Weinstein Attacks USAFA Speaker: He’s ‘Wrong Kind of Christian’
Michael Weinstein has written a letter to the USAFA Superintendent, LtGen Michael Gould, “demanding” that an invitation to Lt Clebe McClary (USMC, Ret.) be rescinded. Lt McClary — an internationally recognized motivational speaker and wounded Vietnam Veteran — has apparently been invited to speak at the 10 February National Prayer Luncheon for the 10th Air Base Wing, the wing that runs the facilities surrounding the Air Force Academy.
Weinstein’s reason? McClary is the ‘wrong kind of Christian:’
Statements…from former Lt. McClary blatantly exclude not only non-Christians, but also the many Christians who do not subscribe to [his] particularly fundamentalist view of Christianity…
It truly is an outrage…that [USAFA] has afforded an elite and coveted proselytizing forum to such a fundamentalist Christian… (emphasis added)
Even the local Colorado Springs Gazette noted Weinstein’s issue was that the speaker was “too evangelical” — highlighting Weinstein’s primary focus on the content of the religious beliefs (or Christian denomination) of the speaker. Weinstein apparently would have the Air Force Academy institute an official religious test of each of its potential speakers, evaluating their theology prior to offering an invitation:
MRFF hereby formally demands the United States Air Force Academy immediately rescind its invitation to former Lt. McClary and choose a new speaker who can appropriately embody a message of inclusiveness for all Academy attendees.
The uproar is marginally understandable when you read one of the misunderstood concepts behind the complaint:
While military chaplains are expected to provide non-denominational options to those in uniform, critics charge that prayer breakfasts sometimes favor conservative and evangelical brands of Christianity…
That statement is patently false. There is no expectation that Chaplains “provide non-denominational options to those in uniform.” Nothing says a meeting led by a Jewish Chaplain has to be non-Jewish, nor one by an Islamic Chaplain be non-Islamic. In fact, the opposite is true.
It is entirely permissible for a person who holds a specific religious belief to stand up in front of uniformed servicemembers and deliver a speech (despite prior examples of Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham to the contrary). Weinstein’s complaint is frivolous, and is yet another example of manufacturing offense at Christian beliefs.
As an aside, if one can get past the repetitive and unnecessary florid language in Weinstein’s letter, it appears Weinstein intentionally disrespects the wounded combat veteran. Weinstein refers to him repeatedly as “former Lt.” The proper form of address for McClary is simply “Lieutenant;” McClary is a retired military officer — not a separated former officer, as Weinstein is himself.
The ironic hypocrisy is likely missed by most who have read the letter. Weinstein, a supposed defender of religious freedom, demands an invitation be rescinded because of the religious beliefs of the speaker. He evaluates the acceptability of those beliefs, calling them insufficiently “inclusive,” and demands the military institute a similar religious test. The fact that Weinstein’s own speech is wantonly “non-inclusive,” or that USAFA has invited those with similar “offensive” agendas to help develop curriculum is apparently missed.
The Gazette, which properly addresses McClary, also says Weinstein is calling for the removal of Gould as Superintendent (Weinstein previously praised the Supe):
[Weinstein] says the academy’s choice of retired Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary shows that superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould remains tilted toward evangelical Christianity and tolerates an environment where proselytizing is accepted.
“We’re done,” said…Mikey Weinstein… “Gould needs to go.”
For its part, Academy spokesmen have noted the invitation went only to permanent party, not cadets; participation is entirely voluntary; and “nobody is taking roll.” No one has commented on the impact to the religious freedom or desires of those personnel who want to hear Lt McClary speak.
There is nothing wrong with a Christian, who holds and speaks Christian beliefs, speaking to a willing and desiring military audience at their invitation. The same is true for a person of any other religious or non-religious persuasion. This activity supports the religious freedom of those who wish to attend — and defending religious freedom is a sacred military precept (and supposed mantra of Weinstein).
Interestingly, these complaints require vicarious offense, or for someone to go to an event they don’t want to with the sole intent of becoming offended.