RELIGION

Military Stands By 'God Bless The Military' Sign On Hawaii Base

Religious groups like the Church of Satan and the 'Jedi Church' are among those hoping to erect their own faith-based messages.

The U.S. military has refused to remove a "God Bless The Military" sign from a Marine base in Hawaii, despite claims by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that it's unconstitutional.

In a letter addressing the complaint, Col. Sean C. Killeen, commander of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, wrote that the sign will remain in its present location and not be altered in any way.

"This sign has the secular purpose of conveying a message of support, does not advance or inhibit religion or any particular faith, nor does it foster excessive government entanglement with religion," he wrote.

The sign, which reads "God bless the military, their families and the civilians who work with them," was erected at the Oahu base in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has since decided it must come down.

In a Sept. 24 message to Killeen, the group demanded the sign be moved to the chapel grounds or removed completely. It called the sign a "brazen violation" of the Constitution's Establishment Clause and said 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."

Killeen, however, said the base investigated the matter and came to a different conclusion about its constitutionality. "'God bless' is commonly used in our culture in a number of contexts and there are numerous references to God in this nation's symbols, songs, mottos, and oaths," he wrote.

"We will always support all service members' rights to pursue and practice their own belief sets, whether religious or not ... The message on this sign has been in place for well over a decade -- serving as a secular symbol of general support and encouragement to 'military members, their families, and the civilians who work with them.'"

The foundation also demanded that if the sign is not removed, six more signs should be erected to satisfy the beliefs of Jewish, Muslim, Norse Religious Faith, atheist/agnostic/humanist/secularist , Hindu and Wiccan service members. The additional signs, as depicted in the photo illustration below, would contain the same message, but start with "Yehweh bless," "Allah bless," "Odin bless," "Vishnu bless" and "Goddess bless."

Another would begin, "There is no god to bless" and end with "We have each other."

The Military Times reported Tuesday that Weinstein has added three more groups to the list of those demanding their own sign -- the Church of Satan, the Baha'i faith and the "Jedi Church." The latter group's sign would begin "May the Force be with the Military."

The foundation represents 72 Marines from the base who represent nine different faith groups.

In an Oct. 9 response, Weinstein rejected the base's decision to keep the sign, predicting it "will never hold up in court." He said his group is working with law firms in Honolulu to potentially sue in federal district court.

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