Weinstein’s Attacks Don’t Dampen US Military Charity

Marines spread joy of Christmas, Soldiers donate to Catholic Charity, Toys for Tots teams with Christian non-profit…

Members of the US military continue to participate in traditional acts of charity and community service, even when such efforts are connected (however remotely) with religious organizations — despite Michael Weinstein’s efforts to quash such efforts last month.

The reason, of course, is that despite a somewhat unusual reaction from the US Air Force Academy last month, the US military has had no problem associating itself with religious organizations in their efforts to conduct humanitarian or charitable work.  In fact, it seems the majority of such work is conducted in concert with organizations that are in some way connected to a faith group, probably because so many humanitarian and charitable organizations are faith-based to begin with.

And that’s OK — because there is no military policy, regulation, or law that prevents a person in the military, or a military organization, from organizing a community service or outreach project with organizations related to religion.  That Michael Weinstein was offended by a USAFA connection with Franklin Graham — for whom he has a personal loathing — does not change the law or the Constitution.  Conversely, preventing members of the military from organizing with such groups — while allowing others — simply because of their religious beliefs would be a Constitutional problem.  Fortunately, that has not been the case, as the many examples below show.

For example, Michael Weinstein said “the Marines get it right with Toys for Tots,” which was also endorsed as a “secular alternative” to Operation Christmas Child by MRFF ally Justin Griffith.  However, the Toys for Tots website notes [emphasis added]

The initial objective that remains the hallmark of the program today is to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children”.

The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope…

There are many more examples on the website.  With such an explicit support for Christmas (and not a “secular” event during this “season”), Toys for Tots will probably be targeted next year for unconstitutional favoritism (at the highest levels) of an exclusive sectarian celebration.  Still, Toys for Tots remains one of the most supported military Christmas outreaches.

Marines joined forces with the Christmas Spirit Foundation to support Operation Christmas, providing 850 needy military families with free Christmas trees.

More than 400 soldiers from Fort Carson supported Operation Happy Holidays to benefit the Marian House soup kitchen.  Their commander said

“This event was an opportunity for (our brigade) to give back to the local community, who has supported us in every way since we arrived at Fort Carson,” said Lt. Col. Geoffrey Norman, commander, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.

As noted previously, the Marian House is an explicitly Catholic charity, which would, theoretically, make it subject to the Michael Weinstein Rule.  His Rule would prohibit members of the military from organizing among themselves to donate food and supplies to needy soup kitchens — but only if they had a religious connection.  Of course, no such unconstitutional Rule actually exists, and the Soldiers are free to provide food for needy families as they desire, free from the personal whims of Weinstein.

Marine families at Camp Pendleton were blessed with thousands of gifts in a unique program that helps kids pick gifts for their parents.  A Christian charity called Children Giving Gifts teamed with Toys for Tots:

The three day event was hosted by a program called Children Giving Gifts, a Christian non-profit organization that provides presents for kids to choose and then give to their parents. Their organization joined with the Marine Corps Reserve’s iconic charity, Toys for Tots, to create an event the whole family could enjoy.

Unfortunately, the Weinstein Rule applied here would likely take out not only the Christian charity, but also all of the hallowed Toys for Tots as collateral damage, just as Weinstein tried to use Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse to override any connection of the military with Operation Christmas Child.  Then again, Weinstein did say Toys for Tots is “doing it right,” so maybe teaming with overtly Christian charities is precisely the thing to do.  It would be a shame if Weinstein tried to say it was “unconstitutional” for a member of the military to help a deserving kid pick out a present for their folks.

The Alaska National Guard continued an annual tradition of Operation Santa Claus, in which an Air Force C-130 flies missions specifically to bring “holiday cheer” to remote Alaskan villages every Christmas.

The annual Operation Christmas Drop continued in the western Pacific, with US Air force C-130s airdropping Christmas gifts and essential supplies to remote islands in Micronesia.

The tradition has been carried out every year since. Packages filled with mostly relief items – clothes, food, medicine, toys – are dropped on dozens of Micronesian islands for one week every year before Christmas.

Will Weinstein use this as a shopping list to lodge more complaints? Entirely probable. It is not unusual for Chris Rodda or her allies to use this site for research. The complaints from Weinstein shouldn’t be cause for concern, though. Yes, it takes a certain amount of moral courage to stand up to a man who threatens to spread a commander’s image and unit all over the national news in a manufactured controversy, but a commander’s obligation is not to do what is comfortable or easy, but to do what is right. In fact, this is what members of the military are paid to do: defend religious liberty from a man who would attack those who don’t practice his MRFF-approved “right kind” of Christianity.

Fortunately, with a few notable exceptions the US military has managed to stand firm against Weinstein’s empty threats and wild accusations. The result is the protection of US servicemembers’ religious liberties, and an environment of religious freedom within the military.

The secondary result, as the examples above show, is a strong bond between the local community and the military, and a tangible benefit to families and children.  Kind of hard to believe someone wants to stop that.


  • And this year, once again, MRFF has partnered with Kean University’s Be The Change group to send toys to kids in the Gulf. The over 800 toys collected by the students for kids whose families have still not recovered from the BP oil spill were shipped from New Jersey to Mississippi by MRFF, and will be distributed to the children tonight in Gulfport. The other morning, the top priority at MRFF was making sure these toys got to Mississippi in time for Christmas, a mission that even took precedence over dealing with the death threats coming in from so-called Christians who read things like the kind of stuff JD writes about MRFF. Santa will, of course, be there.

