Air Force Lawyers Issued “Weinstein Guidance” in 2010

In its annual “The Military Commander and the Law,” the Air Force Judge Advocate General‘s School publishes guidance for commanders to help them understand some legal complexities related to their jobs.

For example, the nearly 700-page text contains explanations on issuing Articles 15, how to deal with FOIA, personnel issues, and sections on virtually every issue in which the law may impact a commander’s actions.

More interesting, however, was the new addition in 2010 of what could be best described as “Weinstein Guidance.”

The manual gives commanders new guidance on how to handle advocacy lawyers who call them directly, demand adherence to their interpretation of the law, and threaten negative publicity or lawsuits.  The striking specificity in the manual is very similar — indeed, identical — to the Weinstein Method.  Noting it is “based on experience,” the manual recommends avoiding appearances that a commander agrees with Weinstein, er, the caller, recommends against taking unilateral action based on only his threats, and advises seeking out guidance from the local JAG and chaplain before reacting.  From the text:

Preliminary Caveat: Advocacy From Outsiders Might Sound Authoritative but It’s Still Just Advocacy
– Outside advocates (including lawyers) for a particular resolution of a religious issue of which they have become aware might call you directly, advising you that the law “requires” you to adopt their position. If this happens, here are some suggestions based on experience:
— Avoid sounding sympathetic or agreeable to their pronouncements
— Threats of adverse publicity or litigation are to be expected; just tell the caller that you’ll let your PA and/or JAG know
— Don’t take unilateral action (i.e., without first consulting JA and/or HC) to do what the caller is requesting/demanding!
— Inform the caller that you need to discuss the matter with the people you get your advice from, i.e., your SJA (and maybe staff chaplain)
— If a follow-up response is required, it might be preferable to disengage yourself and ask your Vice, exec, SJA, HC, or PA to do it

As if to prove the narrow scope upon which this guidance is based, it is located only within the section on religious freedom.

Religious freedom in the US military should not be restricted based on one man’s personal agenda.  However, it is apparent some commanders may have been unprepared to handle Weinstein’s onslaught when he called.  Contrary to popular belief, military commanders do not generally field such calls from the general public; in fact, their personal contact information is often unavailable to the general public — unless an ally within the military provides it.  (Weinstein’s unusually unfettered access to military leadership — including having personal access to general officers — has resulted in one group’s call for a Congressional investigation on the matter.)

For their part, military lawyers provide guidance; they do not set policy.  As has been said before, they’re also not always right.  In this case, however, their advice is generic and, in truth, applicable to any vociferous advocate who might call their office.  Don’t imply a position, one way or the other; don’t fret about threats; don’t take unilateral action; discuss the issue with others. It’s the same advice a public affairs officer (the people who generally take those kinds of calls) would likely give.

Weinstein may have made a bit of hay over the past few years by cold-calling senior officers and threatening to spread their name across MSNBC if they didn’t accede to his demands.  This guidance may have marked a beginning to the end of that success, though it’s difficult to say what impact this guidance may have had.  There are some examples in which it may not have factored, and there are others in which its philosophy, at least, was closely followed.

The US military generally does an admirable job of protecting the religious freedom of its troops, even against the attacks of Michael Weinstein.  It seems at some level the military (the Air Force, in this case) has wised up to his methodology and is at least trying to prepare its commanders to deal with it.  This may yet be another example in which Weinstein begins to lose one of his favored tools in his attacks on the US military.

3 comments

  • Revised

    Let’s see. JD thinks an advisory about authoritative sounding attorneys and others who call officers in the military and threaten and brow beat them into acquiescence over various issues applies directly to Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

    Well, that’s a no brainer. I’m sure the commanders of units in which certain irregularities occur would prefer to avoid Mikey and remain anonymous and out of the line of fire. What the advisory and JD are saying is “don’t respond to outside influence keep it buttoned up and maybe they’ll go away.

    Sorry but the JAG happens to represent those in the military who require legal advice and who should have an up to date and comprehensive knowledge of civil and military law. You will find that the JAG is really on the side of those who would fight for our young men and women’s religious freedom.

    Do not look for Mikey Weinstein to discontinue his thus far successful record of getting favorable responses from unit commanders right on up to the Air Force Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense. You see, when Mikey calls a unit commander to get him or her to look into coercive Dominion Christian proselytizing he’s not just an advocate for the complainant in that particular case but for some 26,900 other complainants which the MRFF is currently addressing. That’s a lot of clients and a lot of skullduggery on the part of their persecutors.

    As far as the Judge Advocate making an advisory about concerned citizens such as MIkey Weinstein calling unit commanders to get some relief for those who have fallen into the grasp of mindless Christian Dominionists, read what Former Air Force Judge Advocate Lt. General Jack Rives (ret) said about Mikey and Mikey’s new book “No Snowflake in an Avalanche”

    “Mikey Weinstein is a true American Patriot, doing the hard things and doing them well! No Snowflake is a tremendous read, a real page-turner. It expertly chronicles Mikey’s tireless civil rights fight against fundamentalist religious predators in our nation’s armed forces. This powerful book shows the incredible time, the painful costs, and the exceptional energy he, his family, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have expended to protect our vulnerable service members who face discrimination because of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof). His efforts support a critical Constitutional guarantee for all Americans. Keep it up, Mikey!”
    —JACK RIVES, Lt. Gen., USAF (Ret) and The Judge Advocate General of the United States Air Force, 2006-2010. Top Legal figure in the Air Force. And now Executive Director of the American Bar Association.

    In addition, Mikey is not just a caller but an attorney and former Air Force Judge Advocate General himself. So guess what? He just happens to know what he’s talking about when he makes his calls. You see when an officer or NCO is caught with their pants down, no amount of advice from the JAG is going to keep Mikey from demonstrating that their butt is showing.

    There are those who would prefer that an officer in the military be free from criticism, responsibility and obedience to constitutional provision, especially in cases where these officers have violated their oaths to the constitution and Supreme Court rulings. You see, the sect of militant Christianity we have come to know as “Christian Dominionism,” led by extremist Christian organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ Military Mission, Officer’s Christian Fellowship, The Navigators, Focus on the Family and others is undertaking an armed forces wide effort to convert non-Christians and upgrade existing Christians to a higher level of obedience to ranking Christian officers. You may ask “for what purpose?” The stated goal of Dominion Christianity is world conquest in which populations are converted to Christianity in anticipation of the return of Jesus Christ to Israel which will become a Christian Nation. Not to worry though, the Jewish inhabitants will be given a chance to convert before being cast into the “Lake of Fire.”

    So, you see, Mikey will continue his calls and his legal actions on behalf of the helpless young men and women of the armed forces who face an officer corps largely corrupted by extreme Christian practice. And he will do so with the same verve and effectiveness he has achieved so far.

    Some will say that MRFF has not won all the litigation brought against Dominionist activists in the Armed Forces. But every action Mikey has brought has been an unqualified success due to the exposure of the very officers who have hunkered down hoping to deflect attention from themselves.

  • @Richard
    As usual, you see a conspiracy around every corner. Can you point us to a place where Focus on the Family says their stated goal is “world conquest?”

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