MRFF: Air Force Created New Regulation Because of Christians

As previously noted, Michael Weinstein boasts about his hate mail like some people do pictures of their grandkids.  The MRFF publishes some of those emails, and, more often than not, a “volunteer” staff member posts an online rebuttal.  The replies are often critical and sarcastic, meaning they’re mostly red meat for MRFF acolytes.  Occasionally, though, one reveals the underbelly of the MRFF opposition to religious liberty.

Such was the case with Joan Slish, an MRFF “advisory board” member who has two claims to fame: First, according to the MRFF website, she left the Assembly of God because they were the wrong kind of Christian (though she oddly still claims an AoG Pastorate).  Second, she inadvertently revealed in 2011 that the MRFF was the arbiter of “true” Christianity — telling the world the MRFF would vitriolically attack the religious liberty of the wrong kind of Christian.  (Weinstein was already doing that; Slish was simply the first ‘staff member’ to admit it.)

Now she can add a third trophy:  An official MRFF email reply riddled with statements at times false, at others ridiculous, and almost always comical — but one that also has another peek behind the MRFF curtain.

She falters right out of the gate in following the MRFF tradition of listing credentials to bolster their claim to legitimacy:

Every complaint is vetted by Mikey who was a JAG lawyer at the Air Force Academy for 10 years…

Weinstein was at the Air Force Academy for 10 years?  That’s impressive.  He probably never mentioned that before because it isn’t true.  (Even Weinstein has begun to walk back his regular claim that he was an “Air Force JAG for 10 years” — and if you try to do the math, you’ll understand why.)

With such a basic error in the opening paragraphs, the rest of the reply should be interesting.

In defending the validity of the MRFF claims:

If you have a problem with what MRFF does I suggest you contact each of the soldiers…

That’s a great idea…except MRFF “clients” are conveniently anonymous.  But since the MRFF is suggesting such contact, maybe Slish would be willing to provide names so the “thousands” of MRFF complaints can be verified.  In point of fact, another atheist MRFF acolyte did recently offer to provide such specifics.  He wrote of “the 33,000 clients of the [MRFF] (I’m a client),” and, referring to the recent press conference on religious liberty, said:

[Gen Boykin and Congressman Fleming] should check with the list of over 33,000 infractions committed against service members by those same fundamentalist Christians. I can get you that data (because it actually exists and actually is illegal)

Two MRFF associates have now offered this information.  Very well.  Offer accepted.  Provide the data.

On the MRFF’s qualifications:

We ARE the greatest defender of the Constitution and military law – bar none.

The MRFF is claiming to be the greatest defender of the US Constitution (“bar none”) — greater even than US military troops, many having given their lives doing so.  Arrogant, obviously, but also consistent with how Weinstein comports himself.

Returning to her roots, Slish claims the MRFF is only attacking those who practice the wrong kind of Christianity:

What we are trying to stop is an extreme form of Christianity that believes they are the only true form of it and all other mainline Christians are not of the “right kind” or “born-again” and are going to hell.

Read that carefully.  A “religious freedom” group is seeking to “stop” a faith based on its beliefs.  Make sense to you?  Even better, virtually every mainstream denomination of Christianity, orthodox Judaism, and all of Islam each consider themselves to be the only “true” faith.  Why the MRFF is limiting itself to only certain Christians is unclear, given how many “extremists” they have to fight in Judaism and Islam.

The MRFF letter continues, describing what these Christian “extremists” believe:

This extreme form of Dominionist/Fundamental/Evangelical Christianity is relentless in its in-your-face religious proselytizing to other soldiers by the military personnel all the way up to the Commander…They have harassed, beaten, withheld advancements and drummed soldiers out of the military on trumped up charges, all in the name of Jesus.

It would be pointless to ask Slish for evidence to support her claim, since the “proselytizing” is so “relentless,” the “beat[ings]” so common, and the dismissals so frequent that the MRFF has never publicized a single valid, verifiable instance to support her claim in the nearly 8 years Weinstein has had his “charity” going.

Finally, Slish lifts the veil on the MRFF’s intentions on the practice of “religious liberty” in the US military:

Lt. Col. Chaplain Reyes’ [sic] is free to say anything he wants under the First Amendment but it must be within the context of his church or chapel.

The MRFF — a “religious freedom” charity — believes the religious liberty protected by the US Constitution extends only to the chapel walls.  Worth remembering.  Further:

[The chaplain] is not allowed to place his beliefs in The Official Website of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for ALL of the soldiers to see according to Air Force Instruction 1-1.

Slish is wrong: First, Chaplain Reyes’ article didn’t even mention his beliefs — but the MRFF is reliant upon a sensationalist caricature, because the truth is far more benign.  In addition, the AFI says nothing about making one’s beliefs public and actually encourages “confident” exercise of one’s faith. If Slish were right, she’d have a hard time explaining why Weinstein positively spoke about an atheist putting his beliefs on an official website “in violation of AFI 1-1.”

But wait… There’s more.

As is the common practice, the MRFF posted the exchange on their website.  A commenter disagreed (as many do), and “Pastor Joan” replied again, saying

The Secretary of the Air Force had to issue Air Force Instruction 1-1 because the rampant proselytizing by one sect of Christianity was causing moral decay, good order and discipline within in the ranks.

AFI 1-1 is a 27 page document that covers topics from drug abuse to political activities — but the MRFF is convinced it was issued because of “rampant proselytizing” by Christians.  Can that be true?

If you’ll recall, Weinstein claimed to be pulling the puppet strings of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Norton Schwartz.  Ever since Gen Schwartz issued the regulation in his last days of military service, Weinstein has been pounding the AFI 1-1 drum — and essentially only that drum — as a tool to restrict religious liberty in the US Air Force.

It’s almost as if AFI 1-1 was tailor-made for Michael Weinstein.  And Slish seems to say that it was.

In the end, there are two possibilities:  “Pastor” Slish is not being forthright, and she actually has no idea why the AFI was published — but she thinks the sensationalism helps her point.  Or, Slish is telling the truth, and she accidentally let the world know that AFI 1-1 was written as a result of private conversations between Michael Weinstein and Air Force leadership, and it gave Weinstein a tool he had lacked to attack religious liberty in the US Air Force.

Which sounds more likely?

As to the email exchange itself, the letter from “Pastor Joan” is essentially an addled collection of conspiracy theories and unfounded accusations against Christians who hold to different beliefs than her own.

And that makes her right at home at the MRFF.