"When one proudly dons a U.S. Military uniform, there is only one religious symbol: the American flag. There is only one religious scripture: the American Constitution. Finally, there is only one religious faith: American patriotism."
MRFF Founder and President, Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein
From: (name withheld) Subject: Free Speech Forever Date: October 1, 2021 at 12:30:57 PM MDT To: [email protected]
Dear Mr. Weinstein, I understand you are not an advocate of freedom of speech, which also encompasses free speech about religious topics. Why is that? I amgetting information from a group called“God’s Word To The Nations Mission Society”. They say that your foundation: “Military Religious Freedom Foundation” is stating that Christian proselytizing is a national security threat. Why would that be? If you do not want to hear any particular religious message, you have the right to ask any religious group not to contact you. Period. End of Story. But,why would you go to great lengths to stop any religious group from speaking out to others? We have freedom of speech here in the US and thank God for that. I have very nice Muslim neighbors, butthey always tell me that I should read the Quran. I tell them “The Word of God is in the Holy Bible.” The Quran has verses such as 9:5 “Kill the infidels. When the sacred months are over, kill them wherever you find them”. Why would any loving God want to see His creatures destroyed? My nice Muslim neighbors cannot answer on that one. And this verse as well as a few others are the basis by which ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups such as Boko Haram operate. To make things evenmore confusing, President Erdogan of Turkey said: “There is no moderate or radical Islam. Islam is Islam.” Wowza! Additionally, my nice Muslim neighbors have told me that Jesus is one of their beloved prophets but Jesus cannot be God because God cannot turn Himself into a man. My response was: “God is unlimited, infinite and omnipotent. God can do whatever He wants.” They had no rebuttal. Lastly, they also said “God is One, not 3 different gods.” To that I said: “Yes God is 1 God with 3 different roles or manifestations; God the Father Creator, God the Son Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit Sanctifier.” I told them: “When you were born you were a son or a daughter. When your parents had another baby you became a sister or brother. When you got married you became a husband or wife. Are you 3 different people?” After that they said nothing further. I believe in the One True God of the Holy Bible, both Testaments. But neither I nor anyone else is able to “convert” anyone to Christ. THAT isthe work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for taking my message. I look forward to your reply.
Response from MRFF Supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman
On Oct 1, 2021, at 1:30 PM, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman wrote:
Dear (name witheheld):
I have several observations about your email and a suggestion or two for you. Let’s start with a suggestion. Instead of getting your information about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation second or third hand, why not just log on to the MRFF’s website? You can do this by clicking on their URL, https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/ Here you will discover that the MRFF’s mission isn’t in any way to impinge upon anyone’s freedom of speech, but to protect those in the military from being badgered, harassed and threatened by those seeking to proselytize them illegally and unconstitutionally. It’s that pure and that simple. Beyond this, I observe that you seem to somehow conflate Mikey Weinstein and the MRFF with your Muslim neighbors. Let me assure you that the MRFF isn’t at all interested in harming you or your friends and doesn’t cite any book or document which purports to do those things. I really am at quite a loss to understand why you brought the Koran and your neighbors into your discussion to begin with. You have stated that the MRFF is up to no good, perniciously trying to take away freedom of speech (although to which victims you refer isn’t always so very clear). But if you are talking about those who have been using their positions and ranks to pressure or even convince their subordinates that they need to reconsider their faiths or stance of having no faith, and that they must accept Jesus for themselves, then Mikey and company are the right address. This behavior doesn’t belong in the military; the MRFF has repeatedly stood by those who have registered complaints, asking for advice and help to repel and quell such advances to their freedoms not to be so harassed. Freedom of speech? People in the military are free to speak their minds as long as they don’t step outside the UCMJ and the Constitution of the United States in doing so. I would challenge anyone to prove that the MRFF is committing any breach of the law. On the other hand, the MRFF has proven over and over when groups of religious zealots have crossed the line and have saved many service personel from threats to their careers and hours of torment. I suggest you look a little closer at the documents, cases and causes of the groups about which you have written. I fear that you are being duped and used to attack an organization about which you know very little, indeed.
