Michael Weinstein Calls for General’s Court Martial over Religion

Update 2: General Umbarger has issued an apology, saying

I apologize for and regret the negative attention my well-meaning endorsement of an organization which so generously offered to help our Soldiers, Airmen, and their families. As I have done so many times before, I instinctively advocated on behalf of my service members.
This situation underscores the enduring need for all of us to pursue every possible avenue in providing services to our faithful military families.
It is my earnest desire and sincere hope that my comments will not detract from the professionalism and dedication of the extraordinary men and women who serve and sacrifice every day in defense of our communities, State, and Nation.

Governor Mitch Daniels, who is responsible for appointing the Guard Adjutant General, has defended the General.  That’s pin #1 for Weinstein’s promised lawsuit.  The Army Inspector General is reportedly looking into the complaint.

Update: Weinstein said he plans to file a “class-action lawsuit” if no action is taken against the General.

As is his common practice, Michael Weinstein has called for the court-martial of Major General R. Martin Umbarger, the Adjutant General of Indiana, making him the point man for “the Indiana Army and Air National Guard, the Indiana Guard Reserve and State employees, totaling more than 15,800 personnel.”

General Umbarger had appeared in a short video, in uniform, requesting support for a charity called Centurion’s Watch.  His comments included:

“Centurion’s Watch is a wonderful way that you can help. Any donation or resource that you can give this organization…I can’t think of a better organization that you can support. So if you want to give back, if you want to have some way you can help, I would highly encourage that you support this organization.”

Weinstein’s response:

“Maj. General Umbarger is incontrovertibly endorsing…a private sector entity which is clearly a comprehensively sectarian, proselytizing, fundamentalist, evangelical Christian parachurch organization…”

As support for his claim, Weinstein cites the Christian Embassy scandal from 2007 — a case that shows the frivolity of his accusations.  As the IG noted at the time with respect to Christian Embassy, religion is irrelevant.  Everything after “entity” in Weinstein’s accusation does nothing to his case, except highlight the fact he has a problem with Christians.

It is unusual for a uniformed General officer to so clearly solicit funds for a private organization, and there is a legitimate question as to its permissibility.  But that question has nothing to do with the religious nature of the organization itself, nor his service or personal character.  (The two-star General was called an “f[–]d up troop” by atheist Army Sgt Justin Griffith, who initially notified Weinstein of the offense.)  The issue is also not the mission of the group, which is to support military marriages.  (An obviously ignorant “military law expert” said it is “not the military’s business to reduce the divorce rate.”)

There are indications the situation may be more complex than implied.  There is also some room for precedent.  As noted at the time, the IG’s condemnation of the Christian Embassy video required a tortured reading of the regulations.

More recently, however, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff opened up a similar Pandora’s box, when he was the keynote speaker at a gala for the “private sector entity” ThanksUSA, calling the event “one of the most important” things he gets to do.  What General Dempsey did not do was solicit funds for the group — though he did specifically detail their fundraising efforts.  General Dempsey also clearly supported the group and its founders, praising the “spirit of service” of the children who founded ThanksUSA — and equating their service to that of Generals in World War II.

They have strengthened the bond of trust between America and its military. And for that, we are deeply, deeply grateful and enormously proud.

Some would say General Dempsey clearly “endorsed” ThanksUSA.

As predicted at the time, Michael Weinstein said nothing — not because ThanksUSA wasn’t endorsed, but because ThanksUSA wasn’t Christian.

Also at Army Times.


  • Hey, JD … you really didn’t think this one through, did you? Why would MRFF say anything about General Dempsey endorsing a non-religious organization, even if it did violate the regulations on endorsing a non-federal entity? We’re the Military RELIGIOUS Freedom Foundation. Do you see your lapse in critical thinking yet? If not, read the next paragraph.

    MRFF wouldn’t say anything about someone appearing in uniform in a commercial for a car dealership either, even though that, too, would be an endorsement of a non-federal entity. Are you seeing it now? A service member endorsing NON-RELIGIOUS non-federal entity just isn’t something within the purview of the Military RELIGIOUS Freedom Foundation. We wouldn’t have a reason to say anything about General Dempsey endorsing a NON-RELIGIOUS organization any more than we would a service member endorsing a car dealership.

