MRFF: Freedom of Religion or Freedom from Religion?

Recently, Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, an Air Force chaplain, alluded to the the phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes” in the title of an essay he posted to the “Chaplain’s Corner” column of the website for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

Apparently the essay’s title and contents were offensive to a number of atheists at the Air Force Base, and a formal complaint was lodged with the base commander by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). They apparently took major issue with the column, writing to the base commander in very charged words:

Beyond his most obvious failure in upholding regulations through redundant use of the bigoted, religious supremacist phrase, ‘no atheists in foxholes,’ he defiles the dignity of service members by telling them that regardless of their personally held philosophical beliefs they must have faith.

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The base commander, Col. Brian Duffy, took the column down less than five hours after receiving the complaint from MRFF. That apparently wasn’t good enough. The MRFF representative continued: “Faith-based hate, is hate all the same. Lt. Col. Reyes must be appropriately reprimanded.”

Okay. So, just to be sure, I actually read Lt. Col. Reyes’s column. It was about the most unimposing thing ever. The “no atheists in foxholes” phrase is common to the point of cliché. And the rest of the article was harmless. In fact, I think Reyes should have been bolder. His column ended with the line: “What is ‘faith’ to you?” Apparently, such unflinching dogmatism shall not be tolerated!

And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at the MRFF. This organization was founded by Michael (Mikey) Weinstein to combat what he views as the religious imperialism of Christians in the military. This guy is hateful. I mean straight up vicious. In an article he wrote called “Fundamentalist Christian Monsters: Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (his language just smacks of open-minded tolerance, doesn’t it?), he said, among other things:

Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.

Seriously. Just read the article. I’ve never read a more thoroughly virulent hodgepodge of special pleading, ad hominem attacks, question-begging epithets, historical ignorance, and just plain hate. Even if he had good points, which he really doesn’t, he removes their legitimacy through sheer unpleasantness. There’s nothing in this article but hate. And I guess I could chime in, “Non-faith-based hate, is hate all the same … “

If chaplains aren’t allowed to make statements about their own faith, why even have chaplains at all? Im sure that’s what the MRFF would prefer. But as long as chaplains exist, it seems reasonable to assume that they will be talking about the things they believe. The column was posted in the “Chaplain’s Corner” after all. If I were an atheist who was very sensitive to religious speech, I would just avoid visiting that portion of the website. (Duh.) If an atheist voluntarily goes to a chaplain’s blog and is offended by religious speech, how can his complaints possibly be valid?

It’s time for us to recognize that freedom of religion is not the same as freedom from religion. It is also time that we recognize that Christianity in the US is, by far, more tolerant than American atheism. The MRFF would prefer if there were no religions and no religious speech. But that is bigoted. The MRFF is a hateful organization bent on forcing even voluntary relations to conform to their particularly narrow brand of close-minded materialism. Christians haven’t even been accused of being that draconian since the Inquisition.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Michael Minkoff

Michael Minkoff writes, edits, and typesets from his office in Powder Springs, Georgia. He honestly does not prefer writing about politics, but he sincerely hopes you enjoy reading about it. He also wonders why he is typing this in the third person.

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