Weinstein Calls on Military to Ban Christian Group
The Colorado Springs Independent, which previously reported on both Michael Weinstein’s declaration of “war” on the Air Force Academy and his letter to the Secretary of Defense, apparently obtained access to three cadets to discuss the religious climate at USAFA.
The members of the Cadet Interfaith Council had little negative to say: speaking of religious mistreatment, a Jewish cadet says “not much of that goes on these days;” a Buddhist has “not experienced any discrimination due to his faith.” The Protestant of the three agrees.
All agree with a cadet’s statement that
Right now, I think it might be getting blown out of proportion.
(It is worth noting these cadets were likely provided by the Academy for the purpose of the interview. Given the opportunity, Weinstein could likely produce cadets supporting his point of view.)
Superintendent LtGen Michael Gould is also quoted, and the article offers an intriguing look at religious “complaints” over the past two years. Ironically, there have been more complaints against non-Christian incidents, and support for Christian ones, than some would have the public believe:
In the past two years, the Inspector General’s Office has received six complaints against creation of an Earth-based worship area, and one complaint from a cadet’s parent in 2008 saying the cadet was distracted from studies by involvement in an off-base church. Academy chaplains have received nine complaints and 10 letters of appreciation about Cadets for Christ, a group that has met on campus and is run by civilians Don and Anna Warrick, all within the past six weeks. (emphasis added)
None of this sat well with Michael Weinstein. Quick to assign alliterative appellations, Weinstein reportedly calls Gould the “lord of lies,” just months after claiming direct personal access to the Supe.
Now Weinstein wants more.
Weinstein demands the academy ban Cadets for Christ from the campus, which at times has met at Arnold Hall. He also wants the academy’s SPIRE program, which he calls “a gateway for fundamentalist Christians,” eliminated.
Why would an advocate for “religious freedom” want the Air Force Academy to ban a religious group that has broken no policies, rules, or laws? Why would a “religious freedom” advocate target the SPIRE program (Special Programs in Religious Education), which includes various faiths and even an atheist group?
Why does Weinstein defend a pagan group on the Academy grounds, but denounce Christian groups outside of it?
While Weinstein demonstrated self-contradiction, Pam Zubeck*, author of the CSIndy article, says she came to appreciate the magnitude of the military’s task in creating an atmosphere of religious freedom. While the government cannot establish religion, it must be averse to separating itself so far from religion that it negatively impacts the free exercise of those citizens who happen to be in government.
Zubeck’s article also reveals another important detail. All the recent complaints publicized by Michael Weinstein have one thing in common: Each person, or Weinstein himself, goes into great emotional detail about how they are unable to speak to their chain of command or any other military grievance system. In this case,
Weinstein says all of his contacts are “scared to death” to go through military protocols with their complaints.
That common and repeated point of emphasis is likely intentional: Weinstein withdrew one lawsuit, and saw another suit immediately dismissed, when it became evident his co-plaintiffs had not used the military’s internal means to address grievances. He never bothered to appeal that dismissal, despite his stern pronouncements he would, likely because he knew its futility. Courts have long held that servicemembers must first give the military the opportunity to address issues before trying to resolve them via lawsuit.
If the “problem” is as bad as Weinstein says it is, it would seem he could find a plaintiff who had exhausted the military’s internal grievance systems.
Evidently, he can’t.
That’s likely because no one does exhaust those remedies. Their grievance, if they bring it, is addressed either to their satisfaction or the military’s reasonable (and legally defensible) standards. Case in point: Weinstein’s last plaintiff attempted to use the military grievance system after he filed his lawsuit; he received accommodation, and he still complained. The judge saw through the farce and dismissed the case.
Now, it would appear that rather than use those internal means, Weinstein is using multiple public, impassioned complaints to build a case that those systems can’t be used. If he is successful, he’ll be able to overcome the military’s tendency to actually address the complaints, and he can wage his war in a public court case. It is a weak, if unique, tactic.
Unfortunately, the degree to which Weinstein’s supporters want to make his case for him is almost disturbing. Weinstein recently publicized a letter from a USAFA cadet (one citing ChristianFighterPilot.com) who claimed the Christian tenor of USAFA was so thick he kept Christian paraphernalia in his room for appearances.
Realize that this is the same leadership at the same Academy that went after two crossed railroad ties on a rock (pagan) circle saying those responsible would “pay the price.” It is the same Academy that has a Buddhist chapel, a Mormon Chaplain, started a ‘freethinking’ program in “religious” education, and tries to teach moral courage — the strength of character to stand up for what one believes to be right. This is the same Air Force currently led by a Jewish Chief of Staff. This is the same military led by a near-unanimous leadership calling for open homosexual service. This is the military that, as an institution, has a ‘coercive Christian culture?’
The incongruity of the complaint is incomprehensible.
More clearly than ever, Weinstein has demonstrated that “religious freedom” is nothing more than the “RF” in the acronym of his self-founded “charity.” His fight — his “war” — has nothing to do with the human liberty of religious freedom or the freedoms protected by the US Constitution. In fact, he advocates actions contrary to the Constitution he claims to defend, as when he calls on the military to ban a religious group because of the content of their beliefs. His claim to being a protector of the Constitution is a facade intended to obscure a personal agenda.
It is evident Weinstein is targeting groups with theological beliefs to which he is opposed (ie, Christians). He once said he would “give [his] last breath” in support of the right of others to have their beliefs.
Like his supposed “defense” of the Constitution, it seems those words were uttered for dramatic effect rather than out of sincerity.
Fortunately, it appears the military sees what is going on, and it is defending the Constitutional rights of its troops against the man who seeks to strip those rights from them.
*Pam Zubeck, once with the local Colorado Springs Gazette, has been a prolific writer of articles on Weinstein and his tiff with the Air Force Academy (in fact, she even features prominently in his book).