The sign, which according to base officials was erected after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, says, "God bless the military, their families and the civilians who work with them." MRFF seeks to have the sign, which is near the base marina, taken down and moved to the grounds of the base chapel.
In a message to Col. Sean C. Killeen, commanding officer of MCB Hawaii, Blake A. Page, special assistant to Weinstein, asserts the sign is inappropriate and illegal.
"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. "We recognize the value that religious activity brings to the lives of many, 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."
In an interview, Weinstein said the sign was brought to the attention of MRFF by 23 active-duty Marines, 21 of them Protestant. Weinstein claimed they were unwilling to lodge complaints through their chain of command for fear of reprisal. He said the sign not only is illegal, but damages unit cohesion.
"We have no issue with the message that is being posited with that sign if they move that to the chapel grounds, but it is certainly certainly something that is in violation the No Establishment Clause of the Constitution," Weinstein said. "When it is not on chapel grounds it is divisive. It is elevating the concept of one faith over no faith, which the Supreme Court has made very clear is wrong, and so we have asked the commander — you know this sign is clearly not within the time, place and manner restrictions required by the law — and so we've asked him to move it to the chapel grounds or take off the installation altogether."
A base spokesman said officials there are looking into the matter.
"The commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Hawaii has received a complaint about a sign on base which was erected shortly after September 11, 2001," said Capt. Timothy Irish, a base spokesman, in a statement. "He 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. MCBH will exercise due diligence to ensure compliance with existing regulations and law, including the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution."
Weinstein said that if base officials continue to allow the sign to exist in its current location, they would also have to allow signs that said "There is no God to bless our military, their families, and the civilians who work with them" or signs pointing to "Allah, Satan or the flying spaghetti monster,"
MRFF, a non-profit organization, represents 42,645 active-duty, reserve and Guard members, Weinstein said, as well as cadets and midshipmen at U.S. military academies. About 96 percent of its members are either Protestants or Roman Catholic, he said