In yet another unhinged rant, Mr. Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, founder and president of the inaptly named Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), has once again claimed that the sky is falling in the U.S. military. And, once again, he has moronically equated sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the military to violent Islamic jihadism.
Mr. Weinstein has characterized sharing one’s faith in Christ in uniform as part of a plot aiming at “a systemic hostile takeover of the U.S. military by lunatic, fundamentalist Christians.” He has labelled Christian Service Members who simply wish to obey the Great Commission as a “cabal of deranged endtime warriors.”
What is the basis for Mr. Weinstein’s rant this time? He took grave exception to the following charge by a retired Air Force chaplain to Christian graduates in uniform at Liberty University:
God has divine appointments set up for you. He’s the King of kings; He’s the Lord of lords; He’s the Commander in Chief. He has called us to be His missionaries, His voice.
From this, Mr. Weinstein concluded that the retired chaplain had “just declared the United States Military to be a weapon of biblical retribution.”
“Oh, come on!” you say. “How could any reasonable, sentient human being of average intelligence conclude from those words of a retired chaplain that he was imploring his audience to ‘be a weapon of biblical retribution’”?
Great question! I personally don’t think that any reasonable human being could reach such a conclusion. But, Mr. Weinstein’s rants are routinely characterized by hyperbole, diatribe, and embellishment, not reason.
How Mr. Weinstein describes his organization says much about his beliefs and how he approaches those with whom he disagrees. His description is very enlightening. He describes the MRFF as follows: “We are a weapon. We’re a militant organization. Our job is to kick a[**], take names, lay down a withering field of fire, and leave sucking chest wounds on this unconstitutional heart of darkness . . . .”
Elsewhere, he described his mission:
We’ve long since forfeited the right to civil disagreement. Someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose, and I don’t want to be on the losing side knowing that I didn’t use every last diatribe and embellishment and wild-eyed, hair-on-fire, foaming-at-the-mouth harangue to get my point across . . . . What’s required now is Attila the Hun. . . .
So much for religious tolerance.
In his recent rant against Christian free exercise in the military, Mr. Weinstein cited Air Force Instruction (AFI) 1-1, section 2-12, which reads as follows (with portion highlighted as Mr. Weinstein highlighted it):
Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause.
Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief. (Emphasis Added.)
Two points need to be made here. First, the first sentence of the paragraph clearly recognizes that all leaders in the Air Force enjoy the rights to free exercise of religion, including the right to express religious sentiments, even as they must mindful of the Establishment Clause. Religious free exercise also applies to the persons being addressed by the chaplain at Liberty University.
Second, in the part highlighted by Mr. Weinstein, only words or actions that can reasonably be construed as officially endorsing or disapproving, etc., are prohibited. Official endorsements occur when someone in a position of authority proclaims a word or action that he or she intends to be obeyed by others or requires his or her words or actions to be considered as sanctioned and required by one’s Military Service. Private (i.e., not official) endorsements or disapprovals are not prohibited per se, and most such endorsements in uniform are private and, thus, permitted.
Based on my 22-year career as a combat arms officer in the United States Army, I have determined that reasonable men and women in uniform can readily tell the difference between hearing someone’s personal opinion (on religion or any other topic) and receiving official statements they must obey.
Nothing said by the chaplain at Liberty University suggested in any way, shape or form that the persons he was addressing were being told (or even encouraged) to force anyone to do or believe anything religious or that they were permitted to hold themselves out as officials of their respective Services when discussing religious topics. Hence, Mr. Weinstein, you may take off your helmet. The sky is not falling.
In a rare instance of apparent sanity and clear thinking, Mr. Weinstein does (finally?) recognize that the Christians he is criticizing, unlike Muslim jihadists, are not “strapping homemade explosives to themselves.” Thank you, sir, for that admission. That public admission, in itself, is a major step in the right direction for Mr. Weinstein.
Many jihadists believe that they must kill those who disagree with them and view such acts as meritorious in the sight of Allah, while faithful Christians are called to love and pray for those who disagree with them, not kill them. Murdering them would be a grave sin in Christianity. Hence, Christians leave such judgments to Almighty God. Although Christendom has had its evil periods, the Inquisition and similar evil practices are long gone.
Despite the ray of hope raised earlier by the admission that Christians do not blow themselves and others up as an act of obedience and merit, in the end, Mr. Weinstein can’t quite seem to help himself. He has to get a jab in. He can’t resist claiming that “these guys [i.e., Christians in uniform] are . . . commandeering the most awesome and terrifying concentration of lethal weaponry that the world has ever seen by orders of magnitude, our U.S. Military.”
Mr. Weinstein’s implication? He actually believes that Christians in uniform intend to impose their faith on their fellows in uniform (by persuasion, ideally, but by force, if necessary) and to annihilate those who refuse to toe the line, once again equating them with jihadist murderers.
Mr. Weinstein is quite delusional to equate murdering Islamic jihadists with the uniformed Christians at Liberty University—or anywhere else. He should keep in mind, it wasn’t Christian fundamentalists who murdered fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. It wasn’t Christian fundamentalists who attacked the nightclub in Florida. It wasn’t Christian fundamentalists who killed co-workers at a Christmas party in California. And it isn’t Christian fundamentalists who are seeking Jews to murder in France and elsewhere.
Faithful Christians and Islamic jihadists simply are not the same, no matter how often and how forcefully Mr. Weinstein and his supporters say they are. To equate the two reveals much about Mr. Weinstein’s discernment.
Granted, Mr. Weinstein, the MRFF, and those who agree with them have every right under our Constitution to espouse the message they espouse. Most often, however, they espouse fantasy. They assert as law what they want the law to be, not what it is.
Because Mr. Weinstein and his fellow travelers have sown so much confusion among those who don’t know what the law is and have led lots of people astray, we have an obligation to respond to and correct their most egregious rants and errors.
To protect the rights of our Service Members to free exercise of religion, we will continue to keep a sharp eye out for Mr. Weinstein’s periodic rants, and we will respond to them, pointing out the many errors of logic, facts, and law. In turn, we will respond and lay out the law as it actually is. In this way, we hope to protect fundamental Constitutional rights for the men and women in uniform who willingly put their lives on the line to protect us. They deserve no less.
Please stand with the ACLJ in upholding and protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform.
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