The debate going on over the Travis Air Force Base’s overt Christmas display is a pervasive activity with calculated intent – not an isolated event. Fox Nation (website of Fox News) is pretending that a call to leave religious symbols out of a the holiday display is a war on the entire base, as demonstrated by their article entitled “Anti-Nativity Group Declares War on Travis AFB.”
The local news reported the issue (in part) as follows:
A battle is brewing over a holiday display at Travis Air Force Base.
Critics said the scene shouldn’t contain religious items, such as a nativity scene and a menorah.
According the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a Travis airman filed a complaint with the civil rights group that represents 26,000 U.S. military personnel.
The foundation’s president and founder, Michael Weinstein said his organization has also heard from other Travis service men and women who are too scared to talk to Air Force officials about their concerns.
This is not a war on the base, it is a fight for religious freedom as ensured in the Constitution, manifesting in a religious display at the gate of the base that has raised concerns for some of the airmen. One of them articulated, “I joined the military to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to spread the gospel.” The airman added, “I fear that the religious symbols so prominently displayed on my Air Force Base convey a different message.”
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) was started by a dedicated fighter of religious freedoms for all members of our armed forces. His name is Mikey Weinstein. He is a Republican of days gone by; graduate of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado as well as several members of his family; former JAG officer; served as legal counsel in the West Wing of the Reagan White House and has sacrificed safety and financial comforts to work for a decade toward stopping aggressive proselytizing by Christian Dominionists in our military around the globe.
This makes him enemy number one to the architects of this overt and dangerous bible-based group of religious zealots, their civilian counterparts and supporters. The efforts and successes of MRFF have elicited thousands of coordinated emails, phone calls and death threats from the Dominionist Sheeples who drink in the Kool-Aid doled out by these faux Christian leaders – some who don robes, others who wear the uniform representing all branches of our military. This is to be expected, and as one of three Board Members of MRFF serving alongside Mikey and former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, we are all too familiar with the relentless hate that is spewed at us in the most vile language, ending most often with suggested Bible verses to guide us, while praying for our demise and threatening us and our families. Not very Christ-like. It conjurs the Gandhi quote:
“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians; they are so unlike your Christ” ~ Mohandas Gandhi
This is a perfect quote for this debate. No matter how many times or how many ways we explain that our position is to ensure that all members of our armed forces have the freedom – without undue influence and duress from ranking staff – to adhere to their chosen beliefs, whether religious or not, the zealots will still spin us as anti-Christian Satan lovers. They refuse to accept that many of us who volunteer our time at MRFF are also Christian.
FACT: 96% of our 25,815 clients (at the time of this writing) who have sought out assistance from MRFF are self-identified Protestant and Roman Catholic…3/4 of that 96% are Protestant and the remaining 1/4 are Roman Cathholic. MRFF gets between 150 to 600 new clients a month on average…but those percentages hold like a universal constant. The smaller percentage are those of other religions or no religion at all. Again – 96% are Christian.
But here is the rub for these Dominionists, our clients are the “wrong kind of Christians.” And in their world, if you are not their kind of Christian you will be hounded to become one, or you will be singled out and treated unfairly until you accept their version of Christianity or become disillusioned and simply walk away completely.
We have heard thousands of heinous stories from distraught military men and women that would boil your blood about how they have been deprived of a range of privileges and rights spanning from weekend R&R to actual detainment. This is why we subject ourselves to the ongoing venom that we receive as retribution from these faux Christians like a recent phone message left at MRFF’s office:
“This is retired military. I’m just calling to say how reprehensible you people are. We’re gonna be waiting for you at Travis. You better have a lot of police around you to keep you safe. We are going to fight you tooth and nail. We fought the Iraqis and Afgahnis. We’re gonna’ focus on you now. Take it for what this is worth. B M, we’re gonna’ find you, B M, and B, C and all you folks. We’re gonna’ focus on you NOW!” ~ from anonymous
This anonymous threat (which they usually are) was targeting our female MRFF volunteers and family members, yet we know that what we endure pales in comparison to the oppressive struggles that our own men and women – who are serving our country and defending our freedoms – have to suffer. Threats like this one are coming in like rapid fire right now after FOX News jumped in to ‘report’ on the Travis AFB Nativity Scene display, now other media are jumping in to report distorted details.
We responded to complaints from military personnel serving at Travis Air Force Base about the overt endorsement of one religious faith at the gates of the Base. One airman (of many) stated his concerns this way:
“The presence of these clearly religious displays on the main corner of the base deeply concerns me. I am not alone in my feelings of distress,” the anonymous airman wrote. “I know many other people are similarly offended and confused.”
“I joined the military to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to spread the gospel,” the airman added. “I fear that the religious symbols so prominently displayed on my Air Force Base convey a different message.”
We are not “attacking Christians” as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council claims:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, blasted the threat and called it “yet another flyby-attack on Christianity. No one is forced to stand in front of the Nativity, and salute it, but people in this country should have the right to celebrate Christmas and what it means,” Perkins told Fox News & Commentary.
Perkins is a classic example of the twisting, turning and spinning of facts. As I have stated, most of us at MRFF are mainstream Christians and we are not attacking Christianity. We are fully supportive of the Nativity Scene, in this case, freely and proudly displayed at the Chapel on Base. But to place it at the gates dishonors the freedoms of all the other personnel and their families who enter. It sends a strong message that their Air Force endorses Christianity and this is a major insult to others who are not there to serve in a religious war, and Mr. Perkins doth protest too much. Enlisted personnel are indeed required to ‘salute’ Dominionist Christianity in all manner of ways.
