Whether it’s a Halloween “Bible Contest” for soldiers “who do not wish to honor Satan” or a commander’s “Puritan Pilgrim” Thanksgiving, Christian zealot officers and NCOs in our military just can’t seem to resist turning any holiday or observance into an excuse to proselytize their subordinates. This includes Valentine’s Day, as we’ve seen here at Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) many times over the years.
There was the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) distributed at the Air Force Academy in 2015 whose description of Valentine’s Day began, “Christian celebration of the love of God presented in Jesus and in the lives of Christian believers,” only secondarily mentioning that “This day is widely observed in the USA as a secular celebration of love.”
And the chaplain at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, who, back in 2013, wrote of St. Valentine:
“He was a man who was on fire with love, and spread this fire of God's love wherever he went. This is the universal love of sweethearts by St. Valentine - not a romantic love but a sacrificial love of God. … This is sacrificial love, this is the spirit of St. Valentine, love, forgiveness and reconciliation, for all couples and youth. St. Valentine followed the example of his Lord Jesus who loves us and took our guilt upon himself.”
This co-opting of Valentine’s Day to make it all about Jesus has hitherto just been in writing — chaplains’ articles on military websites, e-mails, etc. — but for this year’s Valentine’s Day some fundamentalist Christian officers and NCOs at one military installation wanted to really ramp it up.
Last week, a group of 38 junior enlisted service members came to MRFF, completely taken aback by the e-mails their unit was receiving about a Valentine’s Day event to be held during duty hours in what they described as “our largest HQ facility assembly area,” at which they were “advised to be in uniform.”
As the group described the planned event in an e-mail to MRFF (emphasis added):
“The ‘theme’ was to be ‘Jesus Wants You To Be His Valentine’. At first we thought it was some type of bad joke. But then we saw in the follow on comms. that a military chaplain stationed here who is a Capt. would attend and would deliver a Valentine’s sermon on how the ‘greatest love of all is Jesus’ love for all of us’. After the sermon there was to be something called an ‘altar call’ for those attendees who wanted to accept Christ right then and there as their personal savior.”
Yes, an altar call, where the junior enlisted personnel could publicly accept Jesus as their personal savior and get in good with the fundamentalist Christians in their chain of command who had organized the event.
When two of the junior enlisted service members went to the event’s organizers — two of them officers and two senior enlisted — to object to their Valentine’s Day proselytizing scheme, they were met with a good dose of anger and accused of being “anti-Christian and woke” by their military superiors who want Jesus to be everybody’s Valentine.
So, after finding MRFF online, the group contacted Mikey Weinstein, who immediately contacted the unit’s commander.
As a harbinger of how things are going to work once the Department of Defense issues the regulations that it is mandated to issue according to Section 1049 of the recently-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) regarding the handling of religious complaints from non-military entities, Mikey told the commander that he was not making an official “complaint,” but merely giving the commander a friendly “FYI” to allow them to do the right thing. And the right thing the commander did, immediately ordering that the “Jesus Wants You To Be His Valentine” event be canceled and initiating a formal investigation into how, why, and by whom it was planned, as the commander confirmed to Mikey in the following e-mail:
From: (Active Duty Military Commander’s e-mail address withheld)
Subject: Valentine's Day Event Cancelled
Date: February 9, 2024 at 2:57:07 PM MST
To: Information Weinstein <email@example.com>
Dear Mr. Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,
This e-mail is to confirm the telecon we had within the last 24 hours wherein you had informed me in my capacity as the Commander of (military unit name withheld) at (military installation name withheld) of a certain matter of unauthorized Christian proselytizing which was to occur at a scheduled “Valentine's Day Celebration”. This event was to occur during duty hours at our HQ building facility with military members in uniform.
I am also confirming that you were not officially lodging an official MRFF “complaint” as per the new legislation contained in the FY 2024 NDAA. Instead, you were giving me as the unit’s Commander an “FYI” so as to facilitate my ability to fix this matter internally. Thus, you are also confirming herewith that I am not mandated pursuant to the established timeline deadlines of this new law signed by the Commander in Chief, President Biden, to send this matter for both review and final decision to our Service Secretary for further coordinating with senior military and civilian legal and chaplain elements at the (military branch named withheld) Secretariat level.
