The U.S. Army Band’s (a.k.a. “Pershing’s Own”) Brass and Percussion Ensemble performed on December 17, 2017 at the Washington D.C. Mormon Temple’s ‘Festival of Lights’. A client requested MRFF assistance regarding this performance based on the use of a military group to perform at a sectarian religious holiday event.
During each holiday season, MRFF receives a large number of inquiries regarding potential violation of pertinent regulations by performances held by U.S. military bands and ensembles at religious institutions. Based on MRFF’s review, in almost all cases MRFF informs our clients that these performances are in compliance since the performance isn’t part of a religious service and usually satisfies other criteria such as being free, open to the general public, and publicized to the general public.
MRFF’s review of this particular event found that the Washington D.C. Temple Festival of Lights blatantly and unquestionably promoted and endorsed a “religious or sectarian movement,” from both its website and the event description in its other promotional materials, which stated, among other things, that the event’s purpose is “to comemerate [sic] the birth of Jesus Christ.” MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein contacted Colonel Andrew J. Esch, Leader and Commander, The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” on December 22, 2017 informing him of the clear violation of AR 360-1, Section 3-2.b.(1) which clearly states:
“Public affairs activities will not support any event involving (or appearing to involve) the promotion, endorsement, or sponsorship of any individual, civilian enterprise, religious or sectarian movement, organization, ideological movement, or political campaign.” (emphasis added)
Based on this clear violation of this regulation along with other relevant DoD and Army regulatory provisions as well as the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, MRFF demanded these type of performances cease and desist and that Colonel Esch immediately and officially report this violation up the chain of command to ensure that a “repeat performance”, as it were, of this illicit, Christian, sectarian, promotion activity never again disgraces the good name of The U.S. Army Band.
On December 27, 2017, MRFF received the following email confirmation of with MRFF’s demands regarding this event along with appropriate corrective measures:
From: Zimmerman, Matthew C COL USARMY MDW (US)
Subject: Complaint Letter
Date: December 27, 2017
To: Mikey Weinstein
Thank you for your letter regarding The U.S. Army Band’s 17 December performance at the Festival of Lights. COL Esch has informed his commander, MG Michael Howard, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. Based on your concerns, MG Howard has directed a review of the Band’s participation in the event and will ensure you receive a follow up response.
COL Matt Zimmerman
Chief of Staff