I want to take this time to personally thank you sincerely for the way that the many generations in your family have chosen to serve this country and selflessly defend her. The many freedoms that we Americans enjoy today, came at a great, bloody cost, and we must never forget this. In this same spirit, I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Independence Day celebration tomorrow.
Be assured that I am praying that God would grant you His wisdom concerning your activities in which you seek to establish legitimacy for the common misconception of the separation between Church and State. As was made very clear in Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists on the 1st of January, 1802, he was merely quoting the Establishment Clause, when he provided his interpretation of, “thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” Thomas Jefferson did not intend for the Establishment Clause to be used as a basis for attacking the Christian faith. On the contrary, he was reaffirming that the government has no business meddling in the affairs of the Church. At the same time, there is no specific endorsement of the Christian faith as pertaining to its favoring over other religions or faiths.
It is commonly known that the Puritans came to this country to escape religious persecution from the British government, which mandated that all Britons follow only the Anglican church, the Church of England.
What we understand from most of the founding fathers of this nation, is that they had a strong faith in God, and recognized and affirmed in documents for all time, that without God, we would not have the referenced inalienable rights. In addition, many have found great solace and have received spiritual healing and peace that cannot be quantified, simply because a Gideon New Testament Bible was available to them at a most difficult time in their lives.
The Christian faith is not about oppression or coercion; rather, Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment than this.” Such a tenet spells doom for narcissism, and gives proof that devout Christians, led by the Holy Spirit, seek malice toward none, and have love for all, even their worst enemies, as seen in Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.
Also, I would like to call your attention to a verse which I am sure you can identify with from your military service. John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
As with any group, there are followers who are more passionate and/or devout than others, Christianity notwithstanding. However, I can assure you that a true follower of Christianity, sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit, does not behave as the world does. Instead, such followers take to heart everything that their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded of them. The moniker of ‘Christian’ means, ‘of or belonging to Christ’.
To deny access to the Scriptures, is to render a great injustice to those who are hurting on such a deep level, those who can only receive true peace and comfort from the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. Who is one man [or even many] to say that another person should be prevented from such?
In closing, I also challenge you to read the Scriptures (the Holy Bible, God’s Word) with an open heart, open mind, and open spirit. If you test God in this, He will not fail you.
Response from MRF Advisory Board Member John Compere
Dear (name withheld),
I do not know your legal training, education or qualifications, but your statements about the Constitution and its application indicate a total lack of factual, historical & lawful knowledge. As one who has served over 50 years in the legal, judicial & military professions, I have prepared attachments 1 & 2 for your benefit. Hopefully, you will find them informative.
I do not know your religious training, education or qualifications, but your conclusions about Christianity indicate naive presuppositions not consistent with history or reality. As one who was born, raised, educated & certified to teach biblical history as an American Christian, I have prepared attachments 3 & 4 for your benefit. Hopefully, you will also find them informative.
Thank you for your inquiry.
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, Texas rancher
CELEBRATE OUR AMERICAN CONSTITUTION
United States Constitution Day is our national observance on September 17 commemorating the day in 1787 the American Constitution was signed by 39 Founders during the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. Federal law requires federally funded educational institutions and federal agencies to provide concurrent Constitution educational programming. However, public literacy is sadly lacking.
Knowledge is gained only through independent educational, historical, governmental, judicial or legal sources – never from unqualified history deniers and revisionists with self-serving religious agendas deliberately distorting our secular founding document, its history and lawful application.
The Constitution, like bibles, is invoked superficially but seldom substantively. Both are regularly referenced but rarely read. Our Constitution, unlike bibles, was written in English and is available for accurate interpretation. No original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek biblical texts exist – only copies of copies of copies composed and corrupted by parochial clergy from questionable translations making credible construction problematic and literal interpretation meaningless.
The Constitution Preamble states the 6 secular reasons our nation was established for “We the People”. The Constitution is the original legal document creating our secular form of government, its organization and operation. The Bill of Rights (first 10 Amendments) contains individual liberties for Americans.
Our secular Constitution provides 3 separate and equal government branches as a check and balance on power. The legislative branch enacts law (Article I), executive branch executes law (Article II), and judicial branch interprets law with the exclusive power to decide all cases arising under the Constitution (Article III). When the Supreme Court decides a Constitution case, it becomes settled law and government branches, states and citizens must comply. The judicial doctrine of “Stare Decisis” (decision adherence) applies and the decision becomes legal precedent rarely re-litigated. This ensures American law is consistent and reliable.
