The Military Religious Freedom Foundation implored a Marine Corps base in Hawaii to remove their sign reading “God bless the military, their families, and the civilians who work with them,” claiming it violates the First Amendment.
The Marine Corps Times reported that the sign was installed on the base after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Blake Page, special assistant to the president of MRFF, emailed the base’s commanding officer, Col. Sean Killeen, about moving the sign to the chapel or removing it entirely, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
MRFF’s founder Mikey Weinstein told the Marine Corps Times that if base officials continue to allow the sign to stand in its current location, they would also have to allow signs that said, “There is no God to bless our military, their families, and the civilians who work with them,” or signs invoking “Allah, Satan, or the flying spaghetti monster.”
“This sign is a brazen violation of the No Establishment clause of the Constitution, as it sends the clear message that your installation gives preference to those who hold religious beliefs over those who do not, and those who prefer a monotheistic, intervening god over other deities or theologies,” Page wrote to Killeen.
“We recognize the value that religious activity brings to the lives of many, however this sign is not in keeping with the time, place, and manner restrictions required by law [or] for any military commander to bolster religious principles through the official authority given to their rank and position,” he continued.
MRFF, a nonprofit organization aimed at religious freedom for nearly 45,000 US military personnel, learned of the sign from a group of 23 Marines on the base who were uncomfortable with the sign. They went around their chain of command for fear of reprisal, and only spoke with MRFF about their issues.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty released a statement calling MRFF’s complaints “unfounded.”
“Only someone with a great misunderstanding of the First Amendment or an axe to grind against religion would claim that such a slogan poses a threat or in any way unconstitutional,” Chaplain Ron Crews said. “The real threat is posed by those who want to whitewash any reference to God from public discourse — even ones as innocuous and uplifting as this one.”
“‘God bless our military’ is a slogan little different than the official national motto, ‘In God we trust,’ that appears so publicly on our money, and the courts have repeatedly upheld it,” Crews said. “From the founding of our country, every president, including President Obama, has called on God to bless America.”
Capt. Tim Irish, spokesman for the base, told the Star-Advertiser that Col. Killeen has received the complain and will be looking into the sign’s origin, legality and past complaints.