Rabbi Joel R. SchwartzmanChaplain, Colonel (Ret), USAF
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
On Oct 2, 2021, at 12:58 AM, Mike wrote:
Dear (name withheld), Thank you for your query. Mikey Weinstein, who is quite busy working to protect the religious freedom of the women and men in the military, has asked me to respond to your email. As you might imagine, we get a number of similar messages from people who are confused by or misinformed about our work.
It is understandable, though deeply unfortunate, that so much misinformation makes its way to otherwise well-meaning people, but that is because there are many individuals and organizations bent on promoting their own religious agendas. Sometimes they do so without truly researching a matter and sometimes, frankly, promoting their own agenda is more important to them than is being scrupulously truthful. You, for example, have received information from a group called “God’s Word to the Nation Mission Society”, informing you that the MRFF “is stating that Christian proselytizing is a national security threat.” I’m not familiar with this organization, but I can’t imagine how whoever said that on their behalf could have come to such a conclusion. Let me assure you that it’s not true. We do, of course, support the legal doctrine known as the separation of church and state, which means our government or government entities cannot be put in the position of promulgating or appearing to promote one religion or belief system over all others. But that’s pretty clearly understood, except by those who are so zealous in their commitment to their particular faith or belief system that they insist it must be made the national creed and must be accepted by everyone. That, I imagine, could be considered a threat to national security, but I think most rational people don’t hold such a totalitarian view. So please rest assured that “God’s Word to the Nation Mission Society” is mistaken in having made that assertion. And if you’re in regular touch with them you might do them a favor by letting them understand their error. We have no problem with people believing as they choose and speaking of it, except, of course, when they do so in a coercive manner or do so when speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government or as a representative of the government or one of its parts. Our focus, as you might imagine given the name, is protecting the right of the women and men in the military, a government entity, to believe or not believe as they choose, and to see to it that they are not subject to discrimination for having beliefs deemed ‘unacceptable’ to their superiors or be forced to accept runwanted religious proselytization from those in authority. We, like you, are supporters of free speech, but religious speech, given the constraints of law mentioned above, must be carefully limited, per military regulations, to specific times, places and manners. As evidenced by your relations with, as you put it, your “nice Muslim neighbors,” there are many and varied quite strongly held belief systems in our society and in the world around us. In our view, everyone is entitled to believe or not believe as she or he chooses. That is true in our military as well and those in positions of authority who have strong beliefs must be very careful to avoid promulgating or appearing to promote them to those under their command. I hope that helps you better understand our position and I hope you’ll help “God’s Word to the Nation Mission Society” be a bit more careful in discussing the work of our organization. Best, Mike Farrell(MRFF Board of Advisors)
From: (name withheld) Sent: Friday, October 1, 2021 9:48 PM To: Rabbi Joel Schwartzman Subject: Re: Free Speech Forever
Dear Rabbi Schwartzman, Thank you for your prompt reply. I am glad to learn that the organization with which you are affiliated obeys all US laws and speaks out for people who choose the religious faith they want tofollow. I have no issue with that. I wrotewhat I wrote because I wanted to get ananswer from your group. I read what theother group wrote. So I figured it best tolearn something from your group. (Critical thinking is something I endorse.) Thank you for the website links. I brought up my Muslim neighbors because they are the ones who are constantly talking about their faith to me, and they want me to go to their masjid with them. I do not bring up anyone’s religion or discuss my religion unless a person asks me. So I know what it is like to be pestered. I have my answers ready. I want to sincerely apologize to you if you felt I was attacking your organization or attacking Judaism. I was not trying to do that. I was taught by Pastor James Lindemann of The Evangelical Church of the Good Shepherd in Brooklyn, NY 11210 that “the Jews are the civilizers of the world.” He said that during Bible study when we were reading one of the books of the Old Testament. As this was back in the early 1980’s I really do not remember which book of the Bible it was. But I do remember that statement like he said it yesterday. Furthermore, I have no reason to patronize you. The other group made it appear that your group was trying to stop them from telling people about Jesus. But if anymilitary person says: “I believe in ****”OR “I do not believe in any religion at all”that should suffice. No one should be pestered or harassed. Thank you for your time and your response.
Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
On Oct 2, 2021, at 12:49 PM, John Compere wrote:
It is obvious from your self-righteous sectarian sermonizing that you are misinformed & know nothing about this military matter. It is always best to know the facts before embarrassing yourself by condemning others.
