From: (name withheld)
Subject: Wreaths Across America
Date: December 22, 2021 at 1:14:58 PM MST
To: [email protected]
Mike – I’m wondering why you feel that a simple wreath is an affront to non-religious families? It’s obviously placed there as a symbol of respect for their service.
Please help me understand. Thank you
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France
On Dec 22, 2021, at 2:23 PM, Martin France wrote:
(name withheld), maybe a better way to ask your question is to ask Mikey directly, “How would you and the rest of your family view strangers decorating your father’s grave with a religious symbol that doesn’t conform with his beliefs when he was alive?” Or, you could ask yourself, “How would my survivors feel if my grave was ‘decorated’ with Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or other religious paraphernalia that didn’t match my beliefs?” The fact that these well-meaning (from their standpoint) people feel that they can presume how a dead veteran wants their grave decorated or honored is beyond presumptuous. In my (non-Christian) eyes it would be desecratory. Good intentions don’t erase that.Sincerely,Marty France, PhDBrigadier General, USAF (Retired MRFF Advisory Board
On Wed, Dec 22, 2021, 14:39 wrote: (name withheld)
General France, first thank you for your service. I have the greatest respect for those who serve. Recently I was in DC burying my wife’s mother in law in Arlington. While I understand the issue with the families of Jewish soldiers being offended by the wreath (as it is typically understood to represent Christ) my follow up question was going to be why would agnostic or atheistic soldiers families be offended? There are many cultures and paying respect in one may sometimes offend in another. How could this offense be avoided?
Let me ask this question. Is the solution to cancel Wreaths Across America? If not, how can the program move forward without offending the families of those that are not Christian?
I ask all these questions simply out of curiosity. Full disclosure, I am a devout Christian who is very familiar with Old Testament and believe that the Jews are God’s Chosen People. The issue interests me greatly.
Thanks for indulging me.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France
On Dec 22, 2021, at 3:10 PM, Martin France wrote:
(name withheld), this is all very easy. At the very dead minimum, wreaths should only be placed on graves with distinctly christian markings–they aren’t. Ideally, they should only be placed on graves with the permission of the surviving family. I do not have to explain to you or convince you WHY I find it offensive (or would). The burden should be on the placer, not the deceased.I will indulge you, though, and tell you (briefly) why.I find it deeply offensive that people throughout my career have ASSUMED that I’m Christian, imposed their prayers and blessings at official events, acted like one cannot serve honorably without being religious, and acting like religion (particularly fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity) is equivalent or a prerequisite for patriotism. Their unconstitutional actions have discriminated against me and my family and caused great pain.It would be abhorrent to me to think that these same Christian bigots could gain some satisfaction (or feel that they’re ‘honoring’ me) by putting a Christian symbol on my grave.I’d rather have organic fertilizer, if you get my drift. At least that would help the grass grow.We’re not all Christians. Don’t presume we are.Cheers, Marty
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member James Currie
Dear (name withheld):
I have been asked by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to respond to your recent email. If you are sincerely interested in knowing why the placement of Christmas wreaths on veterans’ graves is unacceptable to those of us who believe in separation of church and state, perhaps I can explain.
I am an Army veteran myself and have participated in placing flags on veterans’ graves on Memorial Day (31 May) each year. I have also marched across the plaza at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivered a wreath–one made of blue and gold flowers representing the U.S. Public Health Service–to the Tomb Guard honoring those unknown dead who are entombed there. The difference between these actions and what the group known as Wreaths Across America (WAA) is doing is context. Christmas wreaths have for about the last 200 years been recognized worldwide as symbols of the start of the Advent season, which is when adherents to the Christian religion celebrate the birth of their Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, wreaths are inherently religious when coupled with this time of year.
Now, you may think that I am wrong about the history of Christian wreaths. If so, I urge you to research it. This will not take very long. You’ll quickly find that it is as I have written. You may also think that placing a Christian symbol on a grave is no big deal, for after all, most Americans are Christians. That is nominally true, but many who served our country in uniform were not Christian. The VA recognizes some seventy-four different symbols that are allowed to be engraved on a tombstone to indicate the religious beliefs—or lack of religious beliefs—of veterans. Many of these symbols are not Christian. Yet, we have photographic proof that the wreath layers of WAA often decorate identifiably non-Christian graves with their wreaths. You might also Google “Wreaths Across America” and the Wall Street Journal. You might be surprised to learn the origin of this Christmas wreath-laying venture and who profits from the purchase of these millions of wreaths.
The First Amendment to our Constitution prohibits our government from crossing the “wall of separation,” as President Thomas Jefferson described it, between church and state in our country. Allowing the placement of a religious symbol, willy-nilly, on veterans’ graves is a clear attempt to breach that wall. Regardless of individual family desires, government involvement and acquiescence in what is essentially a religious activity, is quite clearly a violation of the First Amendment, whether some of our citizenry understand it or not.Col. James T. Currie, USA (Ret.), Ph.D.Board of Advisors, Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
On Dec 22, 2021, at 11:16 PM, Mike wrote:
Hi (name withheld),
It’s not a “simple wreath,” it’s a Christian symbol celebrating a Christian holiday. We have no problem with them being placed on the graves of Christians or others who choose to have them, but it’s disrespectful of veterans of other faiths to assume it’s OK to “decorate” their graves without checking to see if such a thing would be welcome.
Further, in a government cemetery, the U.S. should not allow itself to appear to be promoting one particular faith over others.
I hope this helps you better understand.
Mike Farrell (MRFF Board of Advisors)
On Dec 23, 2021, at 6:36 AM, wrote:(name withheld)
It does. Thanks
On Dec 23, 2021, at 7:13 AM, (name withheld) wrote:
Mikey – What does “post right away” mean?
Response from founder and President of MRFF Mikey Weinstein
On Dec 23, 2021, at 9:56 AM, Michael L Weinstein wrote:
We put these emails on our website… Of course we never use your name or your email address… Been doing it for the better part of 20 years… Provides excellent edification for those that want to check us out and our issues…
From: (name withheld)
Date: December 23, 2021 at 8:09:26 AM MST
To: Michael L Weinstein
Subject:Re: Wreaths Across America
Understood. Thank you for explaining.
Additionally, I fully support what your group is doing and agree that families should be offered an opportunity to agree to the wreath service.
Thank you for your service Mikey. Hope you have a nice weekend.