Michael Weinstein Targets Evangelicals in Fishing for Bibles, Part 2
As predicted last November, Michael Weinstein went fishing for controversy over military-themed Bibles and finally managed to manufacture a scandal out of the nearly decade-old Holman series of military-themed Bibles carrying official military service seals.
But what that led to is even more interesting, for Weinstein may have let slip (again) his real target in his “war” against religious freedom in the US military.
For its part, the military says the decision to withdraw permission for Holman to use the seals was administrative housekeeping. Weinstein’s research assistant Chris Rodda cried malarkey, saying the military never would have revisited the permission if not for the MRFF inquiries.
As it has in the past, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, representing 2,000 military chaplains, is calling on Congress to investigate why the military is so keen on bowing to pressure from the MRFF.
“[We] received authorization in 2003 to use the official seals of the U.S. military branches on a series of HCSB Bibles,” the spokesman, Marty King, said. “We received notice last year from the various branches withdrawing authorization. After selling existing inventory of those Bibles, B&H replaced the official seals with generic insignias which continue to sell well and provide spiritual guidance and comfort to those who serve.”
Weinstein laughably claimed the Holman Bibles amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of Protestant Christianity since the Bibles didn’t include the Apocrypha. Naturally, he failed to provide evidence that anyone had asked for, and been denied, permission to use the same symbol on another religious text.
Weinstein also claimed the Bibles were “dangerous,” and it seems many of his supporters agreed. Yet Weinstein doesn’t explain how the same Bible, with a symbol indistinguishable by the average person from an official military symbol, won’t be dangerous. That implies, of course, that the “danger” isn’t in the presence of the symbol, but the presence of the military-themed Bible. For her part, Rodda was verklempt over references to Officers’ Christian Fellowship, since her MRFF apparently doesn’t believe military officers should be allowed to have or express their faith, or fellowship with others.
In truth, Weinstein’s “victory” is hollow. Even Rodda admitted the Bibles will still be available, though without the service seals — a detail most people wouldn’t be able to discern, anyway. That hasn’t stopped Weinstein’s like-minded supporters, though, from congratulating Weinstein for ridding the military of this Christian brain-washing material, despite the fact nothing of the sort has been done.
It would seem Weinstein’s PR firm was inadequately prepared for the publicity. Shortly after a few news outlets carried headlines of an “atheist organization” trying to ban military Bibles, Weinstein hastily pushed out a homemade video compilation of “pervasive and pernicious pattern and practice of evangelical Christian proselytization” to try to capitalize on the visibility. (Weinstein threatened to sue the groups that dared to characterize the MRFF as “atheist” or “anti-theist,” though he didn’t think it defamatory to call them “anti-truth.”) Much to his chagrin, no doubt, the shock of the “scandal” withered quickly and fell from public view.
Here’s the kicker, though: Every single person in his video was practicing free exercise protected by the US Constitution. Nothing said or done in the video was illegal, unconstitutional, or against military policies in any form. Some of the video showed nothing more than uniformed servicemembers participating in worship. Weinstein and his lackeys may not like the fact Christians (and others) desire to evangelize members of the US military, but their dislike does not override an individual’s religious freedom. In other words, Weinstein is criticizing — and trying to raise money off of — the very Constitutional liberties he claims he is trying to protect.
Weinstein didn’t even bother to cover up his willing self-contradiction: He attacks, again, the very heart of religious liberty in the US military — a chapel service in a war zone. His fundraising video includes the sermon by Chaplain (LtCol) Gary Hensley given while in Afghanistan to a chapel congregation — something even his employee Rodda has said is “of course…permissible.”
Once again, Michael Weinstein is trying to raise money at the expense of US troops’ religious liberty — not to protect it.
Rodda also launched a preemptive volley claiming their Holman Bible “victory” was not an anti-Christian or anti-religion move on the MRFF’s part, saying
MRFF is only fighting a particular subset of Christians — the fundamentalists and dominionists who see the U.S. military as a “mission field” for their evangelism and proselytizing.
The foundation for her argument is illogical, since one does not have to be fundamentalist or dominionist to desire to evangelize the military. She also fails to explain how her MRFF “victory” in having Holman redesign its Bibles has anything to do with fundamentalists or dominionists. In other words, her argument is specious.
The best part, though, is her contradiction with her own boss. Notice again that the MRFF fundraising video targets evangelical Christians — not fundamentalists or dominionists.
By that admission, Michael Weinstein is at “war” with more than a quarter of the US population.
In the end, the US military branches can choose to license the use of their crests as they choose, and the long tradition of military Bibles will continue, even for sale at military bases (contrary to the beliefs of the MRFF acolytes). No issue of religious freedom requires the use of official government seals.
There may yet be a festering issue, however. At best, the military may have a perception problem, since, despite their public statements to the contrary, they are still accused of conduct that appears discriminatory toward religion. At worst, the Chaplains’ group may be correct, and the military may be far too willing to bow to pressure from external critics — even at the cost of the environment of religious freedom within the military.
What is certain is that Michael Weinstein, despite being the head of a self-founded “religious freedom” foundation, will continue to find ways to portray Christians in the US military in the most negative light, even at the risk of — nay, for the explicit purpose of — undermining their religious freedom.
That’s how Michael Weinstein and his MRFF “support the troops.”