June 23, 2022
The 246th Army Band of the South Carolina National Guard was scheduled to perform at an event on Sunday, June 26, 2022 innocuously called the “Annual Carolina Celebration of Liberty”. This appearance by the 246th was scheduled to be held at the First Baptist Church of Columbia, SC (FBC- Columbia). However, MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein received an emailed complaint regarding this appearance by the 246th stating:
I would like to anonymously represent the majority of the members of the 246 Army Band who come from a wide range our religious backgrounds including Christian, minority religions, and non-religious. We are concerned about our participation in the upcoming “Annual Carolina Celebration of Liberty” hosted by the first baptist church of SC.
MRFF research quickly uncovered a memorandum from the Adjutant General of the SC National Guard dated 13 Jan 20 that requires the band to vet events prior to participation to ensure they meet regulatory requirements and it specifically includes Army Regulation 360-1 (Army Public Affairs Program.)
A quick vetting reveals the description of the scheduled event (hosted on the church’s website) can best be described as an in-your-face attempt to conflate Patriotism & Military Service along with the FBC-Columbia’s chosen version of Christianity:
The Carolina Celebration of Liberty is the longest running event of its kind in our state. With the Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra from First Baptist, the 246th Army Band of The South Carolina National Guard, and a cast of all ages you will thrill at the sights and sounds of America as we celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ. From the founding of this land until now many have paid the price to preserve and protect our liberty.(https://fbccola.com/celebrationofliberty-preshow/)
So, we come together in freedom to honor God and thank Him for this free land that has been a beacon of freedom and liberty around the world.
A key part of each celebration is the honoring of our veterans as well as those presently serving.
Our veterans’ organizations are always very special guests, and they are well represented by their commanders and other officers.
We have had many distinguished special honorees and some of them include Medal of Honor recipients Colonel Charles Murray, Major General James Livingston, and Sergeant John Baker.
It was Governor Carroll Campbell’s official kick off for the welcome home week for Desert Storm. It has also been heralded and backed by Mayor Bob Coble for many years. In 2003 it moved to Williams Brice stadium under the name AMERICA 2003 as it was the official state celebration. Special guests have included virtually every commanding general from Fort Jackson during these 34 years as well as officials from Shaw Air Force Base and our own state guard.
…and FBC-Columbia’s version of Christianity is assumed to be the basis of the following statements on their website:
What We Believe
There is one God, manifested in the three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. [Genesis 1:1:26; Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14] Jesus is the one and only Son of God, was born of a virgin, is wholly God and wholly man, lived a sinless life, died in our place as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, was buried, arose from the grave and ascended into Heaven. [John 1:14; 3:16; Matthew 4; Luke 4; Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21] Jesus Christ will return to Earth in bodily form. [Revelation 19]
The Bible is the Word of God, is without any error, and is the sole authority for life. [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21]
Man is a special creation of God, made in His image.[Genesis 1:26-27] Mankind fell through the sin of the first man, Adam and all people are sinners in need of salvation.
[Genesis 3:15; Romans 5:12-15] That salvation is a gift of grace from God which is received through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, [Romans 6:23; Titus 3:5; Ephesians2:8-9; John 1:12] and every person who truly is saved is eternally secure in the Lord Jesus Christ. [John 10:28-30; Ephesians 1: 13-14; Hebrews 7:25; 10:10, 14] Those who die without faith in Jesus Christ spend eternity in Hell, and those who die with their sins forgiven through faith in Christ spend eternity in Heaven. [Revelation 20: 14-15; John 3:16]
We believe in the separation of church and state but not in the separation of God and government. [1 Peter 2:13-17].
On behalf of MRFF’s clients in this matter, Mikey sent a demand letter to Major General Van McCarty, Adjutant General for South Carolina and head of the South Carolina Military Department. Mikey bluntly spelled out the glaringly obvious violation of established U.S. Army regulations embodied in this planned appearance by the 246th Army Band:
Major General McCarty, you are directed to immediately cease and desist forthwith from having this military band unit participate in this Sunday’s (June 26, 2022) sectarian, nonsecular “Annual Carolina Celebration of Liberty.” The band’s participation in this event would incontrovertibly and viciously violate the No Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, a number of critical DoD and U.S. Army Directives, Instructions, and Regulations, as well as your OWN regulatory mandates of the Adjutant General of the South Carolina National Guard. Additionally, having this band perform at this event would abrogate the U.S. Army’s Core Values and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
AR 360–1, “The Army Public Affairs Program,” could not be more unambiguous on this matter. Section 3-1 of the regulation explicitly states (emphasis added):
“3–1. Public affairs restrictions, limitations, and other considerations
a. Selective benefit. Army participation must not selectively benefit or appear to benefit any person, group, or corporation (whether profit or nonprofit); religion, sect, religious or sectarian group, or quasi-religious or ideological movement; fraternal organization; political organization; or commercial venture. ACOMs or organizations that provide support to a nonfederal entity must be willing and able to provide equal support to comparable events sponsored by similar nonfederal entities.
