A religious liberty group that advocates for the separation of church and state in the United States is now focusing on keeping religious influence out of the U.S. military, through a protest against Wreaths Across America, an organization that places wreaths on thousands of military gravesites around the country at the end of every year.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is denouncing Wreaths Across America, calling their actions “unconstitutional, an atrocity and a disgrace.”
“We have no problem if people reach out and want a wreath on their deceased veterans’ graves, but to put them everywhere, to blanket them without permission of the surviving families is unconstitutional, an atrocity and a disgrace,” MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein said in a statement to Colorado Springs Gazette on Saturday.
The protest to clamp down on Wreaths Across America’s annual work is an effort by the anti-religious organization to eradicate the presence of traditional religion from U.S. institutions.
The MRFF described the wreath-laying tradition as a “desecration of non-Christian veterans' graves” with Christmas wreaths.
The group stated:
On December 18, the graves of all veterans in our country’s 155 national cemeteries and numerous other locations where American veterans are buried, will be indiscriminately decorated with Christmas wreaths by the organization Wreaths Across America.
The gravesites of Christians and non-Christians alike will be adorned with this hijacked-from-paganism symbol of Christianity — circular and made of evergreen to symbolize everlasting life through Jesus Christ — whether the families of the deceased veterans like it or not.
The MRFF complains that the wreath is implicitly Christian, pointing to a 2013 video by Wreaths Across America founder Morrill Worcester who said that every wreath is made from ten balsam bouquets, with the first bouquet standing “for the veteran’s faith in God.” The MRFF claims that the religious symbolism is present in the actions of the Maine-based group.
In response, a spokeswoman for Wreaths Across America said that the wreaths are not intended to carry any religious significance and are veterans’ wreaths, not Christmas wreaths.
According to American Military News, Wreaths Across America has gained the support of politicians across the aisle, including Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, who passed Senate resolutions designating December 19 as “Wreaths Across America Day.”
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump reversed a decision to cancel the group’s event to Arlington National Cemetery over what he described as “ridiculous” concerns over COVID-19.
“People say you’re Scrooge Weinstein, but this is wrong and un-American to assume every veteran would want a wreath on their grave,” Weinstein said to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “These veterans have given their all for this country, and they can’t fight back now. We’re going to continue fighting for them.”
The founder of the religiously anti-religious group says it will “move swiftly and aggressively to prosecute, criminally, and sue, civilly, anyone who tries to place a Christmas wreath at these hallowed gravesites without first obtaining the families’ permission!”