MRFF Advisory Board Members Larry Wilkerson, Marty France, and James T. Currie, MRFF Board Member John Compere, and MRFF supporters Rabbi Joel Schwartzman and Fr. Steve Dundas school emailer on the Establishment Clause

Published On: September 5, 2022|Categories: MRFF's Inbox, Top News|4 Comments|
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From: (name withheld)
Subject: Sad day
Date: September 4, 2022 at 9:33:04 PM MDT
To: [email protected]

Mikey,

Heard you sent a nasty letter to stop a band from playing at a church.

Did you know that the first University in the States was Oxford, later to become Harvard, and was built to train up ministers of the Gospel so that “when the ones alive will lie in the dust” others can be trained to take their place?

You spoke of illegal… the establishment clause isn’t to keep the church out of the State but the State out of the church. They fled Persecution from the English and so wanted to keep that from happening in the new country.

You said immoral… what are your morals founded on? The truest Most Moral of all is God and I’m positive He had no problem with them playing at His church.

What really happens is you show your protest against freedom by moving to stop a freedom celebration event. If there really were any that were upset about going, which I kinda doubt, there are ways to get permission to miss the event.

Anyway, hell is real and once a person falls into there they NEVER can leave. My hope is that you and all of yours will never know that pain and sheer terror.

Sincerely,

(name withheld)


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Larry Wilkerson

On Sep 5, 2022, at 6:10 AM, Larry Wilkerson wrote:

Mr. (name withheld),

Mikey Weinstein asked me to respond to your email to him dated 4 September.

Let’s take your last point first.  Well more than half of the world’s almost 8 billion people, including millions of Americans, either disbelieve the concept of hell that many Christians put forth — fire and brimstone, Satan, and other mythical propaganda — or totally reject it as anything other than human-manufactured phobia-based propaganda. Many historians and other scholars describe the concept as derived by largely male religious zealots in order to keep the hoi polloi sufficently frightened to want to stay in the church. In the past, Roman Catholic popes actually published posters and papers claiming the Antichrist had been born just to frighten people sufficiently to make them attend religious gatherings and adhere to the church. So, let’s just say more people believe hell a concept created by the church to frighten people than anything else. Clearly, that concept grows less and less successful as time passes and as education occurs more pervasively.  Now, to your other very misleading or misconceived points.

Your recitation of the Harvard history omits much of that history but more to the point is only a very tiny portion of the more general history of America’s beginnings.  Those beginnings were as much about eliminating a very close European predilection for often state- sanctioned and enforced religion — again led principally by males and in part at least to maintain male dominance — as they were about so-called “religious freedom”, i.e., in your confused words, both getting the state out of the church and getting the church out of the state.  That latter is why any level-headed American citizen is appalled at, for instance, U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert’s open demand that Christianity should be America’s national religion.  In short, the state has its provenance and the church its provenance and the two should never mix.  That’s why so-called National Prayer Breakfasts are dangerous perversions of these principles and should be discontinued. Domestic politics — and the votes of “Christians” — are the sole reason they continue to be held. This is pernicious and dangerous for democracy.

Your phrase “freedom celebration” to describe a military band playing at a purely religious function is a patent absurdity. How can it be about freedom when an organization representing the secular state — and too its military arm — is compelled to perform in a purely religious setting?  That’s the very opposite of freedom — and for the Jewish, Muslim, agnostic and atheist members of that military band it is a second violation of founding principles. And that we have historically permitted and even funded such violations is certainly no valid argument for their continuance. 

You very much need more education, my friend, and particularly in American history, as well as obtaining a better appreciation for world history in general. I would recommend you start with Jefferson’s “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom”.  And you might want to examine closely your ancient and quite out-of-step with scientific and even common-sense evidence, concept of “hell”. 

Lawrence Wilkerson
Colonel, USA (Ret)
MRFF Advisory Board Member


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Marty France

On Sep 5, 2022, at 6:44 AM, Martin France wrote:

Dear Mr (name withheld) (or do you prefer “Rockin’ Richi?”),

First, thanks for your note and what appears to be a real email address.  I am an advisory board member of the MRFF and, in that capacity, occasionally respond to emails like yours.  Next, I will presume in your note that you are referring to two distinctive victories by the MRFF in which we managed to alert commanders of the improper use of taxpayer-funded military bands asked to support (at not cost) Christian Nationalist events that were linked to the “Seven Mountains” or “Seven Peaks” dominionist cabal that seeks to put evangelical christians in charge of those aspects of American life.  The MRFF page has links to info on this.

