May 26, 2020
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, several U.S. Military Chaplains have chosen to exploit the opportunity of this worldwide crisis to push their individual sectarian religious messages onto social media communication platforms maintained and used for the express purpose of military unit command communications. These actions led to over 70 clients (predominantly Christian along with other minority faith traditions including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism as well as non-faith traditions to include Atheism, Agnosticism and Secular Humanism) contacting MRFF for assistance leading to the following quick victories:
March 22, 2020 – MRFF Demand Leads to Immediate Removal of Blatantly Sectarian Religious Proselytizing Air Force Reserve “Spiritual Resiliency” Video
April 9, 2020 – MRFF Action Leads to Immediate Removal of Sectarian Religious Video from U.S. Army Garrison- Ft. Hamilton (Brooklyn, NY) Official Facebook Page
April 20, 2020 – MRFF Demand Leads to Immediate Removal of Overtly Sectarian Religious Video from Ft. Drum (NY) Official Facebook Page
April 27, 2020 – MRFF Once Again Assists Numerous Clients in Removal of Sectarian Religious Proselytizing Video Posted to a Military Installation’s Official Facebook Page Under Cover of COVID-19 Pandemic
May 23, 2020 – MRFF Assists Clients in Rapid Removal/Relocation of ‘Marital Advice’ Sectarian Proselytizing Messages
This string of victories also generated a letter from 20 Christian Nationalist members of Congress (many being members of the so-called Congressional Prayer Caucus) who chose to co-sign a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper highlighting these victories by MRFF on behalf of its clients and demanding SecDef Esper overturn recent decisions ending religious proselytizing.
In response to MRFF’s victories and under the cloud of these Congressional Christian Nationalist’s demands, the U.S. Army’s Chief of Chaplains issued new social media guidance to Chaplains on May 26, 2020. This guidance entitled Additional guidelines for displaying UMT internet content states:
Using Technology and Social Media Platforms is vital to providing religious support, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. As a Corps, we have been connecting with and supporting our Soldiers, their Families, and our Army Civilians in amazing new ways these past several months. Unfortunately, our Corps’ increased exposure has brought with it an increased level of scrutiny – but it’s important that we learn from that scrutiny and continue to hone our craft… [emphasis added]
…an “increased level of scrutiny” directly attributed to MRFF and our clients willingness to stand up for their rights and the U.S. Constitution. Sections 3 through 6 of the new guidelines (emphasis added below) precisely state what MRFF’s position has been all along – that religious chaplain videos be posted only on chapel pages, where, as the guidelines say, “individuals must make a choice to engage the material.”
3. General encouragement can be placed on a unit webpage, but specific religious support content should be on a dedicated UMT, RSO, or Chapel webpage.
4. UMT, RSO, and Chapel home pages should be “one click away” from the associated unit page – and religious support content other than those hyperlinks should never be displayed on any unit page.
5. Any content in support of a specific religion should be “one click away” from the associated UMT, RSO, or Chapel home page – and content in support of a specific religion should never be displayed on a UMT, RSO, or Chapel home page.
6. When providing content with a limited audience, as you often should, use a more secure platform than a simple webpage – such as a Facebook Group, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom – so that individuals must make a choice to engage the material.”