For your information, a US Air Force Academy instructor violated the US Constitution, Department of Defense directives & US Air Force regulations by proselytizing & preaching his religion instead of teaching his assigned subject while on duty. It is his duty to teach not impose his religious beliefs on military cadets. Both the offending instructor & offended cadet who reported him are Christians. If the instructor wants to preach instead of teach, he should request a transfer to the military chaplain corps & report to the military chapel where preaching is authorized. Christians in the military have to obey applicable laws & regulations just like other military members.
For your additional information, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (composed of 85% Christians) is a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization & 7 time Nobel Peace Prize nominee that protects the constitutional right of our military men & women of all faiths to freedom of religion. We have represented almost 75,000 military members to date (95% are Christians). We do so proudly & patriotically & will continue to do so when requested by those who want their American constitutional freedom of belief protected.
How would you feel if a Muslim instructor imposed his Islamic religious beliefs on American military academy cadets instead of teaching his assigned subject? Unlawful, unwanted & uninvited forcing of any religion on others is a threat to human freedom. History tells us it has been the cause of more human harm than anything else.
“Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils” – Reverend Roger Williams (American colonial clergy, Rhode Island Colony founder, Baptist Church founder & religious freedom advocate)
Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired) Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era) Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation
On Sat, Oct 2, 2021 at 5:19 PM (name withheld) wrote:
Dear Mr. Farrell, Thank you for your excellent email to me of 2:58 am today. I am in total agreement with your statements about an individual’s right to choose what they want to believe or not believe regarding religious doctrines. I also think many people put their personal preferences and prejudices above doctrines that aredesigned to be fair to all citizens. Hereis one example: In 1868 the US Congress voted to give citizenship rights to all people born in the US. This included African-Americans who were born in the US and were children of slavesand former slaves. Yet for about 95 years, the Democrat party worked with the Ku klux Klan to slowly chip away the rights of those African-Americans in the southern states so that they could not vote, could not run for office, could not assemble peacefully in large crowds, and could not bare arms. No one I ask can tell me how this scenario was allowed to continue for as long as it did. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 things got a little better, but not as much as people had hoped. (And I say this as a Caucasian person.) I will contact “God’s Word to the NationMission Society” and give them the information that both you and Rabbi Schwartzman gave me. I will end my email to you by statingthat I appreciate your writing talents and your civil words. They show your heart. Take care and stay safe.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
On Oct 2, 2021, at 6:43 PM, Mike wrote:
Dear (name withheld)
, Thanks for your very kind response. I’m glad we were able to clear up that misunderstanding. As regards your other point, I quite agree that there have been decade upon decadeof intentional discrimination against Black people in our society and it has not yet been fully and properly recognized, accounted and atoned for. I trust that you, as a woman devoted to Christian principles, are doing everything you can in your life to see to it that such discrimination is properly remedied. Please be assured that we at the MRFF, which is an organization dedicated to the promotion of civil rights and civil liberties, will do the same. My best to you. Mike Farrell
(MRFF Board of Advisors)
On Sat, Oct 2, 2021 at 8:59 PM (name withheld) wrote:
Dear Mr. Farrell, Thank you for your latest email of 8:43 pm this evening. As a NYS certified elementary school teacher, I taught at 5 different schools in NYC during my career. 2 of those schools had over 90% of African-American students. I wanted all of them to succeed and do well because I was sick and tired of African-Americans getting the “short end of the stick”. I told all my students that I expected them to study hard and learn well what I was teaching them because their learningwas a “stepping stone” to bigger and better opportunities. I also used to tell them to “get skills” and gave examples of learning to drive a car, learning to fix a car, learning to use technology and learning to fix computers and software. I told them that getting skills would help them become more marketable and receive better pay. They understood! As I do not want to bore you, I will closenow. Thank you again for your kind and intelligent remarks. Take good careand stay safe.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
On Oct 3, 2021, at 4:51 PM, Mike wrote:
Dear (name withheld),
Being a teacher puts you in a powerful position, as you seem to understand.
