From: (name withheld)
Subject: Re: More on “Wreaths Across America’s” FAILING GRADE from Charity Navigator, & a Powerful Reply to a MRFF Critic from a Rabbi & Former USAF Chaplain
Date: December 22, 2021 at 1:43:43 PM MST
To: Military Religious Freedom Foundation <[email protected]>
Submitted for consideration by (name withheld)
Different perspectives on seasonal evergreen wreaths
I would like to offer different perspectives for the presentation of seasonal evergreen wreaths at gravesites for deceased military personnel at national military burial sites. I have intentionally avoided reference to these wreaths as “Christmas wreaths” because there might be another perspective not affronting Jewish people and the memories of the Jewish decedents at these national military burial locations. I have seen news coverage that the wreaths are part of a memorial or remembrance service that includes saluting each military member’s grave and a declaration or acknowledgment of that specific decedent’s name. As something of a rhetorical question: how many people (including Christians as well as Jewish people) would feel uncomfortable by the absence of a wreath at a deceased Jewish military member’s grave when other nearby graves do have the wreaths? Would the absence of a wreath at any Jewish military member’s grave imply that the deceased Jewish military member was undeserving or to be excluded from a memorial or remembrance intended to honor the deceased military members at the national burial site? Additionally, would most visitors at national military burial sites want to reflect proudly that the collective service in military uniforms of all of the deceased military members represented protection of the rights of all Americans, including rights for religious freedom regardless of any particular individual’s religious faith?
In conclusion the mission of MRFF which should be borne in mind strategically is separation of church and state. For a figurative tactical outlook, battlegrounds for the operations of MRFF should be considered carefully and figurative “collateral damage” should be minimized. Has MRFF incurred damage by an interpretation that the wreaths given as part of memorials and honor to deceased military members at national military burial sites are necessarily oriented to Christianity?
For purposes of interpreting the wreaths at the national military burial sites, perhaps it should be said that the crucifixion cross symbolizing Christianity does not appear in the wreaths and that Hanukkah is celebrated in the same month as Christmas.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member James Currie
Dear (name withheld):
I have been asked by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to respond to your recent email. I don’t know whether you have followed the work of the MRFF, but if you did so, you would find that this organization takes very seriously any attempt to breach the “wall of separation” that our Founders erected between church and state in our country. First of all, these are “Christmas wreaths” that Wreaths Across America (WAA) is selling and placing on the graves of veterans buried in U.S. Government cemeteries. The company from which WAA purchases its wreaths is owned by the same people who run WAA. Charity Navigator, a respected analyst of not-for-profit organizations, has given WAA a failing grade because of its finances. The problem is that the Christmas wreaths that are placed willy-nilly on veterans’ graves are symbols of one religion: Christianity. Such wreaths have been recognized as Christian symbols for the past 200 years, marking at this time of year the start of the Advent season. Advent, as you may know, is a holy time of year for Christians, denoting as it does the birth of Jesus. I’m not Jewish, but I cannot imagine that any Jewish veteran would want his grave decorated with the symbol of a religion to which he did not belong. What if the Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists wanted to decorate veterans’ graves with the symbols of their faith? Would that be okay? You see, Mr. (name withheld), the First Amendment to our Constitution erected, in the words of President Thomas Jefferson, a “wall of separation” between church and state in our country, meaning that our government is not supposed to favor or recognize one religion above another. WAA is doing its best to breach that wall of separation, and the MRFF does its best to shore up the wall. That’s why MRFF feels it necessary to object to the placement of religious symbols of any kind on graves in U.S. Government cemeteries, unless such symbols are placed there by the families of the deceased. I can assure you, Mr. (name withheld), that Christmas wreaths have never been seen as Hanukah symbols, irrelevant as that observation might be. Col. James T. Currie, USA (Ret.), Ph.D.Board of Advisors, Military Religious Freedom Foundation