Article V provides two ways to amend the Constitution: (1) constitutional convention requiring 2/3s of state legislatures to convene, agree and enact the same amendment, then ratification by 3/4s of all states (has never happened); or (2) amendment enactment by 2/3s of the Senate and House of Representatives, then ratification by 3/4s of all states (all 27 amendments). It cannot be amended by citizen petition.
The original secular mottoes created by our Founders in 1782 are: “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many One) – on first coins; “Novos Ardo Seclorum” (New Order of the Ages); and “Annuit Coeptis” (Undertakings Favored).
The 1776 Declaration of Independence, which is not law, used universal terms recognized by all religions (“Laws of Nature”, “Nature’s God”, “Creator” and “Divine Providence”). They were 18th Century Deism expressions commonly used by author Thomas Jefferson, a Deist, and other Deist Founders.
The Constitution contains no religious deity reference and commands “no religious test ” shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust (Article VI). American history documents no public prayers were provided during the 116 days of the secular Constitutional Convention.
World history records the catastrophic conflicts and human harm caused for centuries throughout Europe when governments and religion were combined and dependent. Separation of church and state is a fundamental liberty of free people that keeps public government out of private religion and private religion out of public government. It was clearly the intent of our Founders as provided by the Constitution and its 1st Amendment, indisputably documented by countless historic records, publicly acknowledged by every President, continuously confirmed by the Judiciary, and firmly embedded in the established law of our land. Consequently, religious freedoms flourish in America.
We became the first nation in history with a Constitution that lawfully protects independent freedom of belief. The Founders, as shown by their actions, knew individual liberty of conscience could not exist without separating government and religion.
The 1st Amendment provides, respectively, our historic trinity of religious liberties:
Freedom from public religion – our 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;
Freedom of private religion – our government is prevented from “prohibiting” the free exercise of religion. It is our right to practice religion or no religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans; and
Freedom of speech about religion – our 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 can be no misunderstanding about the operative verbs above (first read them and then read their definitions in any American dictionary).
It is fact, history and law we were created by the Constitution (1787) as an independent secular nation and not one based on religion. This was confirmed by the First Amendment (1791) and settled by the Treaty of Tripoli (1797), a publicly recorded and preserved international legal document, boldly declaring to the world “…THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS NOT IN ANY SENSE FOUNDED ON THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION…”. It was negotiated during 1st President George Washington’s administration, unanimously ratified by the US Senate, and signed by 2nd President John Adams. The US Consul to Algiers, Joel Barlow (Washington appointee & American Revolution chaplain), negotiated the treaty, co-authored the Arabic version signed in Tripoli during Washington’s presidency, and authored the English version ratified and signed in the US during Adams’ presidency.
Our nation’s diversity of beliefs is acknowledged in countless and continuous ways. The Department of Defense, for example, publishes an official list of recognized religions for the military alone that includes 221 different faith and belief groups.
It is significant the independent eagle was selected as our national symbol. Eagles are free and fearless like the courageous Founders. You find them one at a time and, unlike submissive species, they do not flock or follow. As loyal and patriotic Americans, may we become more like the noble eagle and less like herded sheep.
The very definition of a republic is a nation “of laws, and not of man.” – 2nd President John Adams (“Thoughts on Government”, 1776).
“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.” – 3rd President Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress, January 1, 1802).
“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.” – 40th President Ronald Reagan (public speech at Valley Stream, New York, on October 26, 1984).
“We enjoy the separation of church and state, and no sectarian religion has ever been and we pray God, will ever be imposed on us.” – Christian Evangelist Billy Graham (public sermon, Washington National Cathedral, 1985).
Retired Army airborne officer, retired trial lawyer, retired US judge, disabled American veteran (Vietnam) and Texas rancher
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 alone that includes 221 different faith and belief 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 impose their private religious beliefs 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, our trinity of American religious liberties:
- 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;
- 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
- 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 can be no misunderstanding about the operative verbs above (first read them and then read their definitions in any American dictionary).
World history confirms the catastrophic conflicts and human harm caused for centuries throughout Europe when governments and religion were combined and dependent. 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 the intent of our Founders as clearly contained in the Constitution and 1st Amendment, 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, our trinity of religious freedoms flourish in America.
The Constitution contains no religious deity reference 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 (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 religious agendas intentionally ignore and dishonestly dispute. They are entitled to their ill-advised opinions, but never to their own facts, history, law and truth.