In any case, here’s the link to the MRFF page on the cases you mention.  Please read these before replying to this note: https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/2022/06/with-mrffs-immediate-assistance-second-military-bands-appearance-at-christian-nationalist-church-event-is-swiftly-canceled/  

Let’s discuss some of your other points.  The MRFF has no issue with these churches holding these events on their own property and at their own cost.  That is freedom to practice their religion, freedom of assembly, speech, etc.  We do not, however, think that ANY government agency should or is obligated to support this activity.  Let me give you an example.  Let’s say the mosque down the street from you was holding an “Americans for Allah” event in which their purpose was to spread the idea that the US government should be run solely by Muslims and that all non-Muslims should have their personal rights restricted.  (you could also insert Jews or Hindus or Atheists, but you get the point).  Then, this mosque asked the local public high school band or state national guard band to play for free at their event.  Some parents or band members protested, saying that they shouldn’t be forced to perform at a sectarian event promoting a world-view with which they vehemently disagreed.  Guess, what?  The MRFF (and I think you) would support the protesting band members’ and parents’ position and rights.

As for the separation of Church and State going only one way, that’s incorrect.  Please google “The Establishment Clause” and actually read it.  This is THE fundamental Constitutional phrase on which all of us depend to keep the government from imposing one single religious view on citizens.  It’s why Christian or any other school prayer was eliminated in public schools in the 1960s and why, even in a democracy, a majority of your neighbors can’t tell you or your spouse what to wear or eat or to whom your children must pray in school.  It’s why both neighbors benefit when a privacy fence is built between two properties.As for hell, my personal hell would be forced to live in a world run by religious zealots that think they know how I should live my life and enforce laws that coerce me to follow their lead.  You’re free to believe in a hell after death, but I don’t and there’s no empirical evidence supporting its existence. You see, I do not believe as you do and, moreover, that doesn’t trouble me one iota.  In this country, I’m FREE to live my life without your endorsement or approval, so long as I do not infringe on your rights to practice your personal religion.You can see that I’m a big Establishment Clause fan.  It protected me in many ways during my 41-plus years in uniform.  It protects ALL of us.  If you’d like to learn about alternatives to the Establishment Clause and how we might all end up if the perverse Seven Mountains effort were to succeed and it were to be ignored by SCOTUS or removed, I suggest  researching how this has worked in other nations by googling “taliban” or “ISIS.”  For more historical cases, I suggest “pogrom” or “Spanish Inquisition” or schedule a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

Thanks again for your note,

Marty France, PhD
Brigadier General, USAF (Retired)
MRFF Advisory Board Member 


Response from MRFF supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman


On Sep 5, 2022, at 8:14 AM, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman wrote:

Dear (name withheld): Thank you for your missive.  However, I have to admit to some confusion about the assertions you make and their relevancy to the real issue(s) involved with the MRFF’s course of action in assuring that military assets were not used in a purely sectarian celebration.  The United States armed forces do not get involved in sectarian events accept on an individual, private basis.  To do otherwise would be to sanction one religion and/or religious body over another.  I am rather certain that the same hackles that arose in you over the subsequent cancellation of this military band’s participation in the “Celebration of the Founding of America as a Christian Nation” event would have been your response to the band playing at a Muslim or Jewish occasion that was opting for the establishment of Sharia or Talmudic law for this country.  But be that as it may, you miss the essential point that I was making above.  It isn’t a matter of keeping the church out of the state or visa versa (and I think you convoluted your argument at that point), it is assuring that public funds and our military are not used in ways that promote one religious practice or view over any other.

As for your appeal to the fires of Hell, I as a Jew wish you well with that inherent, implied threat but wish to inform you that many souls, both Christian and Jewish, have, like me, eschewed any such belief.  It is, for some of us, more the contention that Hell is what we make or don’t make of this life.  It is upon you to determine if your email has or has not added to those flames.  And please note that what happens in the here-after has yet to be objectively affirmed or verified.  But do let us know what you find when you get there.

Again, thanks for letting us know your views.  However, know that they have not changed ours in any way.  We are proud of the work of the MRFF and plan to continue defending the Constitution of the United States and our beloved country from being taken over by any one religion.

Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman
Ch, Col, USAF (Ret)


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member James T. Currie

Dear Mr. (name withheld):

I have been asked by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to respond to your recent email. Perhaps you do not understand the significance of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, because that is the basis for virtually everything that MRFF does. This amendment is, of course, part of what is referred to as the Bill of Rights, and it was promoted in the first federal Congress by men who had drafted the original Constitution. There was considerable discussion during the debate on adopting this Constitution that personal liberties and individual rights were not explicitly protected enough by the Constitution. Hence, men like James Madison and George Mason formulated plans to add protections to the original document. Twelve amendments were proposed and sent to the States by the First Congress, and ten of them were added to the Constitution almost immediately, by the end of 1791. One of these was what we refer to as the First Amendment, though it was actually number three on the list of amendments that were sent to the States for ratification.

This First Amendment contains certain restrictions on the federal government and protections for the residents of the United States. These include guarantees of freedom of speech, and of the press, and of assembly, and of the right to petition Congress for redress of grievances. It also contains a very important affirmation that religion in the United States will not be subject to or intermixed with the government. Its words are quite broad and are very clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Our third president, Thomas Jefferson offered what is probably the best interpretation of this part of the First Amendment in a letter he sent to the Baptist congregation of Danbury, CT, in 1802. Here’s what Jefferson wrote to this group of religious individuals:

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people [that is, the First Amendment] which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Please note Jefferson’s reference to a “wall of separation between Church & State.” This wall of separation is at the heart of the First Amendment, and it is the basis for MRFF’s objection to a military band’s participation in a religious event at a Baptist church in South Carolina. It was completely appropriate that MRFF object to this participation, because it was asked to intervene by members of the band who did not think that they should be there. This was clearly a religious observance, and it was clearly inappropriate for a military band, funded by taxpayer dollars, to participate in it.

I urge you to go onto the MRFF website and read the accounts of what MRFF does. It is a non-partisan organization whose clients are primarily professing Christians. MRFF represents everyone in the military who understands that the wall of separation between church and state applies to their service to our country and who respects that wall and wants it to remain strong. MRFF’s actions have absolutely everything to do with freedom, but it is not the kind of freedom you espouse, where men and women in uniform are ordered to participate in a religious event. What MRFF objected to was not “a freedom celebration event.” It was a hard core religious event. Members of the band objected, and MRFF brought their objections to the attention of individuals at a high enough level where there was a full understanding of the First Amendment.

You, of course, are free to rant and rave about “keeping the State out of the church,” but it is quite clear that you do not understand our country’s history and the determination of our Founders that we would be spared as a country the religious strife that had so plagued their ancestors in Europe. Go back and read some history sometime, if you are truly interested in being enlightened. It’s all very clear. MRFF does its mission and serves its clients, and it will continue to do so. Many of us who served in the military are quite grateful for its work and its defense of our Constitution. You should be, too.

Col. James T. Currie, USA (Ret.), Ph.D.
Board of Advisors, Military Religious Freedom Foundation


Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere

Mr. (name withheld),

This will acknowledge receipt of your clueless constitutional comments & self-righteous sectarian sermonizing.

For your enlightenment, US Constitution Article VI commands “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” lawfully separating religion from government and protecting government from religion. The 1st Amendment provides our historic trinity of religious liberties – (1) freedom from government established or endorsed religion, (2) freedom of religion or no religion & (3) freedom for religion or non-religion speech. It lawfully separates government from religion, protects religion from government and requires government neutrality regarding religion. Jesus even separated government & religion (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12;17). The US Constitution, Department of Defense directives & Armed Forces regulations prohibit the military, as part of our government, from promoting or proselytizing a religion (except in military chapels by military chaplains).

For your information, almost all members of a military band (composed of Christians as well as other faiths & beliefs) objected to performing at a religious event promoting the Christian Nationalism falsehood because they knew participating would violate the US Constitution (to which they took the sworn oath of service to support, defend & bear true faith & allegiance) as well as military directives & regulations. They requested assistance of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (composed of 85% Christians) & the performance was canceled once the proper authorities were notified.

“Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God, holds other people with contempt. Whenever a man believes he has the exact truth from God, there is in that man no spirit of compromise. He has not the modesty born of the imperfections of human nature; he has the theological certainty and the tyranny born of ignorant assurance.” – Robert G. Ingersoll (American military commander, writer, orator & Republican political leader).

Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation


Response from MRFF supporter Fr. Steve Dundas

(name withheld),

I am a friend and associate of Mr. Weinstein, a retired Naval Chaplain and a historian. I know these subjects like the back of my hand, and have done much research and writing about all you mentioned.

I am going to try to be as gracious as possible, but you are ignorant and deluded regarding everything you said in your email.

First, Mr. Weinstein did not write a nasty letter to keep a military band from playing at a sectarian church event. He was contacted by numerous members of the band who objected to playing at the event. Mr. Weinstein contacted the Adjutant General of the South Carolina National Guard to remind him of the prohibitions in military law concerning this, and informed him of the nature of the event. Those are the facts leading to Mr. Weinstein’s involvement in the case. Had members of the band protested at playing at any other religion’s sectarian event he would have done the same. The fact is that over 95% of his nearly 80,000 clients are Christians, as are 85% of his paid and volunteer staff.

Your second point about Harvard is superfluous. While true that it was founded as a private religious college to train ministers, that is irrelevant to this case.

Your third point about the establishment clause is a red herring. While true that many colonists fled to the United States to avoid persecution, many did not. In fact almost every colony in British North America had established Churches that persecuted religious minorities and unbelievers, and used the state to carry out their sentences. Note the Congregational Church of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and most of New England, and the Anglican Church, or Church of England which was the State Church of most of the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Colonies. Both were especially vindictive against smaller Christian Churches such as the Methodists, Quakers, and Baptists, that latter which believed in strict separation of church and state. The only colonies with a State Church were Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

The fact is that the First Amendment and it’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, written by Madison the Diest, and the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty, written by the skeptic Jefferson, on which Madison modeled the First Amendment we’re both highly influenced by the great Virginia Baptist John Leland.

These were necessary because the old state churches of the colonies were attempting to reestablish themselves in every colony and at the national level. In Virginia, the Anglicans of the former Church of England, now the Protestant Episcopal Church used violence to break up the meetings of Baptists and others. Leland went to his friends to ensure that the kind of churches many fled were not established here. It was done to protect the state and all citizens from churches that wanted to control the lives of citizens and quash dissenters. It is a good thing that these were passed because had there been State Churches there would have been no Second Great Awakening, the most important religious event in America’s Christian history. This is a historical fact and it is not in dispute. 

Now for morality. One can claim God as the highest morality and even try to say that they follow that morality. This is common in every religion, and it is possible for those of other religions or no religion at all to have strong guiding principles and observe high moral standards. We are a Pluralistic society in which Christians are now a minority. It is immoral for Christians to use their political influence to force members of the military to play at their sectarian events. In this case the church in question was promoting the idea of Christian Dominionism, a highly theocratic and anti-democracy theology that Christians should take over the seven key bases of power in society and with it the government in order to proclaim a theocracy where only Christians have rights. They were doing so under the guise of celebrating “Freedom,” but not the freedom of all, but their freedom to take over the government. This too is a fact and it is not in dispute.

Finally, you close your remarks by threatening Hell as a punishment for people that do not agree with you. Even in Christianity, going back to the early Church Fathers, the concept of Hell was never agreed upon, and it is still not agreed upon because of the seriousness of which many Christians understand the universal impact of Christ paying for the sins of the world, and reconciling the world to himself. See Second Corinthians Chapter five verses 17-21.

But even that is not the point of the soldiers who requested Mr. Weinstein and MRFF’s assistance, and the gratuitous tossing around of threats of Hell are also irrelevant to the case.

So I encourage you to actually learn something about American history that is not enshrouded in myth, perhaps Dr. John Fea’s book “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation”. Fea is an Evangelical Christian and Distinguished Professor of American History at Messiah University.

Until you do I say toodles-loo to you.