“b. Avoid endorsement. Activities will not support any event involving or appearing to involve the promotion, endorsement, or sponsorship of any individual, civilian enterprise (CE), religious or sectarian movement, organization, ideological movement, or political campaign unless it is clear that the support primarily benefits the community at large or the Army as opposed to benefiting the sponsoring organization. Examples of such instances include as follows:
“(5) Support to religious organizations and activities. Religious facilities are often used as nonsectarian centers for community events and activities of common interest and benefit; therefore, Army support of community activities conducted in such facilities may be authorized if the program is community-wide, nonsectarian, and of common interest and benefit and the program is broadly publicized.
“A church event that is billed to “celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ” at which people will “come together in freedom to honor God” clearly does NOT satisfy the requirement in example (5) that an event at a religious facility be “nonsectarian.” There is no wiggle room here, General. This event is a highly sectarian Christian event, espousing the specific Christian beliefs of the First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina. If you need more detail as to why the train wreck you are apparently sanctioning is totally illegal, unethical, and immoral, please contact your own Judge Advocate General’s Office.”
Within five and a half hours, the 246th Army Band’s appearance at this event was cancelled as reported to MRFF in and email from one of MRFF’s clients in this matter:
From: Active Duty U.S. Army MRFF Client’s E-mail Address Withheld
Subject: Religious Military Performance Stopped
Date: June 22, 2022 at 2:24:59 PM MDT
To: [email protected]
Our unit was informed by the commander at final formation that we will no longer be participating in the religiously based “Celebration of Liberty” event in Columbia, SC. The band was relieved that the right decision was ultimately reached and that we are no longer being asked to violate the law or military policy.
We appreciated the quick response and support from MRFF through this matter.
(Active Duty U.S. Army MRFF Client’s name, rank, unit and installation all withheld)
While MRFF appreciates the rapid response in this singular instance, MRFF remains ever vigilant to client complaints regarding ongoing efforts to transform the U.S. Military into a sectarian religious entity … including this follow up email from other U.S. Military band members commanded to perform at a very similar unconstitutional event apparently working to conflate Patriotism & Military Service with an extremely narrow sectarian religious view:
From: (Active Duty MRFF Clients’ E-mail addresses withheld)
Subject: (Service Branch Name Withheld) Band request for help to the MRFF
Date: June 23, 2022 at 7:54:50 AM MDT
To: Information Weinstein [email protected]
Dear Mr. Mikey Weinstein and the MRFF,
A bunch of us saw the success you had yesterday in helping the 246th Army Band in South Carolina to avoid violating the constitution and the military regs by getting that Christian church event cancelled from their schedule. You have helped out 5 of our band members in the past so we keep an eye on your website and public releases.
We just wanted to say that we are in the (military service branch name withheld and band unit designation withheld) Band and are facing a very similar situation. Our Band Commander has told us that we are to supposed to perform in a Fourth of July ceremony at a nearby large evangelical church. That church is promoting the event as some sort of “Celebration of the Founding of America as a Christian Nation” which is just unacceptable to most of us in the Band.
It’s fine for that church to butcher American history if they want to but not for the (military service branch name withheld and band unit designation withheld) Band to help them do it.
We have a meeting scheduled this morning with our Band Commander to make it clear that we will not participate if he continues to insist that we do so. We are going to show him the news release from the MRFF about helping the 246th Army Band achieve its goal to not play at their Christian church event. As per the phone call we just had with you Mikey we would like to ask for the MRFF’s help if he refuses to cancel our Band’s participation in this unconstitutional event which also clearly violates (DOD and military branch regulation citations withheld).
Please give our best to our brother and sister Bandmates in the 246th Army Band as we try to do what they were just able to do.
And thank you to the MRFF for being there to help guide us as we fight this affront to the constitution and our own (military service branch name withheld) regulations. Please keep all of our identity information confidential at this point.
(Active Duty MRFF Clients’ names, ranks, titles and military branch unit designation and assigned installation all withheld)
These recurring incidents being allowed and even encouraged by U.S. Military commanders in light of ongoing investigations of the January 6, 2021 attack of the U.S. Capitol and increasing evidence of Christian Supremacist involvement reminds MRFF of the stark nexus between our mission and national security. These continuous ongoing violations of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Military Regulations also reminds MRFF of the famous warning:
When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.(source: unknown… often [erroneously] attributed to Sinclair Lewis)