Subject: U.S. Constitutional Violation: MRFF Demand to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan
Date: June 11, 2021 at 9:54:06 AM MDT
To: Captain John M. Montagnet (Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Atsugi)
Cc: Commander Zathan Baker (Executive Officer, Naval Air Station Atsugi), General Mark A. Milley (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Thomas W. Harker (Acting Secretary of the Navy), Admiral Michael M. Gilday (Chief of Naval Operations)
RE: EGREGIOUS U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION UNDER YOUR DIRECT COMMAND AT NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, JAPAN
Captain John M. Montagnet
Commander, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan
Captain Montagnet, this e-mail is to alert you to a very serious violation of the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution sadly occurring under your direct command at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan and to formally demand, ON THE RECORD that you order its immediate cessation, sir.
My name is Mikey Weinstein and I am the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). MRFF is a large civil rights advocacy organization which fights for the preservation of the wall separating church and state in the U.S. military. In this endeavor, MRFF currently represents over 74,000 U.S. armed forces personnel and veterans, about 95% of whom are practicing Christians themselves.
By separate e-mail, after this one being sent to you now, I will forward more specific information about MRFF for your timely review as necessitated.
MRFF has received official complaints from U.S. Navy sailors under your direct command about the wholly illicit placement of a sectarian Christian bible on the POW/MIA Table display at NAF Atsugi (see photograph and related news story below at the very bottom of this e-mail from this display at your base theater on May 27, 2021). These sailors are justly fearful of unlawful retribution, revenge, retaliation and reprisal if they raise their complaints to you, sir, through your NAF Atsugi chain of command which obviously calls into question the command climate you are responsible for at NAF Atsugi. Thus, they have come to MRFF to carry their grievances to you directly, Captain Montagnet.
I’m not going to belabor this clearcut matter further. MRFF has dealt with these very same unconstitutional, sectarian Christian bible placements on POW/MIA Table complaints many times in the past as you can see directly below in a summary from Ms. Chris Rodda who heads up MRFF’s Research Department:
"These are two articles I wrote that contain the real history of the POW/MIA table, which did NOT originally include a Bible. These table were not intended by their creators to be religious. They were meant to honor ALL service members who were POWs or MIA. The practice of adding a Bible to this previously non-religious tradition didn’t begin until 30 years after the tradition was started.
Bibles don't belong on POW remembrance tables”
This article was a bit sarcastic, but contains the history of the table in a bit more detail:
“Apparently, the American Legion Hates Jesus”
MRFF’s many successes in getting Bibles either removed from military installations and VA facility POW/MIA tables or replaced with a generic book to be inclusive of service members of ALL faiths:
And, of course, there is the ongoing MRFF-sponsored federal lawsuit to get the Bible removed from the POW/MIA table in the Manchester, NH VA Medical Center:
We thought this was over in January 2019 when they removed the Bible from the table, but they moved it to a display shelf where it was even more prominently displayed. Then it was not only moved back to the table, but the group that placed it there bolted it to the table in a large plexiglass box, making it the most conspicuous item on the table, as you can see from the photo at this link:
A Hindu group unsuccessfully tried to place one of their religious texts next to the Bible:
In May 2019, MRFF’s client filed a federal lawsuit to get the Bible removed:
In September 2019, a judge ruled against the VA’s motion to dismiss the case:
In October a second MRFF client joined the lawsuit:
As of now the Bible remains on the table, bolted down in its large plexiglass box.
You know, Captain Montagnet, DoD Secretary Lloyd Austin has made it quite publicly clear that he WILL be the lodestar for racial and religious diversity, equity and unity at DoD. What you are allowing to happen, via either deliberate malfeasance or gross misfeasance, with the blatant placement of only ONE religious faith’s sacred doctrinal book (which just “coincidently” happens to be the majority faith’s book) on that POW/MIA table at NAF Atsugi runs DIRECTLY counter to this promise promulgated by DoD Secretary Austin and the United States President he serves! It is also viciously violative of the United States Constitution’s First Amendment No Establishment Clause, construing Federal caselaw on same, a host of DoD Directives, Instructions and Regulations, the U.S. Navy’s Core Values as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Imagine, for just one moment, sir, what the boundlessly chaotic reaction would be among those under your command if you placed ONLY a Muslim Koran or Hindu Bahgavad Gita or Book of Mormon or Satanic bible or Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” book (promoting atheism) on that very same POW/MIA table at NAF Atsugi?
I think you might be able to forsee how those under your command would feel, eh? And just in case this foundational Constitutional principle of church-state separation was not adequately covered during your 4 years as a midshipman at Annapolis, ALL faith and no faith traditions are equally protected under our beautiful U.S. Constitution sir!
Our U.S. Navy is a massively diverse entity which is its essential sine qua non and strength, sir. Your deplorable actions of either commission or omission in arrogantly and illicitly promoting only ONE FAITH’S sacred text on that highly visible POW/MIA Table is a cancerous destroyer of the good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion necessary to maximize the effectiveness of the DoD personnel under your command.
CAPTAIN MONTAGNET, ON BEHALF OF ITS U.S. NAVY CLIENTS UNDER YOUR DIRECT COMMAND AT NAF ATSUGI, MRFF OFFICIALLY DEMANDS THAT YOU COMPLY FORTHWITH WITH YOUR SWORN OATH TO SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND REMOVE THAT SECTARIAN CHRISTIAN BIBLE FROM ALL POW/MIA TABLE DISPLAYS UNDER YOUR COMMAND AT NAF ATSUGI, JAPAN AND THAT YOU DO SO IMMEDIATELY! (see photograph below)
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq.
Founder and President
Military Religious Freedom Foundation