Merry Christmas

I am a retired US Army Sergeant who spent 25 years in the National Guard and on active duty. I am not going to use foul language or insults but I don’t agree with what your organization does particularly your war to take “Christ” out of Christmas. With all the serious issues facing our veterans your concerned over a Santa holding a sign saying God bless you and a beautiful manger scene where everyone can see it! Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and people need to realize its true meaning now more then ever and you are not helping at all. I was a chaplain’s helper when I was in Desert Storm and I am proud to call myself a servant of God as well as a proud veteran. I want to strongly disagree with you without being disagreeable, but you do not represent my views and I am sure MANY of my fellow veterans would tell you that as well. I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and I pray for you that you  will really think about what your doing and open your eyes before it’s too late. We all need God in our lives and that includes you.
An old Soldier who loves the Lord and is proud to serve him
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France
On Dec 22, 2019, at 7:07 PM, Martin France wrote:

(name withheld), 

First, let me thank you for your civil and well-written note to Mikey and the MRFF, as well as thanking you for your dedicated service to our nation and the Constitution.  As you might guess, we often get the most vile hate mail, so yours is a breath of fresh air during this holiday season.  I’m an advisory board member for the MRFF and occasionally respond to notes such as yours on behalf of Mikey and the MRFF–especially during busy seasons like this.
Next, let me assure you that the MRFF has no intention, nor the ability, to take Christ out of Christmas for any faithful Christian.  Frankly, that would impossible, don’t you agree?  I hope you’ll also agree, having served as a chaplain’s assistant, that while the government cannot and should not negatively influence the religious beliefs of those that serve in uniform, there are times and places in the military “workplace,” where public or leadership displays of a specific faith perspective (or a non-theistic perspective) would be inappropriate.  That, in fact, is the guidance that we swore defend as part of the Constitution–notably, the establishment clause that says that our government, and hence its organizations, can’t establish a specific religion endorsed by the state or show preference for one religion over another or no religion.  A commander or base organization led by an atheist, can’t refuse to serve Christians (or Jews or Muslims) not can it display or promote items or events that show preference for an atheist perspective over a theist view.
Now, I get that Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of this in large part because Christmas has become not just a religious holiday, but also a secular event with components that are not at all religious (or Christian) like a Christmas Tree, things like Yule logs, etc.  MANY, if not all, have no issue with Santa Claus and Christmas decorations and the secular side of Christmas because it excludes no one.  I have plenty of Muslim, Buddhist, and Atheist friends who shop on Black Friday and give Christmas presents because it’s become a global holiday of gift-giving and goodwill for all.  I think that’s kind of nice.  You probably do, too, realizing that this globalization of Christmas poses no threat to your closely held and sincere beliefs.
Now, here’s where things get sticky…  Places like the government run BX/PX/Navy Exchange system display lots of non-sectarian (or secular) Christmas decorations and lights.  As I said, those are inclusive and do nothing to establish or endorse a religious belief.  They mean different things to different people and everyone seems to like lights, tinsel, trees, gifts, etc.  BUT, and here’s the big but:  a government organization cannot endorse one perspective (with comments like “God Bless” assigned to Santa, or particular “Jesus Gifts”) because they support the view that Christianity is the government-endorsed religion or reason for the season.  You are welcome to think that, but the government CAN’T.
So, you can buy all of your Christian-themed goods at private, commercial outlets and put those all around your house with all of the Baby Jesus symbology you want–in your own private home or space.  Go for it.  I’ll defend your right to do that and served 37+ years doing so.  But, again, the government can’t pay for a manger scene and display “God Bless” signs in the workplace.
Finally, while you may believe sincerely that  “We all need God in our lives,” that is NOT a requirement to serve in our military–it can’t be based upon Article 6.  I personally don’t believe that I need a God or religion in my life, but if you do (as do many of my friends), then I respect your right to seek your Lord and worship as you see fit.  You see that, at the MRFF, we may not represent your views, but we do represent and defend your rights and respect them–all of the way until they infringe on the rights of others and impose your views on someone within the military community.
I hope this makes sense.  I also wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Thanks again for your email.
Marty France
Brigadier General, USAF (retired)
Advisory Board Member
Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
From: John Compere
To:  (name withheld)
Sent: Sunday, December 22, 2019, 8:15:31 PM CST
Subject: Fw: Merry Christmas
(name withheld),
First & foremost, thank you for your military service.
Please be advised the US Constitution, American law & US Armed Forces regulations prohibit our government, which includes the military & military exchanges, from promoting & endorsing a religion on military installations except at military chapels. Your condemnation would be more credibly directed at those who disrespect & disregard our laws rather than those of us who respect & request compliance with them.
Also, please remember this is the season of goodwill for all military members & their families – not just Christians.
Sincere best wishes for the holidays.
Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (80% are Christians)

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