This e-mail is to confirm with you that I have ordered that this event be immediately cancelled. I have also initiated a formal investigation as to how, why and by whom it was initially planned and organized.
Thank you Mr. Weinstein for bringing this to my personal attention as the (military unit name withheld) Commander and giving us a chance to stop this unauthorized religious event from happening under my command.
Thank you and the MRFF for caring for our nation’s military members.
(Commander’s name withheld)
Needless to say, the group of junior enlisted personnel who were called “anti-Christian and woke” for objecting to the event are very pleased, although still somewhat worried about potential retaliation by the now-canceled event’s organizers, as they wrote to MRFF:
From: (Active Duty Junior Enlisted Member's e-mail address withheld)
Subject: Thank you to the MRFF from 38 junior enlisted troops
Date: February 10, 2024 at 11:02:04 AM MST
To: Information Weinstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To Mr. Mikey Weinstein and the MRFF organization.
We are 38 junior enlisted (military branch withheld) members on active duty stationed with the (unit designation withheld) at (military installation name withheld). We are proud war fighters in a combat ready unit. 27 of us are Christians and the rest are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and those of our battle buddies who describe as nonreligious.
Earlier this past week we were notified via our usual unit comms. channels that there was to be a special “Valentine’s Day Event” to be held in our largest HQ facility assembly area during normal duty day lunch hours. Attendees were advised to be in uniform and that they could bring spouses and kids.
We all thought this might be fun until the rest of the info followed. The “theme” was to be “Jesus Wants You To Be His Valentine”. At first we thought it was some type of bad joke. But then we saw in the follow on comms. that a military chaplain stationed here who is a Capt. would attend and would deliver a Valentine’s sermon on how the "greatest love of all is Jesus’ love for all of us”. After the sermon there was to be something called an “altar call” for those attendees who wanted to accept Christ right then and there as their personal savior.
Now we knew for sure that this was as jacked up and FUBAR as possible!
We did some digging and found out that 2 junior officers and 2 senior enlisted troops were the organizers and all 4 of them belong to some NGO military Christian outfits which push to get (military branch name withheld) troops to become full on Christians.
2 of us met with the organizers to tell them that this was FUBAR but as they are all senior to us in our chain it was hard to do this w/o getting jacked up and FUBAR’ed ourselves. They were totally angry that we were against this event. They actually accused us of being “anti-Christian and woke” by trying to protest it. They told us that it wasn’t made mandatory (their announcement comms. never said that by the way. Not that that would’ve made a difference) and that "Valentine's Day has always been a Christian event as it’s all about SAINT Valentine". They taunted us by sarcastically asking if we were also “now going to protest SAINT Patricks Day”?
They denied our objections and told us “if you don’t like it just don’t come then.” As if being in this tight combat unit we really had any choice?
Most of us don't have college degrees yet but we KNOW when something stinks like this did. The (military branch name withheld) depends on everyone watching each other’s 6 especially with a large combat unit like ours. They beat that into us from the get-go with good reason in basic and follow on combat training. This “Jesus Wants You To Be His Valentine” event destroys all of that.
We did some fast web research and immediately discovered the MRFF. We called Mikey Weinstein who answered his own phone and got him some key contact information about our commander which Mikey asked us for. He told us that this event violated the time and place and manner requirements of the law and our own (military branch name withheld) regs.
48 hours later we received word that the entire event had been scrapped! And there’s now some sort of (military unit designation withheld)-level investigation going on as to how this thing ever got as far as it did w/o our command section apparently even knowing?
All the props and respect and thanks in the world to Mikey and the MRFF! MRFF got it done!
The only thing now is whether any of us who protested will face any kickback reprisal?
If they try that we will go right back to the MRFF as a shield.
(All active duty military member’s names, ranks, MOS/AFSC, unit, and installation withheld)