Hawaii Marine Corps base stands firm on keeping ‘God bless the military’ sign

Activist group had requested sign’s removal
Monday, October 12, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Daniel Briggs

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii – Marine Corps Base Hawaii is standing firm on keeping a sign on a street corner of its base that reads “God bless the military, their families, and the civilians who work with them” after an activist group had demanded its removal. ADF issued an e-mail to the base’s commanding officer Monday to affirm the decision.

Alliance Defending Freedom originally wrote to the commander, Col. Sean C. Killeen, on Sept. 28 to express support for retaining the sign and debunk the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s inaccurate claim that the sign was in violation of the U.S. Constitution. In a letter to MRFF dated Oct. 9, Killeen wrote that the “sign will remain in its present location and not be altered in any way.”

“Retaining this sign is not a violation of the Constitution; censoring it would have been,” said ADF Legal Counsel and Director of Military Affairs Daniel Briggs, a former JAG officer. “Col. Killeen is accurate in his assertion that the sign fully comports with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Marine Corps is right not to succumb to the demands of activist groups that repeatedly misrepresent the U.S. Constitution.”

As Killeen’s letter explains, “The message on this particular sign was driven by support of service members who were soon to deploy in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.” The letter states that, after “exhaustive research,” the base’s legal team found “several Supreme Court cases and other federal cases, to include the 9th Circuit,” that support the constitutionality of the sign.

In its Sept. 28 e-mail to Killeen, ADF wrote, “Our nation has many constitutionally permissible reminders of our historical and cultural roots, from our national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ to ‘so help me God’ in the Commissioned Officer’s Oath to the presidential proclamations accompanying each National Day of Prayer. MRFF predictably sees an Establishment Clause violation wherever religious speech is present.”

“Its argument is based on the so-called ‘separation of church and state,’ which it interprets to mean that anything remotely religious must be purged from the military,” the ADF e-mail continued. “However, federal courts have recognized that ‘[t]his extraconstitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state….’ In fact, the Establishment Clause ‘affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any….’ MRFF exhibits this hostility as it seeks to marginalize religion and to push it to the far corners of the military community.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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