (name withheld)…she’s what is known as a STATE ACTOR wearing the uniform as a 2 star U.S. Army Major General….thus the rules about her conduct are TOTALLY DIFFERENT from those attendant to what a private American citizen might say (see the seminal 1974 U.S. Supreme Court case of Parker vs. Levy, 417 US 733) ….please do a little relevant and salient homework before you start casting stones at MRFF, good ma’am…..MRFF will be officially demanding that DoD aggressively investigate and appropriately punish her for these flagrant violations of her oath to the United States Constitution which seriously degraded the morale, good order, discipline and unit cohesion of “JIDO”, the organization she for which she serves in a titular command role as its Vice Director, as well as the whole of the U.S. military ..again, grateful that you took the time to write this morning…..best, Mikey Weinstein….……Founder and President. MRFF


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Joan Slish

(name withheld),

Mikey has asked me to respond to you.

As a retired Christian Pastor and MRFF Advisory Board Member, I find your statement “And her statement of ‘lifting everyone and their families up to the throne room of God” was for their PROTECTION …. NOT for their conversion!’ a weak and lame way to get around the laws put in place to keep any government entity from promoting one religion over another or appearing at a civilian prayer breakfast in military uniform.

Just because no one has been charged yet – according to our laws – doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

We are defenders of the Constitution (Separation of Church and State), Supreme Court rulings and the UCMJ.

“…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

According to your email you have acknowledged that she lifted up everyone and their families to the throne room of the Christian God.

“By Friday morning, Weinstein had found at least three other instances dating to 2011 in which Bentz said she relied on faith as a leader. Saying “it’s her job to bring everybody to Christ,” he said, is a “vicious violation” of the U.S. Constitution.”

Major General Benz, in uniform while holding the position of Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization with the DoD, is in violation of the Constitution, Reynolds v. US, Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Lemon Test and Parker v. Levy.

She has also made it clear that her job is to evangelize her Christian faith to her subordinates, whom are of other beliefs or non-beliefs, thus destroying unit cohesion and morale.

She is not a civilian Chaplain (such as you) and must abide by the above laws.

Contrary to what you may have heard 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 50,200+ soldier clients are mainline Christians and we fight for them more than any other belief or non-belief.

We have many honorable and distinguished military personnel whom we rely on for their expertise on religion in the military on our Board and Advisory Board, who continue to uphold their oath.

Foundation Voices

Check out our Mission Statement

Our Mission

As retired Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor said “But we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”

Just because Christianity is in the majority in America doesn’t mean it can be elevated above others in our secular military.

Joan Slish
MRFF Advisory Board Member


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member CH (COL-R) Quentin D Collins

(name withheld),

As a member of MRFF’s National Advisory Board, I would like to propose a question.  This question is simply would you have been in favor of say, an Imam or Rabbi or for that matter a General Officer proposing Humanist or Wiccan tenants?  You see when an event is held whereby – real or imagined – everyone must attend, is not a place to insinuate a faith.  Yes it is a prayer breakfast “sponsored” by command.  That is the rub, the term sponsored implies (in the military as well as formalized institutions – like your own – prisons and hospitals) that everyone should attend.  There would have been no issue had MG Bentz just said she was a Christian and prayed for her troops.  Nothing patronizing, nothing derogatory and nothing perceived as “out-of-the-ordinary”.  So keep in mind while you feel safe, and I do not begrudge you that,  what is the message? Are we ready for a tenth Crusade?  Is the military’s role to further the Gospel of Jesus?  See there are huge issues here.  I am a Born-Again, Spirit Filled Christian who weathered my faith through 47 months of combat in the current state.  Personally have been witness to the horrors of Religious War and I have been the recipient of the wrath it brings.  There is always a place for faith, prayer, accommodation and testimony.  At the tip of the spear is a questionable way to “convert” anyone.

Lastly may I formulate a hypothesis, let’s say you were a young Soldier that “made-the-cut” and now you are in the Army.  You went through a lot and even though you endured a number of indignities and hardships you decide to stay in and make the Army your career.  Do you think that this young Soldier wants to pin their hopes on a rising star or do you think they are better suited to “partner” with an average run-of-the-mill leader?’ When you can honestly, from your heart, answer this then you will understand the difficulty MG Bentz engaged in and the potential problems.

Respectfully,

Quentin D Collins, US Army Chaplain (Colonel – Retired), PhD, ELI-MP, CPC


Chaplain Collins,

Thank you for writing. I’m an ordained minister of the (Church withheld) and the Chaplain at (location withheld). In this facility I fight for the rights of ALL religions in the facility, so I am very familiar with standing for religious freedoms for everyone, not just Christian.

