Military Chaplains

I believe your organization should be upholding religious freedoms rather than trying to punish a

man of the Christian faith, a Military Chaplain for praising his God. This particular Military Chaplain,
Kenneth Reyes, quoted a distinguished Military General Dwight Eisenhower who later became
 a United States President.
I believe you have it backwards, your organization seems to be the bigots.
May God bless you.
(name withheld)

Response by MRFF Advisory Board Member John Compere
Dear (name withheld),
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation represents over 50,000 military members, veterans & civilians (96% of whom are Christians) who have requested that their American Constitution right to determine, enjoy & practice their own religious or non-religious beliefs be respected & protected. Our Christian clients do not want someone else’s version of Christianity imposed upon them. Our non-Christian clients do not want any version of Christianity imposed upon them. All object to being publicly proselytized with another person’s religious beliefs in the government work place. We proudly represent them to ensure this precious American liberty of theirs (yours, ours & all Americans) is respected & protected.
 
There are military chapels on every military installation for those who choose to worship with military chaplains provided to serve them. Military chaplains are also available to provide spiritual support to those who seek it. Otherwise, military chaplains are bound by the same laws & regulations governing all military personnel.
 
Attached is a rational explanation in plain language of the factual, historical & lawful relationship between our Constitution, the military & any religion. Hopefully, you will find it informative.
 
Most Sincerely,
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
 

OUR CONSTITUTION, THE MILITARY & ANY RELIGION

 

The military mission is to defend our nation against its enemies – not promote a religion. The sworn military service oath is to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States…and bear true faith and allegiance to the same” – not to any religion or its writings. The Constitution prohibits our secular government or its representatives (which includes the military) from promoting a religion. The Department of Defense, for example, acknowledges our nation’s diversity of beliefs by publishing an official list of recognized religions for the military that includes 221 different faith groups.

 

Military service and pay are public whereas religion is private. Military personnel may privately practice a religion or no religion, but they may not lawfully use their military service or position to publicly promote private religious beliefs or impose them on other military members. This problem seldom arises when military leaders demonstrate intelligence, integrity and loyalty to the mission, oath, regulations and Constitution.

 

Those who disrespect and disregard our Constitution, their sworn service oath and military regulations subject themselves to disciplinary action. Additionally, a basic Constitution class and briefing on the legal significance of sworn oaths need to be mandatory. Those who choose not to support and defend our Constitution, honor their oath or follow regulations have the right to seek a career in the civilian sector for private pay.

 

The Constitution (1st Amendment) provides, respectively, a trinity of American religious liberties:

 

  1. Freedom from public religion – our secular government is prevented from “respecting ” an establishment of religion (favoring a religion). It is our right to be free from religion imposed by the government or its representatives;

 

  1. Freedom of private religion – our secular government is prevented from “prohibiting” the free exercise of religion. It is our right to practice any religion or no religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans; and

 

  1. Freedom of speech about religion – our secular government is prevented from “abridging” freedom of speech. It is our right to speak or write about religion. It does not include the right of the government or its representatives to impose religious speech or writing on Americans.

 

There should be no misunderstanding about the operative verbs above (common sense clue – first read them and then read their definitions in an American dictionary).

 

World history confirms the catastrophic conflicts and human harm caused for centuries throughout Europe when governments and religion are combined. 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 was clearly the intent of our Founders as confirmed by the Constitution, indisputably documented by 3 centuries of public records, acknowledged publicly by every President, continuously confirmed by the Judiciary, and permanently embedded in the law of our land. Consequently, individual religious freedom flourishes in America.

 

The Constitution contains no deity references and commands “no religious test ” shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust. History also records there were no public prayers provided during the 116 days of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. 

 

Simply stated, we Americans have the right to our own religious or non-religious beliefs, but we must respect the right of others to determine and enjoy their beliefs (common sense clue – the same right we cherish for ourselves). This is timeless universal wisdom predating institutional religion, known as the “GOLDEN RULE” and reportedly preached by Jesus in every New Testament version (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). The self-righteous obsession of radicalized religionists to publicly force their private religious beliefs on others without extending them this basic human liberty exhibits the height of hypocrisy, rejects all moral teaching and creates continuous conflict.