Enlightenment Philosopher VOLTAIRE rationally reflected – “The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.”
Christian Philosopher PASCAL wisely wrote – “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
American Philosopher WILL ROGERS’ observation remains relevant – “There is no argument in the world that carries the hatred that a religious belief one does.”
1st Commander-in-Chief GEORGE WASHINGTON acknowledged military 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 affirmed 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.”
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.
RELIGION & LIBERTY – A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Religion itself is neutral and amoral. When religion does good, it is positive and moral. When religion does harm, it is negative and immoral. When religion represents humility, compassion and tolerance, it is beneficial. When religion represents exclusivity, discrimination and intolerance, it is evil. When religion represents power, control and authority, it is corrupt. Benevolent believers use religion to spread their goodness. Bigoted believers use religion to spread their hatred.
Fear and ignorance caused prehistoric people to look to religion for life’s mysteries. Scientific knowledge provides those answers today. Modern people rely on religion for social reasons, hope of immortality or superiority over other creatures. Governments forcing or forbidding religion ultimately fail. Freedom from public religion and freedom of private religion or non-religion are fundamental liberties needed by free people. Our American and Texas Constitutions provide both.
World history confirms early civilizations created their own gods, sacred writings and religions their cultures perpetuate. Each claims it has the true ones to the exclusion of others. Naturalist religions have gods resembling humans, animals and elements. Egalitarian religions have gods resembling children, women and men. Patriarchal religions have gods resembling exclusively men. Here are self-evident truths:
- If horses had gods, they would resemble horses.
- If gods are only male, males are gods.
- When a male god made man in his image, man returned the favor.
- Mortals who claim to know the will of immortal gods have mortal agendas.
Religion is not universal to all civilizations. There are societies without any religion (e.g., Asian Chinese, African Hadza & South American Piraha).
In freedom loving countries with religion, religious belief is a private right not a public obligation. Such beliefs are subjective opinions as diverse as believers. There is no uniformity in religion. Christianity, for example, has more than 40,000 varieties worldwide (over 2,000 in the USA alone) with major disagreements on biblical versions and translations, creeds, doctrines, rituals, liturgies, prayer, baptism, clergy gender, life beginning, human equality, freewill or predestination, divinity of Jesus, one deity (1st Commandment mandated monotheism) or a trinity of deities (non-biblical pagan polytheism).
My late Dad, a stoic West Texan, opined “God created humans with reason and the earth with resources. God’s work is done. It’s our job to take care of each other and our planet.” History shows the greatest obstacle to progress has been institutional religion. Irrational reliance on supernatural individual immortality ignores earthly reality that our immortality is fulfilled through descendants.
Pew Research Center surveys shows 25% of Americans claim no religion (more than any religious denomination) and 39% of Millennials (age 20-35). Less than 1/3 believe being Christian is important to being American. Those who say religion is not important, do not attend church, pray or want a religious funeral (cremations surpass burials) are increasing. Institutional religion is receding and human secularism is spreading.
Catastrophic conflicts occur when individuals or groups attempt to force their religion on everyone else. It reflects primitive tribalism and clannish rivalry (“My beliefs are better than yours”) and has caused more human harm, misery, oppression, suffering, torture, injury, death and genocide than all other man-made causes combined.
The obsessive self-righteousness of religionists to publicly force their private beliefs on others without respecting the right of others to determine and enjoy their own beliefs is the height of hypocrisy (religionists defiantly demand this for themselves). It remains a paramount problem plaguing our communities, nation and world.
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” – Christian Philosopher BLAISE PASCAL
“Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them. ” – American Humorist MARK TWAIN
“It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others…..we are bound, you, I, and every one, to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience.” – 3rd President THOMAS JEFFERSON
“We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. 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. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not…” – 40th President RONALD REAGAN
“Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist. Gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the right of all of us to live according to our conscience.” – US Senator TED CRUZ
Retired Army airborne officer, trial lawyer & US judge; disabled veteran
MORAL BEHAVIOR vs MORTAL BELIEFS
Human morality consists of benevolent behavior actually lived – not passively accepting borrowed beliefs from religious hearsay. Moral living requires hard work with effort, whereas believing religious claims requires only compliant conformity with no effort. World philosophers beginning with Socrates have long maintained that morality is autonomous. In their words, we must do our moral thinking and living for ourselves.
