Gazette on Weinstein: Miffed USAFA Critic Buys Billboard

The Colorado Springs Gazette, local to the US Air Force Academy, noted that religious freedom critic Michael Weinstein apparently bought a billboard ad to publish Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz’s memorandum on religious neutrality, which Chris Rodda says USAFA is “withholding.”

Air Force Academy critic Mikey Weinstein, miffed that a four-star’s memo on religious respect wasn’t e-mailed to cadets at the Air Force Academy, published the 200-word memo himself Tuesday on a Colorado Springs billboard.

Weinstein is apparently relegated to billboards because USAFA won’t answer his voluminous emails or return his phone calls.  Publicly, he claims he billboarded the memo because General Gould wouldn’t give in to his demands: 

[Weinstein] demanded that the academy give a copy of the Schwartz memo to all 4,000 cadets, along with all other airmen, civilians and contractors on the campus.

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould didn’t comply with Weinstein’s demand despite threats that the foundation “will do what is just and right and undertake its best efforts to, once again, do your duty for you.”

So what’s the point of buying a billboard — which is an eye chart anyway — for something you can find on the internet?

While the memo may be hard to read for drivers whizzing by, Weinstein said the point is simple: He won’t tolerate religious discrimination at the academy.

Putting up the billboard equals not tolerating religious discrimination?  Here’s how Weinstein arrives at that illogical conclusion:

Weinstein…said by not distributing the memo to all at the academy, Gould is essentially endorsing proselytizing.

Well, that makes complete sense — for someone who sees a Christian conspiracy around every corner.  First, the topic of proselytizing — “converting” — isn’t even mentioned in the memo.  For those who haven’t read it (like Weinstein, apparently), the memo addresses concerns of endorsement and establishment.  Second, General Schwartz himself “seemed to reject the idea that commanders or others were deliberately and knowingly attempting to recruit for their own religion.”  Third, the memo was addressed to General Gould, as a DRU/CC.  It was not addressed to “all at the academy.”  While he is responsible for the conduct of the commanders subordinate to him, he is not compelled to “forward” a message simply because Michael Weinstein says so.

General Gould is under no obligation to surrender to Michael Weinstein’s every tantrum.  As a military commander, General Gould is free to lead USAFA as he sees fit, consistent with Air Force policies — which is exactly what he has done.  (Despite the public derision, neither Weinstein nor Rodda provide proof to the contrary.)  General Gould has a mission to accomplish:  It involves turning around 4,400 cadets into Air Force officers. It doesn’t involve treating Michael Weinstein like the prima donna Weinstein seems to think he is.

As a private citizen, Weinstein is free to buy ads or even stand on the street corner and hand out paper copies of the Chief’s memo.  He is free to second-guess the leadership decisions of General Gould or any other military officer.  Though he’s phrased his personal accusations carefully, he’s free to give people the impression (and public comments indicate his actions have definitely done so) that General Gould is somehow in violation of Air Force protocol in his conduct.

That he’s wrong, of course, is ultimately obvious to anyone willing to read beyond the headlines.

That’s one great thing about America.  Every citizen is free to make themselves look the fool.

Michael Weinstein has capitalized on that freedom to its fullest.