MRFF Threatens Trijicon with Legal Action

The notoriously blunt-speaking Michael Weinstein recently demonstrated an unusually thin skin when he threatened legal action against a potential critic of his organization.  The statement at issue occurred in the original ABC News article on the Trijicon gun sights:

Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions “have always been there” and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is “not Christian.”

Apparently, the MRFF is offended by that characterization, though the MRFF isn’t explicitly named and the quote itself is paraphrased.  Weinstein’s organization took the unusual step of releasing its legal correspondence to an internet blogger, who quoted the following paragraph from a legal letter in response to the statement above:

Referring to the Foundation as a group which is “not Christian” is not only inaccurate and shamelessly false, but demonstrably contrary to fact. Approximately 96 percent of the Foundation’s nearly 16,000 active duty military clients and enumerable additional supporters are in fact practicing Christians by faith. To state otherwise not only slanders the Foundation, but also all of its clients. Further, the Foundation’s largest supporter is the California Council of Churches IMPACT, which is comprised of 5,500 Christian congregations, 21 distinct Christian denominations, and, directly and indirectly, millions of individual Christians.

The “legal letter” came from the same law firm that Weinstein is currently employing in Weinstein v Ammerman.

The stern rebuke from Weinstein’s MRFF is laughable.  Consider the ramifications if characterizing someone’s religious beliefs was a defamatory act in the United States.  Every day, thousands of Americans compare peoples’ actions with their publicly stated beliefs–and they make assessments of contradiction and hypocrisy.  They may even accuse the person of not being a true member of the faith group they claim.  (Try doing a websearch for a famous person and “is not a Christian.”)  There are probably few better examples of the combination of religious freedom and free speech in America.  Even better, Weinstein and his organization are “guilty” of that same conduct–more accurately, they exercise the same freedoms they criticize–as they paint individuals, groups, and entire belief systems with a wide and critical brush.

In addition, the MRFF’s use of numeric proof of the faith of Weinstein’s organization is problematic; after all, Weinstein has stated that the United States is not “a Christian nation,” even though it would also be able to generate the statistical defenses that Weinstein’s lawyers provided.

More interesting, perhaps, is that in a defamation case, there has to be a provable fact.  Using the term “Christian” as a descriptor is more akin to an opinion than a fact, since any person can claim to be a Christian, and any other person can claim to disagree based on their own criteria.  That very disagreement was the genesis of some of the distinct “Christian” groups that exist today.  Opinions are, by definition, not defamatory.  In addition, it is highly unlikely that a court would be willing to issue a ruling declaring a person or an organization a “true believer.”

The most entertaining portion of this minor tiff is that Weinstein apparently didn’t completely think this through.  If someone says you are “not Christian,” and you say that is false, then the truth must be that you are Christian.  (After all, can the descriptors “not Christian” and “Christian” both be false?)  Given the fact that Weinstein is Jewish and his plaintiff is atheist, it is unlikely that is the defense he wanted to raise.

Instead, Weinstein should have said:

You’re right.  We’re not Christian.  We represent American military members from dozens of belief systems, as well as none…

Of course, then Weinstein would have no grounds for claiming slander.  In order to claim defamation, he is asserting the falsity of the statement that his group is “not Christian.”

Thus, it appears Weinstein is saying that the MRFF is, in fact, a Christian organization. 

It is ironic that Weinstein, whose vitriolic criticisms are renowned, felt the need for the protection of legal counsel after such a “stinging” criticism.

That is his right, of course.  However, it serves as an indicator of the lengths to which he will go in order to intimidate those who criticize his ideological activism.