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.
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 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.