March 29, 2018
MRFF Intervention Leads to Immediate Cancellation of Commander’s Planned Proselytizing Effort Via Sectarian Religious Message to Unit
MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein was contacted by 11 active duty military members of multiple faiths who were denied assistance by their chain of command in stopping a highly inappropriate, unconstitutional, and divisive ‘Easter Message’ from their commanding officer. The commander’s actions were described in an email from a representative of the 11 MRFF clients:
Last week in a regularly scheduled meeting (unit commander’s name and rank withheld) announced that he wanted to send an “Easter Message” to the entire unit which stressed “Christ’s sacrificial Grace in His suffering”. The Roman’s torture of Christ being whipped and then crucified were to be highlighted. Our commander asked us to title his message as “He Is Risen” and have it sent on his behalf in hard copy to all (unit name withheld) soldiers.
We were (curse word withheld) shocked at this! And respectfully tried to tell our (name, rank and title of unit commander withheld) that he could not do this. He seemed even more shocked than we were and asked us “why not?” There were many answers to his question. To start with we told him that not all the soldiers in our unit were Christians. He told us that “that is the point of the message”. We said nothing but he looked surprised. Then he said “ok just send it to the Christians” in our unit. We asked him how we were supposed to find out who was and who wasn’t a Christian. He said “well just ask them all”. We tried to tell him that that was also wrong but he insisted and started to get mad. Then he said to include the “atheists” because they don’t have a faith and “would have no cause to complain.”
(Name and rank of fellow soldier at the meeting withheld) happens to be Jewish. I asked (commander’s name and rank withheld) if he would also issue a message to our unit for Passover which is Friday March 30th. He said no. I asked him why not? He said “because I’m not Jewish that’s why not. I’m Christian.”
After attempting to reason with their commander about this blatantly unconstitutional display of sectarian religious superiority and preference failed, these MRFF clients and active duty members of the U.S. Military sought assistance from their unit’s senior NCO (non-commissioned officer) in addressing this matter. The senior NCO “told us to do what the commander said to do and distribute his Easter message.”
In a statement issued on March 29, 2018, Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman, Chaplain (Colonel) (Ret.) USAF noted that this particular commander’s unconstitutional actions, and the complicit behavior of others with the chain of command, are neither new nor unique:
When I was a Jewish chaplain stationed at the United States Air Force Academy, Jewish cadets came to me with a flyer that had been shoved under their doors which in essence read, “He is risen.” The flyer was distributed on Easter morning; and every cadet woke to find one of these under the doors of their rooms. I went to the Southern Baptist chaplain who I believed encouraged this breach of military regulations and protocol and I complained to him that this was not the United States Air Force’s Christian Academy but that it was the United States Air Force Academy. He responded that he could not control the actions of the cadets of his denomination and, in so many words, told me to just “bite the bullet.”
Exhortations to a particular religious denomination or belief are not appropriate if one’s goal is unit cohesion. They are contrary to the military’s accomplishing its missions; they divide people along religious lines and disrupt the unity necessary for survival on the battlefield.
The results of MRFF’s intervention on behalf of these 11 clients was detailed in the email that described this unnecessary and highly divisive situation:
Mr. Weinstein made some calls to our commander’s chain of command. We don’t hear anything for a few hours after calling the MRFF. But then (name, rank and title of unit’s senior NCO) came by & told us to “forget about (unit commander’s name and rank withheld) Easter message” as it had just been cancelled. He told us nothing else. Funny because before calling the MRFF we had asked him to help us out here and change (name and rank of unit commander withheld) mind about this. And he told us to do what the commander had said to do and distribute his Easter message.
I and my fellow battle buddies are extremely thankful for the MRFF’s help with this stupid situation. This cancellation of our (unit’s name withheld) commander’s Easter message only happened yesterday and so far no one has seen him. Some of us (me too) are afraid he will be crazy mad and try to take it out on us later on. He knows it was all of us who complained to the MRFF. If any of that happens we will call the MRFF right away and won’t hesitate like this last time. Thank you for what you did to help us. And for all you do.