KANEOHE, Hawaii — A group that seeks to separate God from the military is demanding the relocation or removal of a sign at a Marine base in Hawaii that asks God’s blessing on the Armed Forces.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) sent an email this week to Col. Sean Killeen, the commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, to take issue with a sign near the marina that reads, “God bless the military, their families, and the civilians who work with them.” It was reportedly erected following the September 11th attack of 2001.
Blake Page of MRFF asserts that the sign is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” He is demanding that the sign either be moved to the chapel or removed altogether.
“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,” Blake wrote in the email to Killeen.
“We recognize the value that religious activity brings to the lives of many,” he continued, “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.”
Capt. Timothy Irish told the Marine Corps Times that the matter is currently under review.
“[Killeen] has tasked his staff with researching the origin of the sign and its compliance with existing regulations. The Base Inspector’s Office is reviewing its files to see if there have been any complaints in the past,” he said. “MCBH will exercise due diligence to ensure compliance with existing regulations and law, including the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
But retired Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, who now serves as the executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says that MRFF is misinterpreting the Constitution as it does not require that government refrain from ever mentioning God.
“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 is in any way unconstitutional,” he said in a statement on Friday. “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 continued. “From the founding of our country, every president, including President Obama, has called on God to bless America. We hope that Col. Sean Killeen, the base commander, will stand firm and allow the sign to remain.”