MRFF Saves Halloween Twice for the Children on One Military Base
By Chris Rodda
Senior Research Director
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Second only to Christmas, Halloween is the holiday for which service members contact the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) about issues of their command forcing fundamentalist Christian religious views on them. It is one thing for a base chapel to hold an alternative event, such as Robins Air Force Base’s “Hallelujah Night,” which is run by the chapel, completely voluntary, and doesn’t stop others from celebrating Halloween in a normal way. That’s fine. But it is quite another thing when a commander attempts to cancel Halloween activities altogether because their personal religious beliefs deem Halloween to be a satanic holiday. That’s what happened this year at one military base — a commander whose religious opinion is that Halloween is “disrespectful to Christian personnel” because it elevates “satan over Christ” tried to stop the base’s annual Halloween party.
Fortunately, one of the service members who had been working hard since July to plan this year’s Halloween party was told about MRFF and contacted us about the situation, and MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein stepped in. The next day, the commander rescinded their order canceling the Halloween party, but not without the condition that nobody wear costumes that were of a “satanic nature” or “celebrating satan” such as “devil, demon, witch, vampire, monster or skeleton.” The list of banned costumes even included a pumpkin, apparently because this commander for some reason finds pumpkins to be satanic. MRFF stepped in for a second time, and the costume restrictions were dropped.
Here is the email from the grateful service member who contacted MRFF recounting the whole story:
From: Military Officer’s E-Mail Address Withheld
Subject: MRFF saves Halloween twice in a week.
Date: October 27, 2019 at 3:52:08 PM MDT
To: Mikey Weinstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To Mikey Weinstein and all the MRFF staff:
Will make this as short as possible. Was at first worried to write this because if anyone finds out me and my family could face some consequences. But the aid from the MRFF was too strong not to write this thank you.
I am a (junior officer rank withheld) in the United States (service branch withheld). I am stationed with my family at (military installation name withheld).
I was put in charge of our (military unit’s name withheld) annual Halloween party for the troops and our families way back in early July of this year. i worked with other (military unit name withheld) members and their families to make this a great event.
However just last week our (superior military unit’s name withheld) Commander made the totally sudden decision to cancel this event for the first time in anyone’s memory. He claimed that having our (military unit’s name withheld) celebrate Halloween was “disrespectful to Christian personnel” as it elevates “satan over Christ”.
WTF? I could not believe this happened? My spouse and many others were shocked. And by the way my spouse and I are both church going Christians as are most of the others helping with this Halloween event.
But what was worse was when we went to our (military branch name withheld) chain of command and they were all too frightened to challenge our (military unit name withheld) Commander’s decision. Same when we went to JAG and the Chaplains. Nobody would stand up for Halloween in the face of our (military unit’s name withheld) Commander’s call to shut it all down.
My sister is also a (military branch name withheld) officer stationed abroad. When I called her as a last resort she suggested contacting the MRFF for help as she did when she was a (cadet or midshipman) at the U.S. (military branch name withheld) Academy a few years ago. I never thought that I too would need the MRFF’s help as she had.
Mr. Mikey Weinstein actually answered my first call himself and spent almost an hour on the phone with me & my spouse and some of the other folks in our (military unit’s name withheld). The MRFF has representatives here at (military installation’s name withheld)and Mikey called them and got them to work with him to take on this mess.
I am not going tell you what Mikey did because it would out a lot of people. A lot of very good people.
But what I can tell you is that he found a special (military branch name withheld)regulation and US Supreme Court case which we could use to fight back.
The very next day our (military unit’s name withheld) Commander rescinded his prior canceling of the Halloween event and it was back on!
But unfortunately he also made a decree that no one, especially children, could wear costumes that were of a “satanic nature” or “celebrating satan” such as “devil, demon, witch, vampire, monster or skeleton” costumes.
There were many other Halloween costumes on the list which were likewise banned. Including pumpkin costumes! One of my kids was going to be the cutest pumpkin for Halloween. No one challenged our (military unit’s name withheld) Commander here again.
That was too much to believe! We went back to our chain of command and they told us to just be “satisfied that we’re even having a Halloween party.”
Again we called Mikey and the next day the stupid Halloween “pro-satan” costume restrictions were dropped.
The MRFF was 2 for 2 in saving Halloween! We can only wonder how our (military unit’s name withheld) Commander will handle Thanksgiving and the whole holiday season just around the corner?
This whole thing has given me, my spouse and many others here at (military installation name withheld) a true wake up call to the illegal stronghold which certain Christian commanders have on the (name of military branch withheld). Unless you have gone through this yourself it is hard to digest and believe. You feel alone and small. And disappointed and confused.
But the worst of all of this was not receiving support from our intermediate commanders whom we went to for help first. Most of them admitted they supported us silently but none of them would do so on the record to our (military unit’s name withheld) Commander. Which is why we all followed my sister’s advice to then call the MRFF.
I know that me and my family and those who worked with us to keep the Halloween party and allow for the usual Halloween costumes may still face blowback from our chain and the (military unit’s name withheld) Commander. All because we sought help from the MRFF and Mr. Weinstein. Everybody pretty much knows that the MRFF was involved now.
Even if that happens it will still have been worth it. We upheld our oaths to the Constitution to keep church and state apart. And we will call the MRFF again to help us fight the blowback!
Thank you to Mikey Weinstein, And the MRFF reps here at (military installation name withheld) and everybody at the MRFF for standing up for us when no one else would do it.
(military officer’s name, rank, title, military unit and military installation all withheld)