Sincerely, but with little respect,

Fr. Steve Dundas, Commander, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired) 


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On Sep 6, 2022, at 12:58 AM, Mike Farrell wrote:
Hi (name withheld),
Got your message. Not clear about all of it but most of it is based on your opinion and your belief system. Your opinions are ones we’ve heard before and, frankly, don’t seem worth taking the time to bother with.
The logical train you seem to be wanting to build through the progression of the message does not hold and is not worth refuting.
As regards your belief about the existence of hell and the fate of those who ‘fall into’ if, we don’t find the entire concept persuasive, so it’s of no concern to us. Because, however, it is apparently something you do subscribe to, we appreciate your stated hope that we never experience it and we offer the same wishes to you and yours.
Mike Farrell (MRFF Board of Advisors)


Response from MRFF Supporter Mike Challman

On Sep 7, 2022, at 1:30 PM, Mike Challman wrote:



Good Day, Mr. (name withheld) – 

I know you’ve already heard from several of my MRFF colleagues, but I think you may still find my perspective interesting.  I am a life-long, active Christian… in addition to being a USAF veteran and a Blue Star Dad.  And of course, I am also a longtime supporter of the MRFF.  Because you’ve already gotten very good input from others about some of the historical aspects of your email, I won’t spend any time on those items.

Rather, I’ll just mention that it is entirely possible, even appropriate, to be both a fervent Christian and a fervent supporter of the Constitutional rights of all Americans.  I’m sure if we spoke for even a moment about our religious beliefs, we would discover that we agree on many things.  But I do not believe that any religious belief, even my own beloved Christianity, should be given prominence over the beliefs (including unbelief) of other Americans.  In the context of military service, this limitation is even more important to understand.  I don’t know whether you served in the military, but as I said I am a veteran and have many family members who have served in the past and serve today.  We all know well that it’s very difficult to speak up for one’s own rights in such a strict, hierarchical culture.  It’s for that reason that the MRFF’s mission is so vital – we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves without risking their career.  And we speak for all Americans, including Christians, when we ask military organizations to be respectful of the Constitutional limits on sectarian religious activities.  

That’s all that has happened in the case of the band.  No one is challenging the right of anyone, whether inside or outside of the military, to believe whatever they wish to believe.  No one is making a judgement of who may be ‘right’ or who may be ‘wrong’ in their religious beliefs.  We only ask that military units, including this band, stay on the right side of the Constitution.

I’d be happy to continue this dialogue, if you are interested.

Peace, 

Mike Challman

USAF veteran, Blue Star Dad, MRFF supporter


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4 Comments

  1. Jeff September 5, 2022 at 5:18 pm

    “Heard you sent a nasty letter to stop a band from playing at a church.”

    That opening line from Name Withheld’s message shows right at the start that they have no idea what they’re talking about. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people were motivated to seek out information on current events from accurate sources of information, and weren’t just focused on reinforcing their prejudices?

  2. Grey One Talks Sass September 5, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    Jeff, when an authorized Voice of Authority says a thing the folks you speak of not only believe that thing, they believe with everything they’ve got because they’ve been carefully taught to not listen puts their soul at risk.

    To be fair (and kind) it’s not all their fault. These folks have been trained since birth to follow their approved Voices. Deviation is met with severe and swift correction, usually with a rod or paddle (To Train Up A Child opened my eyes to the horrors committed on children by Christian Nationalists).

    There is no reasoning with humans like the letter writer. Their reasoning and curiosity skills were beaten away.

  3. A.L. Hern September 5, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    “You spoke of illegal… the establishment clause isn’t to keep the church out of the State but the State out of the church.”

    It’s BOTH: a barrier that can, and is allowed to be breached in one direction can and will inevitably be breached in the other. If you want to keep the government out of churches, the churches must be kept out of the secular institutions of the state — funded and relied upon by ALL citizens and taxpayers, millions of whom do not share your religious convictions — be they schools or the military.

  4. Ironmoped September 15, 2022 at 3:43 pm

    They fled persecution from the English?
    You mean the English got rid of their dumb asses! And look what great Christian representatives they’ve become (MAGA insurrectionists)! The joke’s on us! They’ve devolved into base forms of parasitic flotsam!

    The most moral is God? I presume you mean the Christian God? You know, the insecure, mean old bastard that sends you to Hell if you don’t tell him you love him! The very one that has killed untold millions every time he throws a tantrum! Yeah, I’d say that pretty much sums up his morals! His very first Commandment being, “thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” Yeah, I’d say he’s got some problems, which partly explains why Christians in the United States are so rabid.

    Hell is real? What else you got rattling around in that space between your ears! That’s why we have separation of Church and State. To keep religious nutjobs like you from forcing your delusional fantasies on everyone else!

    A military Band is paid for with public money! That “public” money can’t be used to endorse one particular religious franchise over another without violating the constitution, you know, that piece of paper the band members swore to defend and protect?

    Provide your own music! Put a few more bucks in the plate on Sunday and get your own entertainment.

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