 

These are factual, historical and lawful truths unqualified history deniers and revisionists with self-serving sectarian agendas intentionally ignore and dishonestly dispute. They are entitled to their own ill-advised opinions, but never to their own facts, history, law and truth.

Enlightenment Philosopher VOLTAIRE wisely observed “The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.

 

American Philosopher WILL ROGERS’ public perception remains relevant today – “There is no argument in the world that carries the hatred that a religious belief one does.”

 

1st Commander-in-Chief GEORGE WASHINGTON publicly respected freedom of belief – “It has been suggested that [the military chaplaincy] has a tendency to introduce religious disputes into the Army, which above all things should be avoided, and in many instances would compel men to a mode of Worship which they do not profess.”

 

3rd President THOMAS JEFFERSON penned the classic 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 their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion’…thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

 

Republican President RONALD REAGAN acknowledged this critical 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.

 

Christian Evangelist BILLY GRAHAM praised separation of church and state in a public sermon – “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.

 

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 Quentin D. Collins
I am a member of the MRFF National Advisory Group and as such Mikey asked me if I would like to respond to you.  Now before I address your concern let me set the stage, first off I retired recently from the US Army where I was assigned as a Chaplain.  After thirty-three years and a lot of blood sweat and tears I eventually became a Command Chaplain who’s responsibility was to advise commanders and train as well as keep more junior Chaplains out of trouble.  In addition to the above I am a born again, spirit filled Christian who absolutely applauds the efforts of Mikey.  Now understand I have spent 47 months in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq and having been wounded twice I personally know what happens when Religion is the focus of a military.  What I mean by that, is Government is an offshoot of religion in those countries which causes a lot of problems with the way they execute the war.  When zealots move up in power and standing then more injuries and death follow.  A state sponsored religion has historically been antithetical to a positive and well maintained military.  
 
Now for your concern, Ch (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes and his article in Elmendorf where he quoted from General Dwight D Eisenhower was not appropriate for a base publication that is the voice of the commander.  Chaplains have and are not restricted from telling others about their beliefs or non-beliefs so long as it is done at the right time and place.  You hear a lot from the very far right about Chaplains being restricted and I am here to tell you we have a free reign when we know our limits.  Case in point I have been asked and have lead several people to the Lord and have held a few in my arms as they died professing their faith as they passed – so I know there is a need and a place for Chaplains.  Now if Ch (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes could have sent out a newsletter from the Chapel that is placed anywhere they would like that are voluntarily accessed by people who would like to read them, that would be fine.  Where this Chaplain erred was the assumption that “there are no Atheists in foxholes” on a Command sponsored publication (the voice of the commander).  I can tell you that is not true (both in this publication and General Eisenhower’s statement) there are many Atheists in foxholes and elsewhere in the military, I have even served under Commanders that were Atheists. So these people would be offended by assuming that statement as fact.  Had he just spoke in the General area of belief and opportunity then nothing would have been said.  
 
Understand I have nothing to gain or lose by inserting myself into this discussion I was trying to give an understanding of what a Chaplains role should be.  In closing I am curious if you would be equally aghast had a Rabbi given the Old Testament conviction of slaying everything in a town that contained “enemys” as in Deuteronomy 7:1-3.  So in a pluralist society like the military we must remember there are a plethora of beliefs or non-beliefs and we as Chaplains have the unique opportunity to be there for all military, DoD Civilians and their Families.  By stating that there are no atheists blocks that group out from seeking assistance from some who can be a spokesman (or woman) for the aggrieved individual so that they (the aggrieved) would not have repercussions for whatever they sought the Chaplain out to assist with.

Respectfully,

Quentin D Collins, US Army Chaplain (Colonel – Retired) PhD, CPC, ELI-MP
Military Religious Freedom Foundation, National Advisory Member


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