A display of the birth of Jesus (also known as a crèche) has been placed near the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (“MCRD”) San Diego chapel each year during the month of December. While such displays are commonly erected in front of homes and various businesses to celebrate the holiday season, it clearly promotes the Christian faith over other religions – many of which celebrate holidays other than Christmas during the same time of year. On behalf of 27 active duty, retired, and veteran Marines assigned to or otherwise affiliated with MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) – San Diego, MRFF Legal Affairs Coordinator Tobanna Barker contacted Brig. Gen. William M. Jurney, Commanding General- Western Recruiting Region on January 17, 2017 demanding permission for similar displays honoring the holidays celebrated by other religious faiths. Specifically, MRFF requested approval to also display a Menorah on the MCRD Chapel grounds. MRFF requested a response to this demand by January 31, 2017 in order to negotiate the details of the display and allow for its purchase or construction. The ACLU- of San Diego and Imperial Counties also submitted a letter to Brig. Gen. Jurney on January 17, 2017 requesting that MCRD immediately grant MRFF’s request on behalf of its 27 current and former USMC clients to place a Jewish display on the chapel grounds during the next holiday season.
On January 30, 2017, MCRD Staff Judge Advocate J.V. Munoz responded to MRFF stating that MCRD would “take the matter under advisement” to which MRFF responded that appeared to be a dismissal of our clients concerns and demanded how exactly this matter would be taken under advisement. MCRD Staff Judge Advocate Munoz replied on February 10, 2017 that “Your demand to erect a Jewish holiday display is premature….” and maintaining that MCRD operations were in full compliance with the U.S. Constitution, federal, state, and local law “in every aspect”. The Staff Judge Advocate also deflected MRFF’s demand for an explanation on the meaning of ‘under advisement’ by claiming attorney-client privilege, attorney work-product privilege, and FOIA exemptions. MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein publicly stated in several interviews that answer was unacceptable both to his organization and to the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
After months of persistence on this matter by Mikey/MRFF, the new MCRD Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Suzan F. Thompson informed MRFF via email on November 1, 2017 that:
In April 2017 the Depot’s SOP for Depot Facilities Management was amended to include the following language: “Any display aboard MCRD San Diego must be mission related, temporary, and requires G-4 approval before being emplaced.” This language was inserted to create a “process,” where previously there had been none. Although not explicitly included in the Order, any request having to do with religious displays (as opposed to simple signage) would also be routed through my office for a legal/ethical opinion. To date, there have been no requests for holiday displays of any type routed pursuant to this process.
MRFF believes that this resolution in regards to religious displays is entirely fair and satisfactory. Furthermore, it is MRFF’s profound belief that (in glaring and stark contrast to the multitude of statements from unconstitutionally privileged religious fundamentalist that MRFF is anti-Christian), this resolution allows what MRFF has always sought to achieve for our clients: A fair playing field where, despite the sanctimonious wailing of religious persecution from unconstitutionally privileged religious interests, everyone must ‘Share Their Toys’ when deployed within all U.S. Military environments.