Military prayer on Facebook

You are in trouble—there is no “separation of church and state” argument to remove military officers/enlistees from posting prayers on Facebook or any other social media.  This would never stand up in court and you should re-establish their rights as soon as possible.
 
Frankly, you come across as purely anti-religious and impossible to please unless someone is applauding especially anti-Christian viewpoints and anti-God statements.
 
Every military commander since George Washington has prayed over his troops, and asked for prayers by the public.  Get with the program—if not, I hope someone files a lawsuit.
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
On Apr 24, 2020, at 8:03 PM, John Compere  wrote:
The US Constitution, American law & US Armed Forces regulations prohibit our secular military, as part of our secular government, from promoting or endorsing a religion except in military chapels or military religious channels. Military chaplains may not proselytize their religion version as official military sponsored religion on secular military channels. That is why the unlawful practice was stopped by the military itself after complaints from military members, including Christians.
 
1st President & Commander-in-Chief George Washington recognized the problem when he wrote Congress that the military chaplaincy “…has a tendency to to introduce religious disputes into the Army, which above all things should be avoided, and in many instances would compel men to a mode of Worship which they do not profess.”
 
Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (80% Christians)

This is a poor argument.  Military personnel are citizens first and are covered by the First Amendment.
Secondly, prayer is universal and unless a serviceman/woman is revealing classified information (location, strategies, etc.), he or she is allowed to express religious beliefs.
George Washington prayed over and with his troops regularly.  Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with all Americans, wrote prayer-filled letters to the military and encouraged religious practices. He even distributed Bibles to the troops, with the dedication on the first page, prayer filled—I know, for I have one of these.
Believe what you want…and express your opinion, as is your right.  But history, tradition and our Constitutional rights ensure that no one, or government, can prevent prayer in any area of government or the public venue.
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
No one is trying to prevent prayer. As explained in my original response, military chaplains cannot put their religion versions of prayer on secular (non-religious) military channels where they are not appropriate & prohibited by law & regulation. They must use their military chaplain channels & military chapels for their proselytizing where it is appropriate & lawfully permitted.

There is no way posting “You are invited to pray, to pray for the family, to pray for the sick, and to pray for our leaders.”  is promoting one religion over another.  This is not proselytizing or favoring “versions of prayer”. 
You are so focused on ambiguous biased rules and regulations,  you completely miss the point:  military chaplains are just that—chaplains providing spiritual assistance, comfort and direction no matter where they are, or on what public venue. 
No one is trying to prevent prayer?  Come one now, that’s the whole point of your complaints!
I do hope to see this go to higher channels for clarification/reinstatement of religious freedom.
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
“The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.” – VOLTAIRE (Enlightenment Philosopher)

And Jesus said, “Blessed are those who do not see, yet believe.”
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
On Apr 25, 2020, at 7:24 AM, John Compere  wrote:
Even Jesus separated religion & government (Matthew 22:21 & Mark 12:17)

“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.”  Right?
Since everything was created, and is under the authority of God, what we “render” unto Caesar is His also.
Our nation was established under he principles of religious liberty…it was the First Amendment for without that freedom, nothing else matters.  Our Founding Fathers knew that.  You have the right to believe otherwise.  If prayer and Christianity, Judaism, Islam or whatever bothers you, just go your way.  But remember that religious freedom will not, and cannot,  be censored or restricted under our Constitution—and within the hearts of most Americans, whether in the military or not.
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
On Apr 25, 2020, at 8:23 AM, John Compere  wrote:
The very definition of a republic is “…a nation of laws and not of man.” – Founder & 2nd President John Adams (“Thoughts on Government”, 1776)

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On Apr 26, 2020, at 2:04 PM, Mike  wrote:

Dear (name withheld),
Like others, you don’t have the whole story. The article you read misinformed you, mischaracterized the
situation and contained at least one damnable lie.
Since you took the time to write and express your concerns – and did so clearly and straightforwardly, unlike
many of the ugly messages it has fallen to me to answer – I’d be happy to clarify things for you if you’re
open to hearing another perspective.
If so, please let me know.
Thanks.
Mike Farrell
(MRFF Board of Advisors)

