USAFA Lawsuit Dismissed, Weinstein Goes 0 for 4

Yesterday, a Denver judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation against the US Air Force Academy.

U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello dismissed the suit, saying neither associate professor of economics David Mullin nor the Military Religious Freedom Foundation had shown the prospect of retribution was real and imminent.

In fact, despite having just filed the lawsuit, Mullin reportedly admitted he had not suffered retribution from skipping prior prayer luncheons, and he wasn’t sure he’d face retribution at all:

In a telephone interview after the ruling, Mullin acknowledged he couldn’t say with certainty that he would face retribution for not attending.

Interestingly, the hearing was reported as an opportunity to hear arguments “on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction.”  Arguello appears to have gone a step further and not only denied the injunction, but also dismissed the suit altogether.

Michael Weinstein now stands at a record of 0 and 4.  In the past 6 years he has sued the US military 4 times.  Each has been dismissed.  While it is not unforgivable to lose a lawsuit, Weinstein has lost every single one he’s filed against the military.  In fact, none have survived even the initial motion to dismiss.  At some point, that becomes a statement on the validity of his claims.  (The word “frivolous” is already being raised.)  His legal arguments are weak, his understanding of the Constitution flawed, and his accusations against the military baseless.  In short, Weinstein’s self-described campaign of “litigation and agitation” has become precisely that: a campaign of legal harassment, nothing more.  Three prior lawsuits had already proven that; but it didn’t stop Weinstein from filing a fourth.  It is unlikely, barring an unusual sanction, that he will be deterred from filing a fifth.

Weinstein can’t have filed a single lawsuit with the sincere intent to “right a wrong” — if he had, why did he fail to file even a single appeal (despite repeated promises to do so)?  It would seem even he didn’t believe his client’s case could survive.  Rather, he had accomplished his goal of attention and fundraising; he had made his publicity splash.  The military members who served as vehicles for his vendetta were put to the side.  The unique situation in this case is that it set a record for how quickly Weinstein was sent home.

More importantly, contrary to Weinstein’s accusations, Arguello said the Academy did communicate about the event appropriately.

[Arguello] said the academy had clearly stated to faculty, cadets and staff that the event was voluntary and no one faced reprisals for being a no-show. (emphasis added)

[Arguello] also said government lawyers had shown the chaplains — not academy commanders — were the sponsors, although she said there was “some lack of clarity” in the way the event’s sponsorship was described. (emphasis added)

In a possible disconnect from reality, one of Weinstein’s attorneys claimed victory after a Chaplain said he had planned to make sure the Chapel received the credit for sponsoring the event:

“That was the goal of this case,” he said. “We’ve been given assurances they will walk more carefully.”

Where, precisely, in the lawsuit did Weinstein ask for this clarification?  Look at every press release and news article in the past few weeks.  How many times did Weinstein “demand” the Air Force Academy chapel clarify its sponsorship?  Was it between the words “rescind” and “Lt Clebe McClary” that were repeated so often recently?  Perhaps it was between the lines of the accusations McClary was the ‘wrong kind‘ of Christian and a criminal.

As with MRFF researcher Chris Rodda’s constant (and often irrelevant) reference to military uniforms, the MRFF will likely seize on this for future complaints about military interaction with religiously-themed events.  Notably, however, this was a civilian’s analysis of internal military interaction — and the courts are generally loathe to “interfere” with internal military operations.  That may be why there is no finding or order telling the Academy to do anything, despite a comment from the judge on “clarity.”

Sometimes the US military seems to walk on eggshells in what should be clear issues of religious freedom.  Weinstein’s lawsuits seem to aim to make the military even more sensitive, to the point it has a “chilling effect” on the military’s support of the religious freedom of its troops.  And Weinstein claims to support “religious freedom,” no less.

The Academy reportedly invited press to the luncheon; as previously noted, at least two MRFF supporters have also indicated they plan to attend.