US Marines Can Wear Pink, But Airmen Can’t Mention Orphans

When Michael “Mikey” Weinstein complained last month that an Air Force secretary had the audacity to include an announcement for Operation Christmas Child in a mass email (which he called “openly and willfully proselytiz[ing] the evangelical Christian faith”), her boss was quick to send an email out to the unit “disavowing” her announcement.

In the interim, no one seems to mind that US Marines are wearing pink to raise money for a similarly non-Federal entity [emphasis added]:

As a fundraiser for breast cancer research, the [Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 Reinforced] had their unit logo patches, which each Marine is authorized to wear on coveralls and flight suits, made in pink and white.

“For each patch sold, we donate a dollar to breast cancer research,” said Capt. Anthony Gleis. The funds the unit raises goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of America.

The BCRF is a non-Federal, non-profit entity, and it is unusual for the DoD to alter its uniforms in an intentional and explicit effort to raise money for an outside organization. After all, just a year ago the DoD issued an official ban on participating in the ALS “ice bucket challenge” for precisely the same reason:

ALS Association is a national non-profit organization…Participating in this event is subject to concerns about implied endorsement.

The BCRF is also a participant in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the DoD’s official fundraising effort that is ongoing even now. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason for a military unit to actively fundraise for one charity in that group above any others.

Keep in mind that in the case of the ALS and BCRF, members of the US military were (are) actively fundraising and actively endorsing these entities not just in, but with their uniforms.

By contrast, Operation Christmas Child was treated the same as any other local community opportunity. A non-uniformed civilian secretary included the announcement of an off-duty, future volunteer opportunity in the same fashion that the unit had advertised other similar community and volunteer opportunities.

There was no endorsement; no Airmen walked around wearing Operation Christmas Child patches or filmed themselves in uniform packing a shoebox and challenging others to do the same.

Yet Mikey Weinstein was quick to castigate the Air Force for the remotest connection to Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child, and the Air Force was just as quick to “disavow” it to make him happy.

This isn’t to say there is something wrong with the BCRF or even involvement with it by military members — just as the same is true for Operation Christmas Child.  But given the disparate treatment of these events, it’s almost as if the military is more concerned with Mikey Weinstein’s opinion than actual infractions of regulations.



  • Atheist Fighter Pilot

    OCC has a clear religious purpose. BCRF is purely secular. Perhaps this is the important difference?

    Samaritan’s Purse runs OCC, and this is what Wikipedia has to say about them: “Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of Christian missionary work.”

    In other words, we’ll help you as long as we get to evangelize to you.

    I would hope by now the AF would have figured out that “evangelical Christian humanitarian organizations” should be kept at a distance. Seems like they are getting it.

    • @AFP
      The cited Joint Ethics Regulations (which can be read here) prohibit endorsement of non-Federal entities without regard to religion. You seem to be ok with the rules being selectively applied, so long as you disagree with the group to which they are applied.

      Evangelical Christian groups should be no more “kept at a distance” than any other group. To assert the opposite is to propose discrimination on the basis of religious belief, and it would violate the US Constitution for an arm of the government to do that.

  • Atheist Fighter Pilot

    Thanks for explaining. I see your position now. It’s basically a sour grapes argument. If Christians can’t raise money for an “evangelical Christian humanitarian organization” then no one else can.

    Grapes aside, you’re probably right. Kind of looking like a dick being anti breast cancer and all, but you are probably right.

    • @AFP

      a sour grapes argument

      Not to nitpick, but that’s a misapplication of that idiom.

      And that’s part of the point: The announcement about the “volunteer opportunity” regarding Operation Christmas Child cannot reasonably be construed as endorsement, yet the Air Force still implied the email violated the JERs — because Mikey Weinstein complained about it. It was a misapplication of the regulations.

      By contrast, active fundraising for a charity that clearly violates the JERs hasn’t been similarly “disavowed.”