I am writing to you as a representative of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. We are a civilian, non-profit organization that currently represents 34,115 men and women in uniform. 96% of those clients are Protestant or Roman Catholic. 100% of those clients have had their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion trampled by their chain of command in some way. I am reaching out to you on behalf of 42 new clients from your command at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER).
It has recently been brought to the attention of MRFF that the installation Chaplain of JBER, Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, has chosen to publicly denigrate those without religion in an article titled, Chaplain's Corner: 'No atheists in foxholes': Chaplains gave all in World War II. This article was published on JBER's official website, giving a clear indication of endorsement of his message by the chain of command at your installation. If you have not yet read the article, please do so before continuing.
In the civilian world, such anti-secular diatribe is protected free speech. In the military it is not. In his article, Lt. Col. Reyes violates AFI 1-1, section 2.11 which requires that “Leaders at all levels must...avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates...” 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. In his words, “Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular....The real question is, 'Is it important to have faith in 'faith' itself or is it more important to ask, 'What is the object of my faith?'”
The most basic level of respect we can afford to others is to call them by their chosen name and identify them as they choose to be identified. I do not have faith. Several of the 42 clients currently assigned to JBER who requested the MRFF intercede in this instance do not have faith, and they still proudly defend their country in uniform. Lt. Col. Reyes has both violated that fundamental level of respect and current Air Force regulation. As the current commander of JBER, as the officer appointed to care for the 42 service members who have reached out to us, it is your duty to see to it that this behavior is corrected. Lt. Col. Reyes must be appropriately reprimanded, and his 'No atheists in foxholes' article must be removed from the post website.
How comfortable would you be with your subordinate leaders making public statements that there is no such thing as a mentally fit homosexual? Would you endorse Lt. Col. Reyes' words if he declared there was no such thing as an American Muslim, or a combat effective female? These are all arguments put forward by religious leaders on a regular basis and they are no different than the condescending bile your installation chaplain has just presented with regard to atheists in the military. Regardless of what happens in practice, Chaplains do not get a special pass to violate the laws put forward by our constitution. Faith based hate, is hate all the same.
We demand that appropriate actions be taken to remove this article from JBER's official website and that punitive measures and negative counseling be produced for all those involved in the production, approval and dissemination of Lt. Col. Reyes' message of religious supremacy and disrespect towards the non-religious.
Blake A. Page
Military Religious Freedom Foundation