January 9, 2020
MRFF Action Leads to AAFES Removal of Proselytizing “Jesus Candy” from Military Base Exchanges
MRFF was contacted in mid-December 2019 by multiple dozens of military service member clients (mostly Christians) regarding the distribution of “Jesus Candy” at base exchanges operated by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). According to the stated mission of the candy’s producer, Scripture Candy, Inc.:
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15
“At Scripture Candy, Inc. we are using a simple piece of candy in order to fulfill this commission. We want to ‘Reach The World One Piece At A Time.’
“We take the best tasting candies and wrap them in Scriptures so that they can be passed out to everyone. It’s a great way to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A single piece of Scripture Candy is like that seed planted by the sower in the parable spoken by Jesus in Matthew 13; it has the potential of producing a tremendous harvest. Jesus said in Luke 10:2 ‘…The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few…’ Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
According to Scripture Candy’s founder Brian Adkins:
“The whole meaning behind ‘Scripture Candy, Inc.’ is to plant the seed of the ‘Word’ in everyone throughout the world.”
On behalf of its clients, MRFF’s attorneys wrote a letter to AAFES, demanding that they pull Scripture Candy’s proselytizing products from the military’s base exchanges. In their demand letter, MRFF attorneys stated that it is not the job of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) to aid Brian Adkins in his mission to proselytize the world with his candy, and any such government aid of the promotion of religion flies in the face of the First Amendment and military regulations.
MRFF’s action quickly ‘went viral’ including coverage by Caleb Parke of Fox News who reported that:
First Liberty Institute lawyer and director of military affairs, Mike Berry, told Fox News Weinstein’s complaint doesn’t hold any legal ground. “This is just the latest publicity stunt by a bunch of activists. A real constitutional expert – or any first-year law student – knows that selling candy canes at Christmas is perfectly legal,” Berry, a Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, said.
MRFF, along with many others (most likely including first-year law students), noted that First Liberty’s lawyer Mr. Berry speaks only of the candy in his quote and curiously avoids referencing the proselytizing message it comes wrapped in. In an interview with Paul Rosenberg of Crooks and Liars news blog, MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein clarified the obvious nature of this proselytizing mission undertaken by the candy maker:
Military base exchanges and post exchanges (BXs and PXs), and their often adjoining commissaries, gas stations and liquor stores, are the most highly visible and populated areas on armed forces installations,” Weinstein said. “They are literally military base supermarkets. Thus, they are likewise always among the most desired areas for illicit displays of unconstitutional, fundamentalist Christian proselytizing.
On January 9, 2020, MRFF’s attorneys received a letter from AAFES responding to MRFF’s demand. MRFF’s Senior Research Director Chris Rodda noted this response in an article for DailyKos on January 10, 2020:
Not unexpectedly, AAFES does not admit that there was anything wrong with their promotion of these Bible bonbons, but says that they will discontinue selling them for a different reason — people apparently didn’t like them anyway.