World history confirms the three Abrahamic revealed religions proclaimed behavior over beliefs. Old Testament Judaism emphasized righteous behavior not right beliefs. Jesus of New Testament Christianity preached compassionate behavior not correct beliefs. Muhammad in the Islamic Quran commanded faithful behavior not false beliefs.
For example, some believe an immortal male deity authored or inspired the various biblical versions, came to Earth disguised as a mortal male from somewhere in the sky and was murdered by mortal males in accordance with his own biblical prophecy. If so, he was the victim of himself.
A prehistoric myth of a six day creation 6,000 years ago, talking snake, evil devil, Hebrew deity and two original humans as well as the biologically impossible virgin birth, barbaric sacrificial atonement salvation, gravity defying bodily resurrection and unintelligible trinity math of 3 equal 1 but 1 equals 3 are more examples of dated dogma concocted by unlearned foreign males promoting pre-scientific religious concepts countless centuries ago and still accepted today by religious believers who choose not to think or question.
Beginning in the 4th Century, foreign theologians composed belief creeds they preferred over moral conduct. These digressive dogmas were designed to govern the gullible and control the compliant. Ancient religious doctrines are always problematic because they were composed by primitive males during primitive times in primitive societies to exploit primitive people. They are primitive products devoid of centuries of indisputable scientific knowledge and advanced human intelligence.
There is no better illustration of an antiquated man-made doctrine than fictitious “original sin” not mentioned in any biblical version. A guilt-ridden 4th Century African man named Augustine rationalized the scriptural talking snake, first couple and Hebrew deity were to blame for his youthful misconduct instead of taking personal responsibility for admitted immoral behavior (“Confessions ”, 400 C.E.). It was shamelessly self-serving. His foolish fabrication is still used by patriarchal churches and chauvinist clergy to exploit fearful followers through fallacious sin. They callously condone an African misogynist male’s decadent debauchery and unrepentant mistreatment of women while ignoring the positive biblical story where woman and man were created equally “in the image of God”…“and it was very good. ” (Genesis 1:27&31).
The obsolete Nicene Creed is another example. It is a regressive religious relic still recited by rote in worship services that does not even mention the moral life and teachings of Jesus.
Independent studies have shown there is no significant difference in the moral judgments of nonbelievers and believers. Some religionists mistakenly assume morality does not exist apart from religion. That is simply not true. History documents that human morality predates institutional religion and consists of benevolent behavior not bewildering beliefs. Morality reflects gracious human living whereas antiquated religious beliefs represent only indoctrinated human opinion. It is a self-evident truth benevolent believers use religion to spread goodwill whereas bigoted believers use religion to spread badwill.
May we reflect the best moral behavior in our private and public lives. May we also respect the right of fellow human beings to determine, enjoy and practice their own religious or non-religious beliefs and refrain from self-righteously imposing our beliefs on them. After all, that is the same precious individual liberty we cherish for ourselves. It is universally recognized as the “Golden Rule” predating organized religion and reportedly preached by Jesus in every New Testament version (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). It also is the reason our visionary founders provided both freedom from public religion and freedom of private religion or no religion in our federal and state constitutions.
“So many wars and strife are borne out of opposing religious views. If people don’t have kindness, respect, tolerance, and compassion at the core of their beliefs, then their religion is pointless.” – ANNIE LENNOX
“The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.” – VOLTAIRE
“True virtue is life under the direction of reason.” – SPINOZA
“God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.” – ROUSSEAU
“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” – MARK TWAIN
“The good life is one guided by reason and motivated by love.” – BERTRAND RUSSELL
“Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived.” – OSCAR WILDE
“The best theology is no theology at all; just love one another. ” – CHARLES SHULZ
“…compassion is more important than religion.” – THE DALAI LAMA
“God Gave Us Reason, Not Religion ” – WORLD UNION OF DEISTS
a retired trial lawyer, retired US judge, retired Army airborne officer, disabled veteran (Vietnam), and Texas rancher
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
Dear (name withheld),
Thank you, at the very least, for your acknowledgement of the Weinstein family’s service to the country. It has continued, may I say, far beyond that which you’ve chosen to recognize.
I was sorry, may I say, to see how quickly the disarming tone of your opening became yet another, if slightly more graceful, version of the usual hyper-Christian nonsense about the ‘real’ intentions of the Founders of our nation, complete with assertions about attacks on ‘the true faith’ and all the other stuff promoted by people so weak in their belief that they twist history in order to strengthen their martyrdom fantasies.