I think all children need to be encouraged to do their best and it’s important that they are not condescended to or feel patronized, as I’m sure you understand. It’s a huge responsibility you have taken on. I believe teachers are incredibly important. My best, Mike Farrell(MRFF Board of Advisors)
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France
On Oct 4, 2021, at 8:29 AM, Martin France wrote:
Dear (name withheld),
As an Advisory Board Member for the MRFF, I occasionally answer emails like yours for the organization. By introduction, I served on active duty in the US Air Force for more than 37 years and have had many family members (brother, both sons, brother-in-law, and others) serve as well. I appreciate that you’ve reached out to the MRFF and would like to respond to the poorly informed (or inaccurate) guidance you’ve received from the society you mention below.First, the MRFF does not consider Christian proselytizing per se a national security threat. Proselytizing for any religion for perspective is, in general, protected by the 1st Amendment to our Constitution–the provisions for freedom of speech and free practice of religion.However, there is a long history of case law, custom, and just basic common sense that also supports the fact that not all speech or religious practice is legal or appropriate in ALL cases. The classic situation is erroneously or maliciously screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Likewise, one is not free to communicate violent threats against the President of the United States or most elected officials, we have rules against liable and slander, etc. If you had a strongly held religious belief in human sacrifice, the fervor in your belief would not protect you from our laws against violence. In the much less extreme case, your neighbors, for example, are free to encourage you to embrace Islam (as you are free to encourage them to embrace Christianity), but they can’t harass you on your own property, create a nuisance, impede your travel, and so on. You, in turn, are not free to disturb their peace with loudspeakers directed at their home proclaiming Christian tenets or articles of your faith–that would be disturbing the peace. The strength of your feelings or how true you think the Bible is, does not alter these facts. Our society has rules that help it function peacefully, respecting the rights of all to live in peace and pursue happiness.The military is another special case. The duty of the military is to protect our nation and defend our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. I took an oath with those exact words many times. My duty is to the Constitution, not to any one religious perspective. To that end, while serving, I was required by law and regulation to treat all equally regardless of my religious views. I also was not allowed, by accepted regulation, to coerce or proselytize anyone else in uniform–especially subordinates. I could not consider their religious perspective when evaluating them or recommending them for promotion or assignments–and frankly, I didn’t ask or even want to know their religious perspectives because I (and the the Dept of Defense) consider that to be a private decision.Military members are allowed to practice their faith, but only in the appropriate setting at the appropriate time–and work/duty hours are not that time and place. Behind closed doors, can a military member pull out a Koran or Bible or Torah and study in private during a break or over lunch? Sure. But, I cannot have a sign in my office for all to see that says, “Jesus Christ Is The One Lord And Savior For All Humanity” or “There is one true god, Allah, and Muhammed is his Prophet” for all who enter to see it. That would create a hostile work environment, just as having signs that says “Women are superior to men!” or “White is Right!” or “Black Power” would create a hostile workspace from a sexist or racist perspective. A supervisor also is not free to encourage subordinates to attend their church or really even ask about their religious views–you can’t proselytize in the office, regardless of how right you think you are.It is cases like these that the MRFF fights. The overwhelming majority of MRFF clients are Christians, but they also rightfully support the Constitution and want to keep a clear and appropriate line between religion and the lethal military workplace.I will not argue or doubt your religious faith and the MRFF whole-heartedly supports your right to believe as you do–and the same goes for your neighbors. What we don’t support–and vigorously fight–is the idea that there is any particular or specific religious perspective that is a necessary or sufficient condition for honorable service in the military. All may serve, and serve with equal opportunity and distinction, so long as they execute their duties consistent with their oath to the Constitution first and foremost. If they can’t do that, then they shouldn’t be serving. If you have any other questions on this matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Sincerely,Marty France, PhDBrigadier General, USAF (Retired)MRFF Advisory Board Member
PS — Have you read the entire Bible? (I have) Have you taken your neighbors’ suggestion and read the entire Quran? Or have you just picked and chosen a couple of passages highlighted by others that suit your perspective from each of these books?
