Tuesday, April 24, 2007



Mikey Weinstein forwarded to me your 22 Apr email to him. Mikey doesn't need me to defend him, but I feel compelled to correct some obvious misconceptions you have about what his Military Religious Freedom Foundation mission is all about. First of all, Mikey is a Jew, not a Christian, and he is very up front about that. Secondly, his issues are not about Christians v. Jews or salvation or eschatology or interpretations or misinterpretations of either the Old or New Testaments of the Bible, or theology in general. Nor does he want to take chaplains out of the US military as Madeline Murray O'Hare once did. The problem -- and it is very real -- is that some high ranking officers and other military personnel in leadership positions in the chain of command are engaged in subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle efforts to proselytize lower ranking military people, whom they command or supervise, into following certain religious beliefs.

That, Sir, is strictly against military standards of conduct, Constitutional dictates, and U.S. statues and court decisions intended to further enforce and interpret the First Amendment. Now, I don't know what, if any, military experience you have -- good, bad, or indifferent. But let's suppose you work for some firm or company with a hierarchy -- civilian terminology for chain of command. Your boss, supervisor, manager, etc. says to you one day, "John, we've having a Bible study at 4:30 this afternoon in the conference room and I'd really like to see you there. Think you can make it?" After reading your email to Mikey, I'm guessing you might well agree that Bible study in the workplace would be a great idea. And, in truth, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it -- until it has all the implications of a "command performance." Perhaps you get the picture. Your fellow workers, who might not be particularly dedicated church goers or even who are opposed to any aspect of religion, organized or otherwise, could justifiably scream bloody murder to the EEO authorities if they felt pressured or coerced into participating in any sort of religious activities in the workplace.

Well, one doesn't go running down to the EEO when one is in the military. Plus, most of the ranking officers and others in the chain of command aren't so dumb as to "order" those they command or supervise to go Bible class or other such religious activity. They know that is not a lawful order. Ah, but, military bosses -- not many, but some -- are control freaks, and if they happen to be overly passionate about being filled with the Holy Spirit and want their troops to be that way also, it creates the problem that Mikey is wrestling with now.

It boils down to the very thing about which you mistakenly upbraided Mikey -- being tolerant. You wrote,"If you were tolerant, you would allow for beliefs different than your own...." Tolerance is precisely what Mikey is seeking.from zealots and others of that ilk who take advantage of rank and position in the military to unlawfully proselytize vulnerable, impressionable young men and women over whom they literally have a significant measure of life and death power. And I hope you are not a zealot, Sir. The problem with zealots is that they have only answers -- no questions. Beware of zealots. Oh, and by the way, I spent 25 years in the US Army and I never, repeat, never encountered the nonsense that Mikey is so valiantly attempting to deal with now. Plus, I consider myself a fairly dedicated Christian with the usual and unavoidable baggage of sin that all of we humans have -- the inevitable "feet of clay."

Mikey and I believe in the same God and we believe that religion has a place in the military establishment -- witness the military chaplaincy and on-base chapels or worship facilities. We are, however, adamantly opposed to aggressive proselytizing of military personnel, sanctioned and aided and abetted by the chain of command on military bases or facilities (e.g., the Pentagon). Simply put, the troops are quite free to go off base to the church or religious group of their choice, but separation of church and state policy protects all of us, including those in the uniformed services sworn to "protect and defend" this country in places where they are in a duty status.

Don R. Fisher
Lt. Col., USA (Ret)


Blogger FSUScotsman said...

Please show me where separation of church and state is in the Constitution? While I agree that anyone shouldn't be forced to listen to, or practice something against their will, this agenda is way off base. Being able to practice a religion while still serving your country is all that is required. The actions of this foundation are so far off base that it is out of bounds.

3:26 PM  

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