As mainstream media reels from the inclusion of biblical scripture on the cover pages of Donald Rumsfeld's Intelligence Updates, the world far beyond our borders thinks "Crusade" or "Clash of Civilizations." We would be wise to support as generously as possible the work of The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRRF), an organization in its fourth year of battling the creep of religious fundamentalism within all branches of our military. (www.militaryreligiousfreedomfoundation.com)
Founder and President Michael (Mikey) Weinstein, a 1977 Honor Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and former White House legal counsel in the Reagan Administration gets up every day to fight for the constitution he swore to protect by exposing and legally going after those whose "religion" seeks to take over the world for Christ.
Never a man to turn away from a fight, Mr. Weinstein has endured constant threats to himself and his family but carries on because most of the communications he receives derive from thousands of service men and women on the front lines, over ninety percent of whom are Christian, who are terrified by what they see happening within the most powerful military in history: a quasi-sanctioned effort to evangelize those in the military and carry the word of Jesus to the very Muslims they have sworn to protect. If that doesn't sound your alarm, nothing will.
Today, Mikey received the following letter from a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy who speaks to the issue better than I ever could. It is my hope that after reading his words, you will understand not only why the Rumsfeld cover letters make sense, but more importantly, why we need to support MRRF and its tireless leader:
I want to thank you for the determined, courageous work that you and MRFF are doing in defense of and in support of religious freedom in the military environment. I am a retired Navy Chaplain (Captain O-6), having served 33 years on active duty, first as an enlisted Marine and then as a Naval Officer and Chaplain. I am a Protestant; Methodist. I retired from active duty in October 2007. In Basic Chaplain's School I was instructed as to how to provide religious support in a government, pluralistic, institutional environment. I was sensitive to the requirement that I should provide support for all military personnel, regardless of religious preference (or no preference at all). Most of the chaplains with whom I served were equally sensitive to and supportive of the requirement to support and respect the faith positions of all others. However, during the latter years of my career, I saw more and more chaplains who demonstrated a very aggressive approach to ministry being endorsed into the Chaplain Corps. Rather than "providing for all," I saw a tendency among some to see their role as that of an evangelist whose main mission was to convert others to Jesus Christ. In many cases, being a fellow Christian did not afford one acceptance from these types because they insisted that you weren't a "true Christian" unless you entered the faith according to their rubrics and believed according to their dogmas. I have witnessed flagrant anti-semitism and defamatory criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. I have had Jewish Marines and sailors ask me to please not let anyone know that they were Jewish. I have heard chaplains refer to the Friday evening Muslim service as "the raghead service." It was as if anyone who was "other than . . . ." became targets of opportunity for evangelization and conversion to a fundamentalist, evangelical version of Christianity.
Your work is extremely important. Do not be deterred by those who would accuse you and MRFF of being "overly sensational" regarding the issues at hand. This is merely a tactic to diminish the extent of your outreach and influence in exposing this problem. Also, we cannot leave it up to the chaplains to fix this problem. Chaplains will determine in which direction the "command wind" is blowing and will gravitate in that direction. The real power and influence is with the Commanding Officers and Flag Officers. Until they demonstrate an understanding of the Constitution and the guidelines impacting on separation of church and state, they will either turn a blind eye to the chaplain's activities or won't care what the chaplain is doing until a real crisis emerges. More frightening than these possibilities however, is the fact that there are leaders who fully approve of various forms of this arrogant evangelism that assumes the prerogative of violating the religious rights and sensitivities of other personnel. In positions of power and influence over others, they are, in fact "liars for Jesus." Under these circumstances, religion becomes something other than it should be in that it becomes a focal frame for prejudice and stands for so much more than faith. When military authority presumes to vest itself with "spiritual" certitude it becomes a creature that exists entirely outside the boundaries of any interpretation of our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers intended that we all should be recognized and treated as citizens of the Republic, with or without faith or religious portfolio!
Again, Mikey, I applaud you and your efforts. I sincerely hope that sufficient resources, both tangible and intangible, will be forthcoming in support of you and MRFF. You have my support and my very best wishes for success.
Disclaimer: I'm not a staffer, just an eyes-wide-open terrified supporter of secular government.