  • @Chris Rodda

    A service member endorsing NON-RELIGIOUS non-federal entity just isn’t something within the purview…

    You’re the one quoting “NON-RELIGIOUS” regulations to accuse the General of misconduct.

    You’re the one bringing the military’s general treatment of “NON-RELIGIOUS” conduct into play, because the rules you cite apply without regard to religious content. If you don’t like that, confine your criticisms to rules on religion.

    You won’t do that for several reasons. Religious controversy plays better in the press, so you need the religious angle for publicity. You’ve never won an argument based on religious endorsement, so you need the
    “NON-RELIGIOUS” angle to try to get him in trouble for something, since the IG did hand you an “opening,” in your words, with the non-Federal entity clause. Shotgunning a laundry list of accusations, something the MRFF has done since its inception, increases the likelihood that something might get through. It’s nothing more than tossing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks. Etc.

    You’ve painted yourself into a corner. If you ignore the same rules in re the similar situation with General Dempsey, you undermine your case based on those rules. If you consider his conduct, it undermines your accusations. That’s why you’re ignoring it.

    Apparently, you didn’t think that through.

  • You really are thick, aren’t you? The regulations prohibiting endorsing non-federal entities cover both religious and non-religious non-federal entities, so you would cite exactly the same regulations for someone endorsing a religious organization, a non-religious organization, or a commercial enterprise.

    If someone who owns a car dealership wanted to complain about a service member appearing in uniform in a commercial for a competing car dealership, would you expect that car dealership owner to say, “Oh, and, by the way, while you’re checking out this soldier in the car dealership commercial, I also want you to investigate every other case of anyone else who has ever endorsed any other kind of non-federal entity in uniform, even though they have absolutely nothing to do with the issue of soldiers appearing in car dealership commercials.”

  • @Chris Rodda
    Most institutions, including the US military, attempt to apply their standards fairly and equitably.

    In your example, the military would be hardpressed to court-martial a troop “endorsing” a car dealer without regard to the military’s senior leader recently doing a similar thing — yet that is, in essence, what you are demanding the military do.

    This is not to say the two Generals’ actions are identical, only that they are relevant in re the institutional application of an identical rule.

    Just as the IG said of your accusations five years ago, religion is irrelevant to this situation. A discussion of endorsement may be warranted, but the religious content of the group is not. You have not demonstrated otherwise, and your undue focus on religious beliefs belies your claims to support “religious freedom.”

    Your inability to see that, and your apparent failure to see the significance of the conduct of the military’s senior uniformed leader, is to your detriment.

  • So, what you’re essentially saying here is that if one soldier goes A.W.O.L, for example, and his superiors decide for some reason to let it slide and not pursue any action against him, then any other soldier can go A.W.O.L and the military shouldn’t punish them because that wouldn’t be a fair and equitable application of the standards since another soldier who committed the same violation wasn’t punished?

    What on earth would our justice systems, either military or civilian, look like if the powers that be decided that once one person got away with a particular offense nobody else should ever again be punished for that same offense? Nothing would be punishable anymore because there probably doesn’t exist a crime or violation of regulations that somebody hasn’t gotten away with committing at some point.

  • @Chris Rodda
    You provide an excellent example of a straw man.

  • Please explain how it is a straw man. Be specific.

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  • JD, why do you engage anyone from MRFF in debate? It is becoming increasingly evident, as you pointed out, that they are prejudice towards any group or person that promotes Christianity in any way. It is also becoming apparent that they are hungry for media attention to establish a name for them-selves. If Mr. Weinstein and his associates truly cared about this, why not simply write a letter to Major General Umbarger and General McKinley informing them of the violation? MRFF wanted to drag his name and this situation into the media spotlight solely to get their name out there so they could seem like a legitimate “watchdog” organization. Mr. Weinstein may represent 31 National Guard and Reserve members in the state of Indiana but not one of them had anything to do with this. You already know he was working with SGT Griffith, who is a self proclaimed “media-whore” his words, not mine! Just keep exposing them for what they are but don’t give them a platform on your site to spew their hateful rhetoric.