Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation regularly forwards me some of the bizarre hate mail he receives, but he also forwards me positive emails they receive as well. Here’s one from a soldier who had MRFF’s help in getting rid of a very bad practice on his base:
Dear Mikey and Chris,
My name is (U.S. Army Soldier’s name and rank withheld) of the (military unit and MOS withheld), which is an Army (specific type withheld) unit in Southern (U.S. state withheld). I recently contacted you regarding a situation in which my commander instructed Chaplains to read verses from the Bible which depict the United States Military as the “wrath of God”; and that they do this in mandatory formation. As an atheist myself, I was disturbed by this; but as a leader within my company, and one of four non-Christians of which I am aware, I felt that this issue needed to be addressed. I raised the issue at an After Action Review (AAR) and was summarily dismissed; although later my Commander did concede that in the future, Soldiers would be given permission to leave the formation, before the Bible is read. This did not satisfy me, as it does nothing but give these Soldiers the choice between outing themselves (which they didn’t want to do for fear of reprisal) and simply accepting that they have to be preached to, and slandered as holy warriors.
It was at this point that I contacted the two of you. Following your advice, as well as the philosophy of the Minimum Force Doctrine; I warned my chain of command that if this issue was not resolved satisfactorily, that I would have no choice but to pursue this as an Equal Opportunity case, and that I had already sought the counsel of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
At this time, I’m happy to inform you that the situation has been resolved. My Commander, a very religious man, has agreed that in formation, Chaplains should not preach or read from religious books.
As important as the results of this case have been, mine is only one unit. I have no doubt that there are soldiers all over the world right now, who are in the same situation as mine; who feel alone and powerless, because they don’t have the rank to stand up to their chain of command. Frankly, I didn’t have the rank to stand up to mine either. I have no doubt that the clout that comes with your name, and that of the MRFF, are what gave me much of the leverage to stand my ground and achieve this victory for religious equality.
As the son of a minister in the Midwest, who lost his faith; I know all too well the loneliness that comes with a minority viewpoint. I know the fear of rejection and reprisal, and even the fear that I might be wrong. As a Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army, and the only one in my unit who is an atheist; I’ve been approached by soldiers who feel alone, and afraid. I’ve seen the same pain and loneliness in their eyes that I’ve experienced.
This is why what the MRFF does, is so critical. Not only do you level the playing field between self-righteous rank, and righteous subordinates; but you also remind us that we are not alone. A minority, yes; but not alone. Through the MRFF we are a brotherhood of many different faiths, united by our love of country; and the idea that in a nation which celebrates religious freedom, those who protect that freedom, must be free as well.
I’ve been fortunate. My case was a successful one, in that the results were positive, and I didn’t have to burn any bridges to reach them. Others will not have it as easy, but I hope that with the help of MRFF, and the knowledge that others are already fighting this fight; those who are afraid, will find the courage to stand their ground. And I would like to offer my help in any way I can, to MRFF, and to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who need my help, my advice, or just a listening ear.
(U.S. Army Soldier’s name, rank, MOS unit and military installation withheld)
That’s why I support this group so strongly.