  • @Chris Rodda
    Since what is written here is either quoted or based on what Weinstein says himself (or what you say about him or on his behalf), you’re basically saying you and he are responsible for the comments the MRFF receives.

    Your attempts to ameliorate Weinstein’s reputation of attacking religious freedom in the military by noting he paid for shipping something somewhere make little sense.

    Besides, at last report he paid himself nearly $25,000 a month. It’s good he could spare something to ship some packages. Perhaps he should support religious freedom in the military as well.

  • Seriously, JD? When it’s a charity you support, it’s very important that what the charity is doing is sending Christmas gifts to needy kids, but when it’s MRFF sending Christmas gifts to needy kids, it’s just “shipping something somewhere?”

  • Oh, and by the way, there actually was military involvement on a base here in New Jersey in the collection of the toys. But nothing was done that violated any military regulations or pushed religion on anybody, so it was just fine that this student group that I work with and that MRFF partners with got some help from the military.

  • And, JD, I don’t see you complaining that Franklin Graham pocketed $736,861 from his charities in 2009, or that one of the board members of Samaritan’s Purse makes $307 an hour. Would you care to comment on why Graham should be living so lavishly? Isn’t that kind of contradictory to what Jesus told his disciples when he told them to go out and spread the good news?

  • Then there’s the VP of Operation Christmas Child, who pocketed $242,593 in 2009. Hmmm … seems that some people are living mighty well off those donations for shoeboxes for poor kids.

  • @Chris Rodda

    It’s probably not wise for an employee of the MRFF to bring up charity CEO compensation. But since you did, people can see that Graham is grossly underpaid by Weinstein’s scale (though your numbers for Graham seem to be a bit off).

    Weinstein’s compensation from his own charity was 54% of contributions in 2009. If his charity was the same size as Graham’s, Weinstein would have pocketed around $162,000,000 that year. So Weinstein probably thinks his pal Franklin deserves a raise.

    That’s not the point, however. As noted above, the US military routinely works with charities (including religious ones) in community support efforts. You and Weinstein would have us believe the US Constitution says members of the military cannot independently support charitable efforts if they are associated with a religion. Again, as said above, there is no foundation in law or policy for such an asinine assertion.

    Would you really assert it was unconstitutional for the US military to fly aid to Japan after the tsunami — because the bottled water and blankets came from Samaritan’s Purse?

    It’s great that Weinstein would want to send “Christmas gifts to needy kids” (passing on the obvious implication he’s supporting an inherently Christian celebration). It’s also great USAFA cadets or Soldiers from Fort Carson or Marines from Camp Pendleton would do the same thing. But you’ve said they can’t if they choose to associate with a charity that might have a shade of religion in it. That’s ludicrous.

    The desire to have the US government restrict troops’ community service based on religion contravenes the Constituional protections of religious liberty — as well as Weinstein’s stated “charitable” purpose. Your announcements of Weinstein paying to ship toys — which, while notable, has nothing to do with the MRFF — does nothing to change that.

  • If it went by percentages of donations received, which is ridiculous, Mikey would have been paid $1,012 for the year of 2009 to be equal to what Franklin Graham makes from Samaritan’s Purse. But of course, if you went by percentages, and used Graham’s salary as the benchmark, there would be a hell of a lot of heads of smaller non-profits whose yearly salary would be less than Graham rakes in in a week (over $14,000). So, nobody figures this stuff by percentages — well, except for you when you’re trying to make it appear that Mikey is personally profiting from MRFF.

    And, of course, you completely omit pesky little details like Mikey taking no salary at all in 2007. Oh yeah, and Mikey’s wife works full time for MRFF as the foundation’s Development Director, and takes no salary, so Mikey’s salary is really both of their salaries.

    Now, back to my question, which I’m not surprised you neglected to comment on: Do you think Franklin Graham should be living so lavishly? Isn’t that kind of contradictory to what Jesus told his disciples when he told them to go out and spread the good news?

  • @Chris Rodda

    nobody figures this stuff by percentages…

    Nobody except the occasional reputable organization that evaluates the financials of charities, because they know donors are interested in the charities to which they contribute. Oops. They also caveat CEOs with zero salary. You do research, right?

    Mikey’s salary is really…

    This has been discussed before. If you’re going to say Weinstein’s salary is something other than what he “really” told the IRS, you might as well accuse him of filing false documents with the government.

  • Oh well, I’m done debating this for now. Have a Merry Christmas!

  • Some interesting data from Charity Navigators (a bit dated info, but not surprising):

    Benny Hinn….he told CNN in 1997 that his yearly income including book royalties was somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million..probably more by now.

    Pat Robertson exposed….http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Wolves/700_club.htm

    Paul Crouch’s compensation package stands at $419,000, but he and his wife live like King and Queen.

    Peter Popoff, president of Peter Popoff Ministries… $550,096

    John Hagee…$842,005 in compensation and $414,485 in benefits (2001). Supposedly the highest in the free world. I call him the “hell fire and brimstone preacher” and his son will be just like him…scary bunch!

    Creflo Dollar Jr…the “anointed one” no one really knows, but I’m guessing 6 figures ($500K).

    Other salaries include (modest salaries I suppose):

    Bob Larson, President of Bob Larson Ministries… $142,242

    Jack Van Impe, President of Jack Van Impe Ministries International.. $150,012

    Ravi Zacharias, President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries… $179,918.

    Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute … $233,759. (Research?)

    L. Ron Hubbard (Founder of Scientology) once said “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.”

    While our modern day evangelists have not started their own religion, they have unquestionably improved on Hubbard’s idea. Capitalizing on Christianity has proved to be far more lucrative than starting a new religion.