Mike, sorry for the delay in replying. 
First of all, I am sorry you received hateful or inappropriate messages.  People often react emotionally—either way—and that only detracts from any kind of discussion.
I don’t care what any article says (they are usually skewed to make the point of the writer), but I want to know why Facebook deleted these prayerful messages, whereas anti-religious messages remain, as well as pornographic and hateful political ones.  I want to know why some segments of our society feel so intimidated by religious expression that they feel it should be censored.  I want to know why 250 years of American tradition/normalcy regarding religious practice is now being deemed “inappropriate” or “threatening”.  So much so that even those who serve in the military (where 95% of enlistees rely on prayer) are being quarantined from expressing religious devotion, especially when prayers being posted are usually non-denominational.
I would assume (correct me if I am wrong) that you are either an atheist or agnostic.  I can accept that.  You have the right and privilege to believe, or not believer, as you wish.  But for those who DO believe in the power of prayer and the freedom of religious expression, censorship is not going to be accepted.  And any governmental regulation cannot overrule the freedom to practice religion–anywhere.  This was the essence of Jefferson’s letter to his friend on the separation of church and state…it is to keep government out of religious practice, not to remove/restrict religion from any or all segments of our society.
I am always willing to listen to other opinions/viewpoints/arguments.  And I am sure you have many, because you want to prove your point and agenda.  That’s understandable.  But keep in mind that this issue is on-going and divisive as long as those who do not want religion/prayer freely acknowledged/practiced are going to be taken to task. 
Hope you are doing well in this pandemic.  Stay safe.
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On Apr 30, 2020, at 10:09 PM, Mike  wrote:

Dear (name withheld),

Thanks for getting back to me.

I have to say I’m a bit confused by your suggesting that you don’t care what “any article” said. Does that mean you didn’t read Mr. Donohue’s column? If not, I’m unclear what prompted your message to us.

So let me begin by assuming you either read his article or heard about it, since the point of your concern seems to be the issue of Facebook and “prayerful messages,” which was his issue.

Please know this is not about Facebook and its policies, nor is it about “pornographic and hateful political” messages one might find there. This is about a particular Facebook page – actually two of them.

So, to be clear: whether or not you read it, Mr. Bill Donohue, who presides over a Catholic rights organization, broadcast a column that has made the rounds of his community and given a number of people a lot of bad information. I’m sorry about that as it has caused a storm of angry and ill-informed condemnation to come our way.

Bottom line, Mr. Donohue is wrong. He said, for example, that Mikey Weinstein is an “anti-Christian activist.” This is not true and he should know better. I have reason to believe he does know better, but that’s not my point now. He said a number of other things that are also not true. Let me explain the facts to you.

The MRFF agrees that military personnel have every right to pray. We have no objection to prayer, to religion or to a belief in God. Our objection, in general, is to inappropriate proselytizing, to making it appear that the U.S. Government is endorsing or promoting one particular belief, belief system or form of belief over others.

As I said above, two Facebook pages are at issue here. You see, at the base in question, chaplains have a Facebook page whereon they can do all the praying and lecturing and teaching and enlightening they’d like. But that is a separate page entirely from the Facebook page of the unit leader or commanding officer. The commander’s page may not be used to promote one particular belief system because doing so implies U.S. Government endorsement of a particular faith and violates the separation of church and state.

The Issue, despite Mr. Donohue’s attempt to suggest otherwise, is simply that the chaplain’s speeches were on the wrong page, thus in the wrong place, and so suggested they were coming from and with the blessing of the base’s Commander.

Seeing that, some of the troops reached out to us. We saw what had happened and contacted the authorities at the base. They in turn looked at the situation, saw what was wrong and removed the speeches. I don’t know if the speeches were placed on the chaplain’s page where they belonged. They should have been. I hope they were.

It’s really that simple, despite what Mr. Donohue tried to turn it into. I hope this helps you better understand the actual facts of the situation.

And, to be very clear, Facebook did not take down the page, the military authorities on the base did.

Per your concerns about other issues, for example, “why some segments of our society feel so intimidated by religious expression that they feel it should be censored,” I’m not sure I can properly answer that. This episode didn’t involve either intimidation or censorship. Many people don’t understand, I suspect, that being in the military does have an impact on one’s First Amendment rights, and I guess that may lead some to suspect censorship takes place. But that’s really about the nature of relationships in the military, which is a hierarchical society wherein orders from those in charge are to be obeyed without question.

I don’t exactly understand your point in asking “why 250 years of American tradition/normalcy regarding religious practice is now being deemed ‘inappropriate’ or ‘threatening.’ Where, in your experience do you see this happening?

Your suggestion that “those who serve in the military… are being quarantined from expressing religious devotion” is quite wrong. As said above, being in the military imposes certain restrictions on any speech, religious or otherwise, but no one’s religious speech is disallowed. Religious speech is, by regulation, guided by use at a proper time, place and manner so that no one religious belief is seen as favored.

Why would you assume I am “either atheist or agnostic”? You are incorrect in so assuming, but your having done so suggests a preconception in your approach to this discussion. In fact, over 95% of the staff, supporters and clients of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation are Christians. Does that surprise you?

Your analysis of Mr. Jefferson’s point about the separation of church and state is interesting, but one must be careful to represent it fully. If one accepts that he meant “to keep government out of religious practice,” as you suggest, one must also realize that he meant ‘to keep religious practice out of government.’