This is the part of the letter that I took issue with that was on your website: “but she must certainly misinterpret what her specific mission is when she says, “…my greatest privilege is standing in front of my King and my God, carrying every member of my organization to his throne and asking for his protection, his mercy, his love on each of them and their families and whatever are their concerns and burdens of the day.” Is her job to convert all of the employees, civilian and military, to her brand of charismatic catholicism or is it to lead the JIDO team towards effectively finding ways to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs)? Is she stating, in effect, that her brand of christianity is a necessary and sufficient counter to IEDs and that all other religious perspectives are, in effect, Improvised Religious Devices (IRDs) that are threats to our nation, culture, and order”

1. Who wouldn’t want any one of us, in uniform or not, praying for each other and the protection of our families? I ask the Native Americans, Islamic, Wiccans to all pray for me where I work. They are also thankful for me praying for them!

2. I never, not once, heard her state that she wished to convert anyone to Christianity. Why question what her job is? She clearly knows for her to do her job well, it must begin with prayer. When has praying for protection for someone turned into it becoming conversion practices? NO, she WASN’T stating that “her brand of Christianity is a necessary …..” that is just innuendo and hate talk that stirs up people to cry ‘fowl’! The author of this letter seems to have a personal vendetta.

3. I know from experience that everyone that is serious about their religion, especially if it is a way of life, not just a personal spiritual belief, that it will inform and express how we live, the choices we make, the code we live by. Her God apparently has worked very well in using her to protect ALL Americans, for the result is we haven’t had a nuclear strike. Plus she has come very far professionally and educationally, all while living out her beliefs.

4. I have only attended this prayer breakfast for three years, but have always seen a military presence there. In it’s approximately 50 years of existence, it surely has had others in uniform that spoke about their Christian beliefs.

5. You asked me this: “This question is simply would you have been in favor of say, an Imam or Rabbi or for that matter a General Officer proposing Humanist or Wiccan tenants? You see when an event is held whereby – real or imagined – everyone must attend, is not a place to insinuate a faith. Yes it is a prayer breakfast “sponsored” by command.” It has ALWAYS been a prayer breakfast sponsored by and having a guest speaker of the Christian faith that has had a large place of influence. It is advertised, paid for and promoted as such. Major General Benz was giving her “testimony”, NOT promoting the Christian faith as the ‘go-to’ so everyone should join, but as a WOMAN, who is a CHRISTIAN in an American government position protecting our country of ALL persons and faiths. It is not hidden or a secret or set up to trap anyone into thinking it is of any other faith. There is nothing that states from the Governor, who also spoke of his faith, or from the Topeka Men Fellowship that MAKES (must attend) anyone attend. There are no insinuations. It’s plain and simply a Christian prayer breakfast. If it was a Jewish, Islamic, Wiccan or Humanist prayer breakfast, it would be billed an paid for from and as such. All of the speakers that we have come to listen to have been Christian. Everyone that comes expects to hear a Christian testimony.

Why would anyone who comes to this event expect to hear anything other than this? It’s like someone who came, in uniform, was looking to see if Major General Benz would dare speak of her faith, knowing the context, so they could ‘throw her to the lions’. Yes, this reminds me of those in Daniel that wanted the kings to catch him worshiping anyone else but the king, knowing full well that he would.

Well, I am praying that Major General Benz is just as fully protected as Daniel was.

Sincerely,

(name withheld)


Response from MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein

(name withheld), I am sure we will have a more detailed reply to your response below… However, to start with please note that you are misspelling her name …it is spelled “Bentz”… The letter of her name is important but not as important as the letter of the law here… unfortunately, even though you are one YOURSELF, you do not seem to understand the salient difference between being a private citizen and being a “state actor”… When one is a state actor in the US military, department of defense regulations and the US Supreme Court case in Parker versus Levy, 1974, and other relevant cases strictly apply… I’m sorry but you’re out of your element and you do not know what you’re talking about… Meaning no offense… HG Wells once said “civilization is a constant race between education and catastrophe”… Your lack of specific education on this particular matter can lead to catastrophe… That is why we are representing our clients and will be formally demanding an investigation by  DOD and punishment of this Major General Bentz…if another military member wearing his or her uniform had spoken the same way at any other sectarian  event we would be doing the very same thing… But that is not the case as nearly 100% of the violators that we fight are evangelical fundamentalist Christians as in the instant  matter here… Thank you… Mikey

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3 Comments

  1. G

    JR, I would not talk about scriptural support since Connie is always whipping your butt

  2. G

    No, JR, it is you who takes things out of context, twist them, manipulate them, and flouts them like if they are the honest Gospel truth.

  3. G

    Yes, JR. you take them out of context and don’t know how to interpret scripture because it keeps biting you in the butt when Connie whips your butt.

    “No unbeliever can correctly interpret scripture because they do not have the Spirit of God within them.”

    Do you have proof to back up your statement, JR? Such a funny, stupid, illogical statement from a supposedly “highly educated person like you. Go back to religious, theologian school to get a proper education, but then again it would be a total waste of your money and time. As Connie as pointed out in one of the prior threads, the Nicaean Council which was established a long time ago, couldn’t agree on the correct interpretation of the Bible scriptures.

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