Emphasizing the positive and remembering why we are here allows us to take tremendous pride in the relief that we bring to thousands of these brave people. I would like to share a letter that MRFF received expressing heartfelt thanks in this season where we need to all show kindness and love to one another regardless of ones’ beliefs.
From: U.S. Military Member’s E-Mail Address Withheld
Date: December 13, 2011 9:38:10 AM MST
To: Mikey Weinstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Thank You For Helping Us Who Are The Most Vulnerable
Mr. Weinstein and MRFF,
My family and I wanted to thank you for helping us. We had absolutely NO PLACE else to turn. Despite the claims of so-called critics about MRFF being on a witch hunt for Christians, we know you help thousands of service members, most of whom are Christians like my wife and I are. My wife, a particularly devout Christian by both education and practice, and I are finally getting help thanks to your and MRFF’s hard work on our behalf.
These hurtful issues of religious persecution from Christian fundamentalists in my military chain of command we have faced have made our family life terribly difficult, my wife’s health has plummeted and even my ability to heal from surgeries has diminished.
Many people forget the impact which the stress and total misery of religious persecution has on a person or a family. Now, we are waiting to see what the outcome will be when the military investigation ends (thanks to the MRFF) and hoping things will finally be in our favor.
I know there are hundreds, if not thousands of members who are too afraid to ask for help from the MRFF and are punished for seeking help. How do I know this? Because I was one of them. I finally took a stand and reached out to you and the MRFF and regret nothing.
Anyone else in the same boat should do as I did and seek the MRFF’s help. The total confidentiality has been a blessing and allowed me to work towards being a better person and military enlisted member and making a better life for me and my family. Having a child and another child due soon makes life hard enough and the lack of caring and horrible religious abuse from my installation removed all hopes and my moral.
I still have contact with over a dozen ex military members who quit a career because of the persecution and damages they received from fundamentalist Christians above them in their chains of command. These victims were great leaders with a possible career that was destroyed and never looked back because of the lack of professionalism and extremist Christian religious hatred they experienced.
Tragically, a local friend tried to commit suicide twice because no one would listen to her and refused to take action against the other NCO’s (friends actually) who were causing the religious bigotry torment. While this prejudice is still very prevalent and truly taking ages to get better, at least we can see some changes and have a glimmer of hope. It is this hope which you and the MRFF bring to us who ask for your help, Mr. Weinstein.
Thanks again to you, Mr. Weinstein, and all of the people at the MRFF who stand up for those of us who are the most vulnerable to this unjust religious prejudice.
(United States Military member’s name, rank, branch of service, military unit and military installation withheld)
So to all of you who defame us, fabricate biblical justifications in the name of God, scripture-twist the Bible to accommodate a more influential outcome that serves your needs, sleep at night knowing that you are strong-arming personnel who look to their leadership for honor, integrity and courage. It is because of you that MRFF exists.
Your obsession with a world war that pits Christians against Islam prevents you from opening your hearts and truly listening to what these men and women are saying. This is not the Crusades and offending the religious beliefs of others is dangerous without question it is not the task of our American military. It is because of you that MRFF exists.
Using might to win converts, in the name of Jesus Christ, as a hammer only turns more away from the true teachings of Christ than it embraces them, tainting their belief in the freedoms they are fighting for in the U.S. Constitution. It is because of you that MRFF exists.
Using personnel to disseminate religious dogma and distribute gifts and supplies shrouded in generosity and goodness, but steeped with intent to ‘harvest souls’ at all costs is not the answer to WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) It is because of you that MRFF exists.
Causing untold misery, angst, personal and professional turmoil to thousands under your commands – and in many cases ruining their careers and lives post-military – is nothing short of heinous. It is because of you that MRFF exists.
Distorting our defense of religious freedoms as an “attack on Christianity” is dishonest. At no time have we recommended or proposed the cessation of ritual or the removal of Christianity from any military base. We have worked tirelessly to keep one belief from dictating a mandate to all others whose beliefs differ. We support the rituals of worship honored in their respective places, not when they elbow their way to the forefront with blatant disregard for any other belief. It is because of you that MRFF exists.
But most importantly – we sleep at night knowing that we are doing all we can to help these men and women who lay their lives on the line to uphold our freedoms. We understand that the dangerous proselytizing that is forced on our troops at home and abroad places them in harms way in no small part by inflaming the Christians vs. Islam meme and inextricably tying our military to the vision that they are all warriors for Christ. This is profoundly dangerous and to those who oppose us, you would do well to remove the “We Support Our Troops” ribbons from your back-ends if you are incapable of grasping the seriousness of what I just said.
MRFF is supported by volunteers, like myself, who hold religious views as sacrosanct – but we do not advocate conversion to any ideology or theology by force or manipulation. We are not anti-Christian, anti-religion or anti-conservative. We are anti-extremist and we promote freedom. We believe that the very least we can do is to fight for their rights while they are risking life and limb to fight for ours.
We at MRFF thank our military men and women and it is your bravery in coming forward and giving voice to this fight against this very real and very dangerous domestic extremism that is our concern, and we honor you. It is because of you that MRFF exists!
The fight for religious freedom is not a fight against Christianity, but rather a fight to defend the religious freedom of all of our troops.