I wish you well.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


 

Dear Mike,

Thanks for your detailed reply…full disclosure means telling you yes, I did see Dr. Donahue’s article, but could not access the FB page of course, only excerpts that gave no indication of anyone promoting a particular faith.  Secondly, I respect Dr. Donahue, finding (through verification/research) that he is uncommonly fair and accurate in his reporting.  Thirdly, I did ask you to correct me in my assumption of you not being a religious man—and you did.  Thank you.

I grew up in a military family, having several uncles in WWI and WWII.  I lost my former fiancé on the Ticonderoga during the Vietnam War, as he tried to save another pilot and his plane.  I know what the “old” military was like, including prayer, worship and devotion, also fully aware that the military religious “freedom of expression” today is not the same.  The hierarchy of the military has not changed—its restrictions have, now only permitting politically correct interpretations of “separation of church and state”, i.e., “Religious speech is, by regulation, guided by use at a proper time, place and manner so that no one religious belief is seen as favored.”

 

You also stated… The commander’s page may not be used to promote one particular belief system because doing so implies U.S. Government endorsement of a particular faith and violates the separation of church and state.   Since I did not see this Commander’s full discourse, I cannot state that he was preaching only Christian beliefs.  Was he instructing those under his command to believe as he does?  Was he giving an order to do so?  Was he stating this was the only way to believe or pray if you are a member of the military—or under his command?

 

You know, frankly, I don’t understand why any kind of religious expression should be an issue at all, whether for the MRFF or any service member.  The social media (as well as the public square) belongs to all, whether you are a government employee, business owner, or member of the school board.  So if a Private, Lieutenant or Commander wants to express his/her views, he or she should be able to do so, without retribution.  You do not lose your First Amendment rights because you work in or for a government agency.  At least one shouldn’t.  Obviously that is now not the case at all.

 

And poor Thomas Jefferson!  He is being seen now as the champion of separating church and state, yet as you will see (scroll down after my closing), he had no qualms about ensuring that religious freedom and practice thrived—from government on down.

 

I do appreciate your explanation and thoughtful consideration of my concerns.  I remember so clearly worshipping in the Chapel at the Naval Academy, and later hearing Upper Classmen and Commanders preach to Midshipmen, outside church.  Where all Midshipmen of the same faith?  No.  Were any offended at the Name of God?  No.  Did all comply, or choose to go in other directions?  Yes to both.  Another era—one where prayer/expressions of faith were not regulated, and no one took offense at someone else stating his or her beliefs in public.

 

Of course, being one very concerned with religious liberty and rights, I will continue to fight for religious freedom, while you fight for religious regulation.  It’s what we agree to disagree on.

 

God bless!

(name withheld)

 

While serving as vice president to John Adams from 1797 to 1801, Jefferson presided over the US Senate when both bodies of Congress approved a plan providing for Christian church services to be held in the largest room of the Capitol building, in the Hall of the House of Representatives. Responsibility for conducting these services rested alternately upon the chaplain of the House and chaplain of the Senate.

While vice president and during his two terms as president, Jefferson faithfully attended Christian worship at the Capitol building, and when residing at the White House, he rode his horse the 1.6 miles to the Capitol “regardless of weather conditions.” Jefferson provided an explanation to an enquiring friend as to why he was so faithful in his church attendance: “No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion—nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”

Under President Jefferson, Christian church services were also started at the War Department and the Treasury Department. Because of his influence, worshippers were free to choose between attending services at the Capitol, War Department, or the Treasury Department.

1801—He urged the commissioners of the District of Columbia to sell land for the construction of a Catholic church, urging “the advantages of every kind which it would promise.”

1801—He penned a letter to Governor Morris (signer of the Constitution) describing America as a Christian nation.

1802, 1803, and 1804—He signed federal acts setting aside government lands for missionary work and the propagation of the Gospel among the Indians.

1803—Jefferson directed the secretary of war to give federal funds to a religious school established for Cherokee Indians in Tennessee.

1803—He negotiated and signed a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians that funded Christian missionaries and provided federal funds for the construction of a church.

1804—He assured a Christian school in the newly purchased Louisiana Territory that it would enjoy the full support of the federal government.

1806—He supported “An Act for Establishing the Government of the Armies” which “earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers diligently to attend Divine service.” He also commissioned that officers who “behaved indecently or irreverently at any place of Divine worship” were to be brought to a general court martial while non-commissioned officers or soldiers were to be fined.

1801-1809—He closed presidential documents with the appellation, “In the year of our Lord Christ.”


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On May 1, 2020, at 4:22 PM, Mike  wrote:

Well , as you s(name withheld) ay, we will agree to disagree.
And clearly it’s your privilege to continue to respect Mr. Donohue, but the uncommon fairness and accuracy with whih you credit him failed miserably when he declared Mikey Weinstein an ‘anti-Christian activist.”
Best,
Mike

 

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