Weinstein Opposes Islamophobes, Supports Religiophobes
Michael Weinstein recently wrote a scathing letter demanding retired LtGen William “Jerry” Boykin be prohibited from speaking to the US Military Academy (West Point) National Prayer Breakfast on February 8th. The reason: Boykin is, in Weinstein’s words, “rabidly Islamophobic.” (That’s the same word he used to describe Franklin Graham in 2010, when he was invited to a similar event.)
Simultaneously, Michael Weinstein has defended and is helping advertise Rock Beyond Belief — which last week received a significant amount of negative attention for inviting what he would seemingly describe as a “rabidly religiophobic” music group to perform. In fact, the “rabidly Christophobic” Michael Weinstein is scheduled to be one of the event’s speakers. Weinstein should probably look up the meaning of “phobia.”
Of course, it makes no sense for a person to use the “defense of religious freedom” as the reason to support a controversial atheist event while using the same argument to oppose a controversial Christian speaker at another event — but Michael Weinstein isn’t defending religious freedom. He wants religious freedom for those whom he believes hold the right kind of religious views. He wants to wield the US military as a club to restrict the freedoms of religious beliefs with which he disagrees.
By contrast, those who support religious freedom do not think any event should be restricted based purely on the theology of its participants. If the government determines some greater purpose requires such an event to be restricted, then it must restrict all groups in a similar manner.
When such events are associated with the US armed forces, the military does have some interest in how those events are undertaken. Since the military will exert some degree of influence over events under its purview, it is obligated under the Constitution to intervene only as it affects the mission, only in the least restrictive manner, and only if it treats even divergent perspectives equally.
Despite the fact he runs a “religious freedom” charity, Weinstein disagrees, calling for restrictions (only) on those whose religions he opposes. Weinstein’s anti-religious freedom objective is made more evident if you realize the letter he passionately wrote opposing Boykin could just as easily convey the same message if “Boykin” is changed to one of the “controversial” acts slated to perform at Rock Beyond Belief, and references to Christianity are changed to atheism (or, more accurately, anti-theism).
In other words, if Weinstein was truly consistent in his views of “religious freedom,” he would have written a similar letter about Richard Dawkins and Fort Bragg as he did about Jerry Boykin and West Point.
To wit (all unbracketed text is original to Weinstein):
The event…must not be used as a forum for the backwards and disgusting hate speech of virulent anti-[theist] extremists such as [Aiden, Dawkins, Barker and others]. Our civil rights foundation demands that the Pentagon rescind its invitation to [these] notorious and noxious [anti-theist] supremacist[s] immediately and without delay [sic].
Weinstein’s excessive use of adjectives and gratuitous hyperbole make his claim no more legitimate for Boykin than it does for Rock Beyond Belief:
It is obvious that [their] views fan the flames of vulgar and pernicious religious discrimination and profound ignorance…Additionally, [Dawkins’] feverish brand of [atheist] militarism is ingrained with a virulent theological hostility towards the cherished blessings of democracy and religious freedom, as embodied and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, which generations of service members have shed precious blood to protect…
Indeed, [this] comes mere days after President Barack Obama…noted that the guiding principle of American policy both foreign and domestic would be to “stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians, Muslims and Jews. ” The brazenly counter-intuitive extension of this invitation to [Aiden and Dawkins] can only be viewed as a seditious attempt to undermine the stated policy of the present administration as well as the critical ongoing efforts to “reset” relations with the Muslim world.
Referencing that last sentence, remember the “Muslim world” considers atheism far more repugnant than Christianity or even Judaism. Continuing:
[These] evangelists of putrescent [atheist] bigotry must not use the United States Military [sic]…as a venue for ignorant, racist displays of sectarian hatred and disgusting religious supremacy and exceptionalism.
As you can see, the letter is as easily applicable — and ridiculous — for a group Weinstein supports without a change in accuracy, passionate opinion, or hyperbolic vitriol. That’s primarily because the letter is light on facts and heavy on hatred of individual beliefs. What few facts there are can be applied to the atheist group as easily as they are to Boykin. Such selective outrage isn’t lost on Weinstein; it is purposefully ignored.
The US military has, on occasion, prohibited those with Christian views from speaking to military audiences because of their previously stated views. (Graham and Perkins come to mind.) The military has also defended the inclusion of Christian speakers criticized for their invitation to similar events. (McClary comes to mind.) The military has also invited “controversial” speakers to speak to military audiences without the public even knowing about it. (Michael Weinstein’s multiple addresses to military audiences come to mind.)
There are times and places where divergent views are not only acceptable, but welcome. There are also times when seemingly “offensive” views are not only expected but also encouraged, even in a military-themed setting.
In its protection of the right to freely exercise religion, the US military commits no harm in allowing people of faith to address willing audiences in tenets consistent with their faith. It also commits no harm, nor endorses any particular ideology, if it allows people of faith to speak at an event despite their controversial words in other venues.
In that regard, there should be no issue with Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, Clebe McClary, and Jerry Boykin speaking to willing audiences exercising their religious liberty.
What about Richard Dawkins, Aiden, and others associated with the Fort Bragg Rock Beyond Belief? Fort Bragg has already indicated they are welcome to perform, though it recently expressed concern over potentially graphic content of what is supposed to be a “family friendly” event.
So while Weinstein demands the military allow Richard Dawkins to address a willing military audience, he likewise demands the military prevent Christian speakers from doing the same thing.
Religious freedom is not threatened by its exercise. Religious freedom is threatened by those who would have the government restrict it because of their personal vendetta.