August 19, 2020
The U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) is a subordinate unified command of U.S. Central Command. It is responsible for planning special operations throughout the USCENTCOM area of responsibility, planning and conducting peacetime joint/combined special operations training exercises, and orchestrating command and control of peacetime and wartime special operations as directed. SOCCENT is headquartered at MacDill A.F.B. near Tampa, Florida.
MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein was contacted on August 13, 2020 by a U.S. Navy member deployed under the SOCCENT command who described an ongoing sectarian religious proselytizing situation in an email:
To be straightforward, I am deeply concerned about the recent preferential advertisement of Christian-oriented religious services by the Chaplain, [LCDR] Terry L. Moran and his Religious Affairs NCOIC [RP1] Thomas Keble. Since the beginning of July, emails which previously only included information about on-base events such as Dining Facility menus, theater times and special events have begun to include notifications of Bible study meetings with topics like “Know Your Enemy,” two or three times per week. These emails are exclusively for Christian religious studies. I have not, to date, seen any form of religious outreach to non-Christian troops.
I know that there are Christian, Muslim, Jewish and many others who practice other faith traditions as well as many non-religious people forward deployed who cannot take comfort in sectarian Christian ministry from the Chaplain. For the Chaplain to show preference for such a narrow band of Christian teachings excludes troops of any other religious conviction.
I’m not naive — I know some will say that in reaching out to you, I’m trying to tear down the Chaplaincy, but that’s not what I want at all. I want it to succeed. I want it to be a source of support and peace far from home for all service members, not merely a select few.
This client email went on to describe numerous examples of emails containing Christian only events/discussions/topics at the exclusion of all other faiths by Chaplain Moran.
To assist the 11 MRFF clients (6 identifying as practicing Christians along with others from minority faiths or non-faith belief systems) in this matter serving under the SOCCENT command, Mikey contacted Rear Admiral Frank M. Bradley, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Central. In an email dated August 15, 2020, Mikey detailed these religious proselytizing complaints from forward deployed SOCCENT personnel:
In short, Admiral, one of your chaplains downrange, Lt. Commander Terry L. Moran, has clearly overstepped the Rules of Engagement, re: his official duties, by repeatedly proselytizing his ENTIRE unit with a bevy of clearly sectarian Christian-only E-mails. We at MRFF have faced these exact same situations many times but never before in your command, sir.
Chaplains have every right to communicate with their fellow armed forces members via E-mail but, if they wish to frequently blanket EVERYONE in their respective units, they must keep their communications secular. If Chaplain (LCDR) Moran wishes to send out E-mails which are targeting a Christian-only SOCCENT audience, that is also quite fine as long as he is sending such sectarian, Christian-ONLY messages to those SOCCENT personnel who have either asked to be so included on them or are otherwise part of his regular Chaplain-serving constituency such as those he has established a close pastoral relationship with or those who might regularly attend his services etc. Unfortunately, Chaplain (LCDR) Moran and his Religious Affairs NCOIC, RP1 Thomas Keble are doing the exact opposite of what is permitted. Their persistent sending out of these obviously Christian-only, unsolicited E-mails to ALL SOCCENT personnel is totally violative of the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, all germane, construing Federal caselaw on same, a plethora of DoD and Military Branch-specific Directives, Instructions and Regulations, the Core Values of the several Military Branches and the UCMJ.
Admiral, please ensure that Chaplain (LCDR) Moran immediately ceases and desists from further BLANKETING his fellow SOCCENT members with his Christian-only E-mail proselytizing “ministry” and immediately conforms to the easy-to-work with boundaries outlined above in all of his future SOCCENT E-mail communications et al.
Within one week of their original email requesting MRFF’s assistance, the ‘lead’ MRFF client in this matter emailed a confirmation on August 19, 2020 that the proselytizing emails from the Chaplain and his subordinate had ceased:
I can tell you now, that those Christian proselytizing messages have stopped being distributed to our official, military inboxes. From myself and the other SOCCENT service members (many who are actually practicing Christians themselves but yet clearly saw how wrong this was) who felt second-class for our form of belief, thank you for your help! I’m sorry that I had to reach out to you, but SOCCENT is a tight-knit community, and as they say in the military, “if you stick out, prepare to be hammered.” This was what drove me and my fellow SOCCENT Spartans to reach out to you all at the MRFF, fear of reprisal from the official SOCCENT chain of command. I know you understand, and we all appreciate that MRFF is willing to take the heat for service members.
To follow up on something I said in my initial email to you, I am somewhat disappointed that there was a silent cessation of emails, and not the extension of an olive branch for non-Christian members. It is against the oath we swore to the U.S. Constitution and many regulations to offer sectarian Christian services to the exclusion of others, but I am still disappointed that Chaplain (LCDR) Moran seems to have taken his ball and gone home, rather than used this as an opportunity to offer the Chaplaincy to all of SOCCENT, no matter their belief or even lack thereof. That said, we’ll take silence over weekly unlawful Christian proselytization.
MRFF Staff, Thank all of you again for being there and getting this mission DONE!