From: (Active Duty Military Officer’s E-mail Address Withheld)
Subject: Appreciation for MRFF advocacy!
Date: December 6, 2022 at 2:23:41 PM MST
To: Mikey Weinstein <[email protected]>
Having benefited directly and indirectly from MRFF’s advocacy for more than a decade as an active-duty officer, I feel obliged to share with you a few simple but effective actions I took to ensure that (military Inspector General unit name withheld) at (military installation name and location withheld) remedied an internal violation of separation of church and state.
While serving at the (military branch name withheld) Inspection Agency (which is directly governed by the IG of the (military branch name withheld}) I attended a training in the IG training room. To my astonishment and shock I noticed a religious painting on permanent display in that classroom. Photos attached show the painting in question and its placement on the wall in the classroom.
I was stunned for a number of reasons:
· Observing a clear and conspicuous infraction of (military regulation citation withheld) within a(n) (military branch name withheld) IG agency office
· It was displayed in the very classroom used to train prospective IG personnel
· It depicted a specific religion showing a priest and a crucifix – not in any way neutral
· The use of an airman in an Air Force flight suit kneeling / worshiping
As my disbelief turned to outrage, I tempered my inclination to make a stink. After all, my own career would likely suffer if I were deemed by command to be a troublemaker. SO in a low key fashion I asked to speak privately with a member of the (military unit name withheld) command team and showed this Colonel a cell phone photo of the painting. The Col did not immediately see a problem. I explained to the Col the problems I saw with this as depicted above. He asked me to take him to the location of the painting. I did so, and upon seeing the painting, the Col explained that it is an official (military branch name withheld) commissioned painting and he does not have the authority to remove it. I thought to myself, can’t or won’t?
I carefully but assertively insisted that displaying this painting in a (military branch name withheld) Agency violates (military regulation citation withheld), and the US Constitution meant to prevent the development of a church-state alliance. I told the Col that I wanted to protect (military unit designation withheld) leadership from any embarrassing headlines by calling their attention to this disregarded infraction. The Col did not appear to grasp what the problem was or what fallout could be avoided by immediately addressing this issue as a member of the command team. Exacerbated, I pulled out the big guns and informed the Col that there happens to be a national not-for-profit agency located just down the road in Albuquerque that specializes in bringing attention to unconstitutional infractions in the military such as this (MRFF, of course). The Col changed his stance and said he would get back with me tomorrow. The picture was removed and relocated to the base chapel within 24 hours. Then the Col told me that “even though having this authorized painting on display is not a violation of policy, it is better to avoid misperceptions in the future.”
That Col has since PCS’d. In subsequent private conversations in my division about 10 of my colleagues have stated appreciation and support of my speaking up and taking action. I’ve found in my experience that many Service Members appreciate and support individuals who speak up against covert and overt efforts to incorporate religion into the military environment.
To those service members who are feeling trapped, coerced, or influenced by anyone in your chain of command or indirectly via peers or any military system or person: I know from personal experience – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! And, you do not have to suffer in silence or fear. That’s why MRFF exists.
Mikey et al, all this to say that I have taken inspiration from the work MRFF has done and it has benefitted me and many of my fellow service members.
(Active Duty Military Officer’s name and rank withheld)