On Mon, Oct 4, 2021 at 9:55 AM (name withheld) wrote:
Dear Dr. France, Thank you for your excellent email identifying the difference between “doctrinal basis” and human behavior (preferences vs. prejudices.) Many humans go by their feelings and not what is in the doctrine they are supposed to be upholding. 1 example ofthis is when a high school teacher has sex with 1 of his/her students. I find thisto be demonic as well as a breach of the 1st doctrine of teaching, which is “Do noharm to any child, whether mental, physical or emotional.” In my opinion, any teacher who has sex with any student should be given a fair trial but should be fired without the chance for a pension if found guilty. I have zero tolerance forany teacher who has sex with any student. As to reading the Bible, I read the entire New Testament in 2020 between the lastweek of March and the first week of August. I started reading the Old Testament in January 2021 and am now up to Jeremiah 49. So I expect to finish the Old Testament before Dec. 30, 2021. What has truly amazed me is that certain people in the OT who were esteemed by God (here are 2 examples: Isaiah 38:2-6 and Genesis 18:26-32) were able to change God’s mind through their own righteousness and petitions. And I am not preaching to you; I am citing evidence to back up my astonishment. As to the Quran, I have read certain partsof it, but not the whole book. I first wondered about Islam when ISIS came to power and contradicted the slogan“Islam is the religion of peace”. In my estimation 96% to 97% of the world’sMuslims are peaceful and kind people; they do not kill or threaten to kill people who are not Muslims or do not want tobecome Muslims. But that left over 3%to 4% do a lot of damage. I know a ladycalled “Ebo” from church who is from Nigeria. She gives us a verbal monthly report on what Islamists called “BokoHaram” are doing in her country ofbirth. Boko Haram performs acts of cruelty and murder in the name of their God. And no one in the government ofNigeria (either at the local level or the national level) stops Boko Haram. Why? Because the majority of the people in those government positions are Muslims. So there is a demonic situation inNigeria and nothing is being done to stop the murder of innocent people who do not want to convert to Islam. Yet I think the Boko Haram killers justify their acts by citing verses 9:5, 8:12, 5:33 inthe Quran. I thank you for your time and intelligence. Have a safe say.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France
On Oct 4, 2021, at 2:55 PM, Martin France wrote:
(name withheld), thanks for the response. I do have one more question for you, though… albeit a bit of a hypothetical. If you had been born into a Muslim family, do you think you would’ve been as fervent in the Islamic faith as your neighbors? Would that answer change if you were born into the same family at a time and place in the not-too-distant past when you would’ve had no exposure to Christianity or any other faiths(as has been the case for millions of human beings over the centuries)? Just curious… Marty
From: (name withheld) Date: Mon, Oct 4, 2021, 15:52 Subject: Re: Free Speech Forever To: Martin France
Dear Dr. France, You posed a very interesting question and I will try to answer it as best as I can. Brevity is an art, but I am not sure I can be brief on this one! If I were born a Muslim, I would want to know what that religion’s doctrinal foundations were, and what it teaches me and other humans, as far as our behavioral actions toward other people should be. I feel the same about my religion, Christianity. (I am Lutheran.) If you have never heard of her, you should Google “Ayaan Hirsi Ali”. This ladywas born in Somalia in 1969 and at an early age was a victim of female genital mutilation, which is sanctioned in Islam. In other religions and in other cultures, it is not sanctioned and would be called out as “child abuse.” Yet Ayaan Hirsi Ali tried hard to be a good Muslim woman. At some point she became disenchanted with Islam and went to The Netherlands. Now she is in the US. Glad for her! The idea that millions of people over thecenturies have never heard of Jesus Christ is very true. And it saddens me that even today in many places like Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, China, Indonesia, and other countries too, thereis no freedom of religion. Had I been living in one of these countries long agoor even today, chances are I would justwant to “fit in” and do what the elites of that country dictated to the rest of us to do. And let’s remember that tribalism was quite rampant for many centuries in many places. The “winner take all” mentality thrived in most places. Yet, with the invention of satellite and cell phone, people in the places I mentioned above can learn about other religions. And that is a good thing. But I read in one of the online news emails I get (maybe “Freedom Wire” or “United We Stand” or “Patriot Nation”) that in Afghanistan these days, the Taliban is shooting anyone who has a Bible app on their phone. Clearly, Jesus Christ is a threat to many, and I cannot figure out why. Lastly, there is a Christian Evangelical group called “Open Doors” and every January they publish a “World Watch List” naming the 50 countries were it is tough to be a Christian. North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistanare the top 5 countries who persecute their Christian citizens. All but North Korea are Islamic Republics or Islamic States. Hmmm… I sure do wish you well in your career. As I used to say to my students, I say to you: “Keep Climbing”. Kind regards,