Mikey Weinstein Targets Military Christmas. Again.
FoxNews reports that last Friday Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s “charity” once again attacked the Air Force for erecting a Nativity scene on an Air Force Base. Two years ago, it was Travis AFB in California. This year, they targeted Shaw AFB, SC:
The MRFF’s Paul Loebe wrote in a statement that since the display was not erected near a chapel, it was illegal.
“It was very sectarian in nature and a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as a blatant violation of Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.11,” he said.
Weinstein presumably called the office of LtGen Richard Harding, The JAG of the Air Force, and getting no relief there, called Shaw AFB via their Command Post.
Most civilians who call an Air Force base will probably be directed to Public Affairs, because it is the job of PA to help military commanders interact with the public and ensure the correct message is conveyed. Weinstein was transferred to the Commander’s office, where an “office assistant” reportedly spoke for the Air Force. The assistant told Weinstein the display was erected by “a volunteer group” and it was being taken down. Loebe was free to interpret this as the Air Force agreeing with the MRFF position:
To the Air Force’s credit, it agreed with MRFF’s arguments to remove the Nativity scene swiftly and apparently found this scene to be as much a violation of all the pertinent regulations and the United States Constitution as MRFF did.
Of course, the Air Force did no such thing — but the misrepresentation generated Loebe and the MRFF the publicity they desired and harmed the cause of military religious freedom in the process.
As a reminder, the Air Force JAG Corps issued “Weinstein Guidance” three years ago with a five-bullet list of things not to do if someone like Weinstein called. That guidance may have helped here.
The MRFF claimed to have 41 complainants, though only one Shaw local made her criticism public:
I get so tired of having to explain things, like Jesus and god, to my kids when it’s all a part of a faith we don’t believe in whatsoever… ESPECIALLY when it’s during a fun, innocent trip to the park. Yes we all have freedom of speech but we also separate church and state.
Once the news was out, critics of Shaw AFB’s surrender to Weinstein hammered the base’s Facebook page.
For his part, Loebe, until recently an active duty US Marine and vocal atheist critic of religious freedom in the military, joins former West Point cadet Blake Page in a “special” MRFF role as “special projects manager.” He seems to have picked up a bit of Weinstein’s penchant for unnecessary adjectives — or, in this case, adjectives that are simply wrong. Loebe needs to look up the definitions of “direct,” “blatant,” and, for that matter, “violation.”
Who knew that the US Constitution says a Nativity on an Air Force Base has to be located near a chapel?
The Air Force has so far declined to comment (perhaps someone should call the Shaw AFB Command Post). As a result, the MRFF version of events has stuck, though it clearly lacks all the details. For example, neither Loebe nor the equally astute Chris Rodda seem to have noticed the rather obvious timing of the Nativity at Shaw. Whether those other details come out remains to be seen. It is worth remembering that public outcry and the work of military religious freedom groups have reversed Weinstein’s attacks in the past.
Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute pointed out, again, that Weinstein appears to have special access and influence over the Air Force. More importantly, Sasser said
This was private speech. The military can say no displays on a base but it cannot allow a display and then ban it simply because of its religious viewpoint.
This is the same point that has been hammered by various advocates nearly every time Weinstein picks up his bat phone to the Air Force. For example, the ACLJ pointed out to the Air Force that trying to placate Weinstein actually caused them to commit the very unconstitutional conduct of which he was accusing them.
Whether the Nativity was permissible or not is lost in the controversy over what Congress has questioned as the appropriateness of the US Air Force officially responding to the vitriolically anti-Christian Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.