Whatever it is you’ve chosen to take from our common history, the conclusions you’ve carefully selected are clearly intended to serve your satisfaction with the belief system of your choice. That, of course, is your privilege. And, along with the Weinsteins, all of us associated with the MRFF are happy for you if it fulfills your needs.
We, on the other hand, are people of many belief systems, including, as Mr. Weinstein has made clear, a large percentage of Christians. Among us we share the joy of knowing that the Founders had the good sense to establish a separation of church and state that allows true freedom of choice, a freedom to believe or not believe, to all, without fear or favor, and, therefore, without the implication of the ‘rightness’ or ‘correctness’ of a particular belief system.
For us, you see, there is no need to proselytize. We see no more likelihood of the achievement of “solace,” “spiritual healing and peace” from the (inappropriate) placing of a Gideon New Testament Bible in military quarters than would result from a book about the musings of “Peanuts.” And placement of the latter would be at once far more appropriate and at the same time less distressing to those not Christian.
Given the tenor of the times, I must say I was struck by one point you made in your earnest pleading. You suggest that “love your neighbor as yourself,” as you put it, “spells doom for narcissism.” Aside from the fact that the phrase pre-dates Jesus, which he was paraphrasing from the Hebrew Bible, it hasn’t done much to “doom the narcissism” so evident in the Christian hero currently residing in the White House. That might be a more deserving project for you.
But back to your point. The MRFF does not “deny access to the Scriptures” and it does not object to the practice of anyone’s faith or lack thereof. It simply insists that the faith practices called for be done in the proper time, place and manner and not be done in a way that either forces an unwanted belief system on a member of the military or promotes or appears to promote one belief system over others.
Your ending “challenge” is neither necessary nor appropriate. It suggests a sense of superiority on your part that is neither becoming nor particularly fitting for one who pretends to follow Jesus.
(MRFF Board of Advisors)
Response from MRFF Supporter Mike Challman
Good Day, (name withheld) –
You may have already heard from some of my MRFF colleagues, but after reading your email it’s important to me that I respond with my thoughts, too. In addition to being a longtime MRFF supporter, I’m also a lifelong and active Christian, a USAF veteran, and a USAF Academy graduate (Class of ’85). The reason I want to share my perspective is that, while you seem to be a sincere and honest individual, your commentary on the relationship between government and religion in America seems skewed to me. I hope you will consider what I have to say, as I do understand where you are coming from — in fact, I used to say very similar things.
Your assumption that the MRFF exists for the purpose of “attacking the Christian faith” or to “deny access to Scripture” is simply wrong. If it were true, you would not find Christians such as myself supporting the organizations efforts… and there are many of us here. You are right to highlight the Establishment Clause as the critical Constitutional protection for ALL American citizens of ALL manner of belief and non-belief. I’d ask you to consider that the Establishment Clause is intended to put all of those varied beliefs (including non-belief) on a level playing field, so that no specific belief/non-belief is given preference or prominence by our government. As well, the fact that many members of our founding generation were people of faith in no way leads to a conclusion that their beliefs should be recognized or affirmed by our government in a particular way.
You are absolutely spot-on to acknowledge that there are some individuals, including a not-inconsequential number of our fellow Christians, who allow their passion and devotion to their beliefs to cloud their respect for the rights and privileges of those who believe differently. So while you and I may agree that “the Christian faith is not about oppression or coercion”, we have Christian compatriots who would disagree with us. When an individual holding this flawed opinion is in a position of authority within the US military, and takes some action to use the color of his or her authority to promote a personal religious belief, it creates very real and very serious issues for subordinate military members. The MRFF exists to advocate for those subordinates in response to misguided, official or quasi-official ACTIONS (and not the personal beliefs) of military leaders.
Since, as I’ve said, you strike me as a sincere and honest individual, I’d like to issue to you a challenge of my own….
If you were a leader in today’s military — and I define leader as any military member who outranks any other member(s), could you allow your subordinates to hold whatever personal religious belief (including non-belief) they wish to hold…. without any sort of input, suggestion, or interference from you?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to that challenge, then I commend you for recognizing that America is a pluralistic nation of many religious beliefs (including non-belief) and that every citizen, and particularly every U.S. military member, has a Constitutional right to his or her own particular beliefs, even if those beliefs conflict with our own.
On the other hand, if you cannot answer ‘yes’, then I would respectfully suggest that you’ve put your finger on the heart of the matter requiring the existence of a Constitutional advocacy group such as the MRFF.
Thanks again for writing.
Christian, USAF veteran, MRFF supporter