USAFA is “Done” with Michael Weinstein
Religious freedom is uniquely valued and protected by the US military. The US Air Force Academy has done a generally admirable, if sometimes imperfect, job of defending religious freedom from those who would demand the government restrict it, like perennial USAFA critic Michael Weinstein. Though there’s been a quiet interlude with regard to Weinstein and the Academy for a little while, Weinstein has indicated he isn’t done with USAFA yet.
But it looks like USAFA is done with him.
Michael Weinstein apparently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the US Air Force Academy in November of last year, which was finally completed in July of this year. He then provided the information to his apparent ally-reporter at the Colorado Springs Independent, Pam Zubeck, who started her article in the CSIndy this way:
Leaders at the Air Force Academy seem to think that dealing with some complaints about religious bias isn’t worth their time.
That’s the most obvious takeaway from several of the 2,516 pages of documents, mostly e-mails, the academy recently turned over to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation…
The first sentence out of the chute is a mischaracterization of USAFA’s response, as indicated by the remainder of her own article. Zubeck fails to impartially note that “dealing with…religious bias” — which USAFA has done — is an entirely separate matter from ‘dealing with Michael Weinstein’ — which it apparently (and understandably) no longer wants to do.
The primary references in the article point to dates around September and October of last year — when this site noted Weinstein had lost his special access to the USAFA leadership (his “bat signal was busted“). It seems that assessment was correct. It was also around this time last year Weinstein (futilely) complained to the Secretary of Defense about this website, ChristianFighterPilot.com.
Ironically, the intent of the article was probably to fluff up Weinstein, but it actually made some arguably embarrassing revelations. For the most part the article speaks only in the generalities common to MRFF complaints — a sad indication that the 2500 pages of documents revealed very little over which he could complain.
In one of the few specific citations from the FOIA release, the article notes the MRFF emailed General Dana Born, the USAFA Dean, six times in a period of 24 hours. Of those emails, only one was publicly detailed — a complaint forwarded by Weinstein to Born “about a New Testament verse painted in a dorm hallway.”
In another case, on Sept. 30, 2010, Weinstein forwarded to Born a complaint from an unidentified person about a New Testament verse painted in a dorm hallway…
“I got five emails from MRFF yesterday and chose not to respond,” Born continued.
As the Dean, General Born has nothing to do with the decorative choices of the dormitory facilities, making Weinstein’s email direct to the General a waste of her time. She had received six emails from Weinstein and his MRFF in less than 24 hours, at least one of which was outside of her purview, and this is just one example to which the MRFF has confessed (there are apparently 2500 more pages). It appears USAFA Superintendent General Michael Gould was also the lucky recipient of multiple Weinstein missives.
The Air Force Academy had bent over backwards trying to appease Weinstein for some time — he was even invited to speak at the annual National Character and Leadership Symposium in February 2010. General Gould went as far as to publicly defend Weinstein in January 2010. It appears Weinstein’s true character eventually shined through, though. Rather than being a thorn in USAFA’s side (in a good way) in supporting religious freedom, Weinstein took advantage of the good will and bridges built by General Gould and frittered them away like a spoiled child (including, it appears, by practically spamming the Generals). Rather than being noticed he became annoying — and thus he got ignored. It wasn’t USAFA’s fault their relationship soured; it was Weinstein’s.
The CSIndy revealed this response from General Gould when his aide suggested directing Weinstein emails into a separate email folder:
Best solution would be to block them from reaching my machine. I’m done with him.
Ultimately, there’s no need for Weinstein’s emails to have been getting directly to the Academy superintendent in the first place. It does appear General Gould tried mightily, though unsuccessfully, to work with Weinstein.
If just the few examples in the CSIndy article are any indication, Weinstein nearly turned his direct access to the leadership at USAFA into some form of virtual harassment (or “agitation,” to use a Weinstein term).
The US military, and USAFA, have legitimate means and mechanisms for dealing with such complaints. Emails from outside organizations to random General officers is not one of them. That Weinstein’s ego is wounded by his loss of special access does not demean the efforts of USAFA itself.
Michael Weinstein got the next laugh, though. According to Pam Zubeck at the CSIndy (naturally), he’s now filed a second FOIA asking for a host of documents relating to him, his wife, his children (including by marriage, and including his daughter who didn’t attend USAFA), and former USAFA faculty member and MRFF ally R. David Mullin — dating back as early as 1997.
Weinstein seems to have forgotten the US Air Force Academy actually has a mission, and its leaders are tasked to accomplish that mission — not pander to Weinstein. Answering a self-aggrandizing Weinstein email every few hours or wide-ranging FOIA requests do not advance that military mission. Contrary to some beliefs, the military doesn’t have large administrative staffs to deal with outside antagonists; in many cases, primary people are pulled from the primary mission to salve unjustified angst. Weinstein apparently thinks the Academy has nothing better to do than provide file research for him on wildcard searches (2500 pages, at last count, for free).
While FOIA generally serves a legitimate public interest, Weinstein is using it as yet another “tool” in his campaign of “litigation and agitation.” Take his new FOIA, for instance, which was a response to the lack of information after November 2010. Rather than asking simply for documents after that date, he requested a bevy of documents on 8 different subjects dating back 14 years. It’s almost as if he’s trying to use the FOIA — and the workload it places on the USAFA staff — as ‘payback’ for his loss of special treatment.
According to the original article, the USAFA Chaplain responded this way:
“[Weinstein] may be suffering from attention deficit syndrome: no one is listening or responding, but we’ll continue maintaining the high road and doing the right thing.”
And that they should.
By the way, curious to know what Bible verse Weinstein complained about?
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
God help us that USAFA should have that quote, among many, painted in its halls. The article indicates it was taken down.
(The comments on the CSIndy article make for an entertaining read, with Weinstein’s standard supporters repeating standard talking points — and playing a juvenile game of “guess who.”)