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Removal of Christian Cross

Currently sitting in the primary entrance lobby of the Mission Command Complex of the 84th Training Command at Fort Dix in New Jersey is a grouping of small but very noticeable statues. On the left is a soldier posed with his weapon. On the right is a soldier carrying a fallen soldier. But it’s the sculpture in the middle that a group of 17 soldiers, including the soldier who sent the below photos to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), want removed.

To the soldiers, this sculpture, the focal point of which is a Christian cross, is a completely unacceptable and in-your-face promotion of Christian supremacy by the command. The MRFF client, who encountered the display on a visit to Fort Dix and sent the photos to MRFF, described it as “quite jarring.”

To the soldiers, this sculpture, the focal point of which is a Christian cross, is a completely unacceptable and in-your-face promotion of Christian supremacy by the command.

The sculpture grouping is clearly not some commissioned artwork that much work and expense went into. These are inexpensive mass produced statues that can be bought on Amazon (also see here) or even cheaper from garden centers.

The only appropriate place on a military base for this garden gnome-like Christian sculpture grouping is the chapel grounds. Its placement in the main entrance of the Mission Command Complex is a blatantly impermissible promotion of religion.

On behalf of the soldiers, 11 of whom are Christians themselves, who want this Christian lawn ornament grouping removed, MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein reached engaged COL Jonah A. Brierton, the garrison commander who has oversight of all real property at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and got the following initial reply:

Mr. Weinstein,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I am charged with the good order and discipline of Army Support Activity (ASA) Fort Dix and I take this responsibility seriously. My staff, both the ASA & JB, is looking into the legal aspects and I am coordinating with the 84th Training Command, a tenant/mission partner here on JB-MDL.

Is it possible to get a copy of the complaints you have received? I’m not looking for the names of the folks, just their words of concern. To the best of my knowledge and the staffs, we haven’t received any complaints.

Thank you

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JON A. BRIERTON, PMP
COL, EN
Commander, US Army Support Activity-Fort Dix and Deputy Joint Base Commander-Army 
JB MDL, NJ 08640 

Mikey responded:

Col., thank you for this email… Our clients are quite understandably and reasonably not going to provide the latitude for us to send anything into you other than the pictures that they took to which they have now transferred all right title & interest to MRFF… if you would please be so kind as to give me a quick phone call I can explain why this is very typical for our clients… They justly fear reprisal revenge retribution and retaliation for speaking up… We have over 74,000 clients and 95% of them are Christians… On this matter we have 17 army soldiers of whom 11 are Christian… I am at 505-250-7727… This particular situation should not be requiring too much “research“ by your judge advocates… I spent seven years as an Air Force judge advocate myself… This one is extremely clear-cut… Again I’m standing by for your phone call… Gratefully and Respectfully still at this point… Mikey Weinstein…

Mikey then did have a nearly half hour phone conversation with the colonel, which ended with the colonel saying he had kicked the can to Major General Miguel A. Castellanos, the Commanding General of the 84th Training Command.

After this phone conversation, Mikey sent the colonel another email, putting in writing their agreed upon 5 PM (MDT) on August 25 deadline to respond with a resolution to the issue:

…thx for the 27 minute phone call we had this AM, Jon…..it may have started out poorly and contentious but it ended up quite cordial and positive…I appreciate the sincerity of your apology for punting the matter over to the the 84th Training Command and willingness to expeditiously coordinate with the 84th to resolve this terrible religious display of Christian supremacy matter at Building 5523 at JB M-D-L…I guarantee that our 17 United States Army solider clients at JB M-D0L are also very appreciative but they are also saddened that SO much time has now passed with no corrective action by the Army….…As agreed in our telecon, Jon, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF militaryreligiousfreedom.org) will approve your request to have until 1700 hours MDT this Weds., Aug 25, ’21 to hear back regarding your efforts to get the 84th to remove the unconstitutional, offensive subject display…or to, at the very least, make it secular and inclusive by removing the display’s Constitutionally offensive, sectarian Christian cross....grateful for your efforts, Jon….best, Mikey Weinstein…..standing by…...Founder and Pres., MRFF 505-250-7727….

When the 5 PM deadline passed yesterday with no response from the colonel or anyone else at the 84th Training Command, Mikey wrote the colonel:

…Jon, times up!!…never heard a single damn word from you??!!…our MRFF clients will NOT be forced to continue to quietly wait “patiently” for their Constitutional civil rights justice from the United States Army!!!…MRFF will now proceed expeditiously and forcefully via other avenues in order to seek timely remediation and redress for these repugnant 1st Amendment violations……Mikey 505-250-7727

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So, as far as we are aware, the garden gnome soldiers and their centerpiece Christian cross remain for all to trip over as they enter the 84th Training Command’s Mission Command Complex.

MRFF, as Mikey Weinstein told Col. Brierton, will now proceed – expeditiously and forcefully as always – to use other avenues to get this unconstitutional sculpture grouping removed, or moved to a more appropriate setting like a chapel.

Chris Rodda