From: (name withheld)
Date: June 18, 2021 at 1:40:53 PM MST
Subject:Irony in print
First, my heartfelt thank you for your service. I’ve read and heard about your desire to remove the Bible. You state it is not swiping at Christianity, but to foster inclusion. You also say not all were religious. While certainly true, the majority were and are. So the point that this fosters inclusion makes no sense; it is said to sound that way, that the motive is a good one, but your group doesn’t believe that. The majority loose. And of course this is a swipe at Christianity and Judaism. What else is it? You see I had decided I was an Aethist, then became Christian. As an Aethist I knew people praying, reading from a Bible, none these had any effect. If people wanted to pray to nothing, then be my guest. The only people, like you, who are offended, sound like petulant children that want everyone to go on their train and no other. I always understood more agreed with those believing than with those that didn’t. I can’t grasp being offended by that. All that matters is what I think, what I believe ( or don’t ). Truthfully too, even at that time, I knew I could count on man giving a damm for his fellow man more if biblical views were applied, even while I didn’t believe. The more that slips away, the more is it inevitably replaced with hatred, disrespect, appalling behavior. So even if you chose not to think God is real, your shooting yourself in the foot with this garbage. I could sit in a room and be kind and caring. So many of those who think as you do cannot do the same. Tell me again with whom does the problem really lie? Sincerely, (name withheld)
Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
(name withheld),Please be advised the purpose of the POW/MIA dinner table display is and has always been aremembrance memorial (i.e. to leave a place at the dinner table for military members who are prisoners of war or missing in action for when they return and to never forget them). The purpose is not now nor has it ever been to promote religion (i.e. it is about remembrance not religion).
The POW/MIA dinner table display was created in 1967 by the River Rats, a group of American combat pilots from the Vietnam War, as a remembrance memorial for missing comrades and did not include religious scripture. The American Legion continued this tradition without religious scripture. Those who presumptuously place religious scripture on the displays disrespect the historical origin and purpose of the memorials by preempting the remembrance and proselytizing their religion. Those who do so in military facilities violate the US Constitution, American law and military regulations prohibiting our government from endorsing a religion. Military chapels are available and appropriate for religious displays. This is why many military men and women, including Christians, objected to the illegality and requested removal of the religious scripture.
For your information, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization (composed of 85% Christians) and 7 time Nobel Peace Prize nominee for its advocacy. We represent over 74,000 military men and women (95% of whom are Christians) who requested their right to religious freedom guaranteed by the US Constitution be protected. We proudly and patriotically represent them and will continue to do so.
Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
On Jun 19, 2021, at 12:52 AM, Mike wrote:
Dear (name withheld),
You are mistaken. And, may I add, you sound quite confused about your own belief system, whatever it is. To take you at your word, the spiritual place you’ve finally decided upon allows you to “sit in a room and be kind and caring”. How nice for you. Apparently that ability has some special significance for you that you believe others do not possess. That’s interesting, if odd, and more than a bit judgmental.
We are, let me be clear, not lost in some deranged “desire to remove the Bible.” We think the Bible is just fine. And we have no problem with Christians or Christianity or Judaism or any other belief system for that matter, including no belief at all.
The situation is really pretty simple. The “Missing Man Table,” or POW/MIA Table, was originally dedicated to those who were lost or detained in war and was specifically non-denominational because American POWs and MIAs were people of many different beliefs, including no belief. Understand, please, that those who created it thought it inappropriate to connect the tribute to a particular faith or belief system because it would be wrong, actually arrogant, to dismiss the beliefs of some and assume their memory would be served by associating them with the predominant local belief.
Today, when copies of these tables are set up in government facilities, some believers wrongly assume a religious artifact should be included. Most often in our experience, because Christianity is the dominant faith in this country, it’s a Bible. But if it was a Koran or the Book of Mormon or a tract promoting atheism or the sacred writing of another belief system, it would be just as wrong and we would oppose it.
Note that I mentioned a government facility. We would oppose it not because we hate religion. We do not. We would oppose it because the laws of our country require the separation of Church and State.
And the laws of our country require that separation for the same reason the originators of the POW/MIA Table did: because our country does not promote or favor one faith, religion or non-religious belief system over others.
I hope that helps you better understand.
(MRFF Board of Advisors)
Response from MRFF Supporter Steve Dundas
On Jun 19, 2021, at 6:57 PM, Steve wrote:
Dear (name withheld)
I am a retired Christian Navy Chaplain. I retired in December 2020 after nearly 40 years of service in the Army and Navy. 28 of those years were spent as a Chaplain. My life has been spent in service of our country and as protecting the Free Exercise rights of all military personnel and their families without violating the Establishment Clause. I am also a real historian.
You obviously do not understand anything about the Constitution, the First Amendment or why we even have it. If it appeared that you were open to it I would gladly spend my time sharing with you. However, your unlearned dispersions about Mr. Weinstein and the people who work for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and those who request our assistance demonstrate that you are not. Mr. Weinstein is Jewish, 86% of our staff of over 600 paid and volunteer workers are Christians, and over 95% of those who request the help of MRFF are also Christians. So I will not waste my time to school you.
Jesus told the Parable of the Sower, and I take that lesson to heart. From what I see no seed sown on the hard and barren wasteland of your soul would never take root. I cannot believe how you insulted the 15 Sailors at NAS Atsugi, who brought this incredible violation of the Establishment Clause to Mr. Weinstein’s attention after their command refused to do anything about it.
As much as you and I revere the Christian Bible, it is not a generic Holy book that represents all faiths and that memorial to our killed and wounded in action includes Americans from every religion as well as non-believers.
If the base had placed a Koran or the Holy book of any other religion at that table instead of a Bible we wouldn’t be having this conversation. You would be demanding its removal as an offense to Christians. In such a case you would want Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF on your side.
Likewise I know what the statistics tell us about the composition of our military, and it is not a monolith of Christianity. All of our Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen take an oath to uphold the Constitution and defend the rights of every citizen regardless regardless of what they believe. Obviously you have never taken that oath and you cannot even spell “atheist” correctly. That’s a hell of a thing for a self-professed former atheist.
You are exactly what you called Mr. Weinstein, the MRFF staff and our clients. You displayed hatred, disrespect, and your email was appalling behavior for anyone who supposed bears that name of Christ.
The great Virginia Baptist leader John Leland who worked with Thomas Jefferson on the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty and James Madison on the First Amendment understood this more than you ever will. He advocated for something that Baptists from their earliest days believed due to being persecuted in England during the reign of King James I, the total “separation of Church and States.” And shortly after our independence from Britain he had to fight for religious liberty because Anglicans in Virginia were trying to establish their Church as the State Church and going around using violence to attack Baptists, Methodists and Quakers.
Leland wrote: “These establishments metamorphose the church into a creature, and religion into a principle of state, which has a natural tendency to make men conclude that Bible religion is nothing but a trick of state.”
So I will leave it there.
Since I cannot respect you, I will simply say toodles.
CDR Steve Dundas, CHC, USN (Ret.)