Atheist Soldier, MRFF Member Goes Anonymous for Jesus Manga

Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has long relied on “anonymous clients” to support its ends (to their detriment, thanks to Chris Rodda). Conveniently, the lack of detail helps Weinstein obfuscate the appearance of being a self-licking ice cream cone — of creating and then “saving” his own clients — and it sometimes helps his numbers, as when supporters provide both attributable and anonymous support to his cause.

Unfortunately, Weinstein has been caught in these machinations before, as in 2010, when the USAFA pagan lay leader, TSgt Brandon Longcrier, was quoted publicly in the local paper, and then suddenly those same quotes appeared in an “anonymous” message to the MRFF.  Longcrier was already associated with the MRFF.  In other words, the complaint originated from within the MRFF, despite Weinstein’s efforts to portray it otherwise.

Similarly, a band of brothers teamed up with Weinstein to protest the USAFA invitation given to retired Lt Clebe McClary.  All but one of those participating in the public outcry were already activists associated with the MRFF — a fact they conveniently omitted, an obvious attempt to make their movement seem more “broad.”

In April of 2010, Akiva David Miller — also of the MRFF — wrote a letter to the MRFF complaining about religious symbolism in NASCAR.  Again, a member of the MRFF was writing a public letter to the MRFF — all for public show.

In other words, these aren’t forlorn, helpless troops calling out to Weinstein to be their savior.  They’re already “clients” of Weinstein, and they’re either volunteering or being solicited to pen diatribes that come across as pathetic and plaintive cries for help from the “repressed.”

Now, Weinstein’s done it again.  In fact, Weinstein may have gone a step further and actually manufactured a complaint to fit his needs.

Yesterday, Weinstein released a message complaining about a “Jesus Manga” comic book, calling it “anti-Semitic” and saying it “may” be homophobic as well.

The accusation itself is weak even for Weinstein.  He provides no specifics, saying only that “Manga Messiah” comic books appear to be available to some US troops at some unspecified bases — which shouldn’t be too unexpected, given they’re published by Tyndale and available even on Amazon.  The letter even admits they don’t know where the books came from — nor do they care.  They object to their mere existence, and if they happen to be found within the military, more the worse.

Like the diatribes of his erstwhile research assistant, Chris Rodda, Weinstein provides no proof of anything.  He doesn’t even cite an event that precipitated the complaint.  He does include, however, a fascinating “anonymous” email in his letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The letter is dated only two days ago, and, like many of the other examples, is written in a pitiful tone by a presumably persecuted troop, crying out to Weinstein for help:

HELP! I am an active U.S. Army soldier. Service members are receiving this dreadful ‘Manga Messiah’ Japanese comic. This thing goes way beyond your standard tract, it depicts homophobic and racially bigoted hatred…

Please, Mikey, you’ve gotta do something. Nobody understand just how WRONG this thing is.

The troop describes how he came to be offended:

I personally received a copy under my bunk in the transient area of Camp Arifjan, Kuwait…It was in a plastic bag bundled with other standard tracts that you find in stacks on every chaplain’s desk…I’d hate to see one of them fall into the hands of a local Muslim…

Every day I showed up, more and more pamphlets were piled on my desk, and only on my desk. It was because of a Chaplain. He zeroed in on me because I requested he stop giving me pamphlets, as I am not a Christian. He said he “reserved the right to evangelize the unchurched.”

And that’s where many readers will find a very familiar refrain.  You see, one of Weinstein’s own clients has been repeating this story for more than a year.

Like the persecuted troop in the email, US Army Sgt Justin Griffith — atheist coordinator of Rock Beyond Belief — is a non-Christian who has been deployed to Camp Arifjan (twice, actually).  He, too, found the “manga” in a bag with other tracts while he was there.  He, too, lamented what would happen if the comic ended up in the hands of a local.  He, too, complained of a chaplain piling tracts up on his desk — a chaplain who he said “reserve[d] the right to evangelize the unchurched” (a refrain Griffith repeats repetitively).  Griffith recently told the story — again — in an atheist podcast interview (in which he also complained about

Of course, Griffith said he responded by putting the “proselytizing” tracts from the chaplain — and a New Testament that came with them — most of the way through the shredder.  So, in his words, he “won the pissing contest.”

Surely an atheist who proudly retold the story of shredding a New Testament to “win a pissing contest” with a chaplain long ago wouldn’t suddenly write an anonymous letter to Weinstein years later complaining of persecution…would he?

Is it possible there’s another Soldier with such a strikingly similar story?

For the coup de grâce, its worth noting the “scandal” is yet another example of the “circular evidence” for which the MRFF is known. MRFF ally Bruce Wilson, American Atheists, Justin Griffith, the MRFF — all were cited as if they were independent sources adding support to a claim.  Instead, each was a link in a chain email dependent on but one common source within the same circle.  (For his part, Wilson simply re-hashed his own article from 2008, when he unsuccessfully tried to attach a political storyline to the scandal. It seems now he’s trying the military angle.)

Weinstein uses US troops as pawns in his cause.  He polls his own clients for an outrage index and coaches his pawns in writing letters for him to publish.

It seems likely he isn’t above essentially manufacturing a “persecuted Soldier” to fit his needs.