Thank you MRFF

From: (name withheld)
Date: June 2, 2018 at 4:35:38 PM MDT
To: Michael L Weinstein <[email protected]>
Subject: Thank you MRFF

I, name withheld, have faithfully served my country for over (number withheld)  years including (number withheld)  years active duty military.  I would like to personally thank Mikey Weinstein and the entire MRFF team for pursuing my case to a swift resolution.   I’ve previously donated to MRFF to aid in the preservation of servicemembers’ First Amendment rights.  I didn’t think I’d ever have a case to refer to MRFF myself, but I wanted to support the important work for others.  I have chosen to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals, retribution or retaliation.

 

I currently work at National Maritime Intelligence Center (NMIC) in Suitland, Maryland.  Recently while a co-worker was showing me how to get to an office in another wing of the building, I saw something that turned my stomach.  Outside the Executive Conference Center, in large (4” tall) metallic letters that stood out from the wall and twice spanned width of the 8’ passageway was a Bible verse. “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Nehemiah 6:3 (NIV).” I was raised a Protestant Christian in the Deep South, but in all the years since I first swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, I had never come across something so blatantly in violation of the First Amendment in the workplace.  I couldn’t believe they thought they could get away with it, but maybe they thought no one would report it because it is inside a secure location.  It also violates the Navy Core Value of Commitment which states that it is the duty of every member to “show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion, or gender.”

 

I was shocked and hurt and angry the first time I saw the sign and went back later for further context.  I saw a framed pen-and-ink portrait of a woman wearing a cross and a document to the left side of hall where the words were unavoidably affixed.  The document explained that Angela Houtz was one of the eight members of the Office of Naval Intelligence who died at the Pentagon on 9/11.  It went on to say that the above Bible verse was posted on her bedroom mirror at home to remind her daily of the importance of the mission and her work.  Angela’s service and sacrifice are to be honored and emulated, but the key piece of information here is that she kept that Bible verse at her home as a reminder and did not post it at her office. Instead, the list of principles found in her desk after her death include such statements as “care about each other as individuals.”  I honor and value the contributions of all shipmates even if (and especially if) their religion is different than mine. We all raised our right hands and swore an oath and would literally die for each other and America. It breaks my heart that one of the thousands of shipmates who work at NMIC felt less welcome or felt like their contribution somehow is less significant because they worship a different god or no god at all when they walked past that sign every day for the many years the sign has been installed.

 

When I first contacted MRFF, I spoke to the researcher, Chris Rodda, about what I had seen and how it made me feel.  Without a photo, she naturally wanted to make sure I was a genuine client and not a person trying to get MRFF to complain about something that is not real.  When I spoke to Mikey a day later, I felt much more confident in sharing my identity and story with him because I was covered by attorney-client privilege.  I typed up a statement for Mikey to discuss with the commander of the facility, RADM Robert Sharp, to get resolution.  After some transferring of phone calls, Mikey was able to talk to a JAG officer at the facility who knew exactly what sign we were concerned about.  The JAG insisted the display was within regulations and promised to send a written response.  A few days later the response did come, and it emphasized that it was part of a display on mission and leadership including secular sources, so they felt it was OK.  I wrote back to Mikey that although there are other displays in the area, paintings and models from Navy history are ubiquitous in NMIC and therefore did not stand out as special.  Chris pointed out to Mikey that the Bible verse was attributed, but the other quote in the same hallway was not attributed according to the JAG officer’s rebuttal.

 

The officer seemed open to attributing both quotes to make them more equal in prominence.   Luckily Chris was on the case in this instance as well.  While the officer thought the quote (“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and become more, you are a leader “) was from John Quincy Adams, it’s first known use was actually a Dolly Parton book.   As a result of all of this diligent research, effort and follow-up by MRFF, the command has agreed to attribute the leadership quote to its correct author–Dolly Parton.  None of this would be possible without Mikey, Chris and the whole MRFF team.

 

(name, rank, duty status, assigned NMIC unit/office and all other identifiers of MRFF NMIC client withheld)

(phone number withheld)


 

 

 

 

 

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