Update: Mikey Weinstein Threatens Suit if USAFA Cadets Not Punished
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, a self-described religious liberty advocate, is threatening to sue the US Air Force Academy if it fails to punish cadets who exercised their religious liberty.
As previously noted in the original discussion, a large group of cadets responded to the original story of Weinstein successfully getting a Bible verse erased from a cadet whiteboard by posting verses of their own — from the Bible, Qur’an, movies, the Helix, and even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (One said “go atheists!”)
According to an update at TheBlaze, Weinstein wants everyone who posted verses punished, for some reason, though he didn’t mention those that posted non-religious text [emphasis added]:
“The Air Force Academy has a revolt on their hands. What are they going to do?” Weinstein told TheBlaze Wednesday…
Weinstein said posting verses outside a bedroom door is unacceptable and illegal because that’s part of the “working squadron area” — a central and public location where cadets assemble.
While Weinstein is free to think that, it doesn’t make it true, and the Academy — which has the authority to decide what is or is not a “working squadron area” — has disagreed to this point. Also, the distinction between religious and non-religious text is important. As the FRC and Liberty Institute have noted, if USAFA allows personal quotes and the like, then they cannot prohibit religious text. Still, Weinstein wants the cadets’ heads [emphasis added]:
Weinstein is now calling on the Air Force Academy to take action against those individuals who are posting scripture messages outside their doors…
Weinstein said those who put Bible verses on their doors deserve “non-judicial punishment at the very least…”
Weinstein is willing to take the Air Force Academy to court if the issue isn’t resolved.
Berry said the removal of the Bible verse and any punishment is actually a violation of the Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17, a provision that protects soldiers’ religious liberty.
“Unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs […] of Service members in accordance with the policies and procedures in this instruction…,” the provision states in part.
USAFA did not say they ordered the verse erased, though that is certainly the perception being generated in public.
One subtle point missed by most people has been an “addendum” in Weinstein’s latest volley. Weinstein provided TheBlaze with an email he likely solicited or coached from one of his acolytes [emphasis added]:
Theses [sic] posts, quotes, and comments on social media have created a hostile environment and have lead to a decrease in unit cohesion and morale and are unprofessional in the military environment…
The reason Weinstein’s cadet cited the “hostile environment” and “morale” is those key words would technically allow the Air Force to prohibit otherwise permissible conduct. More importantly, note the cadet didn’t just say the verses in the hallways, but the ones “on social media.” Would Weinstein really assert that cadets or military officers who put verses on social media be punished as “unprofessional”?
Yes, he would.
How USAFA responds will be interesting.
A clear, firm, and decisive response eliminates ambiguity in the public and helps cadets know where their leadership stands. Anything short of that simply extends the “controversy.”
To this point, they’ve said only that the decisions were made by cadets, while acknowledging that cadets live and work in the same space:
We [USAFA] didn’t take them down. When this was identified through the chain of comment [sic], they had a discussion, and the discussion went to cadets about what the best way forward would be. The decision to take it down was this cadet who lived in this room was in a leadership position. Because of that, they determined is the perception of some that if I’m going to speak to that cadet, the entry fee, if you will, to get into the office is to abide by that statement?
It would have been better not to have been in a publicly placed area. If you’re in a leadership position you can’t have something that would potentially imply if you have a certain belief, you can’t come see me.
Their office is also their home. They have to do cadet leadership business in the same place they live.
A key problem with that statement, of course, is that it asserts as fact something that is opinion. That is, a religious text in a military office environment is impermissible because
If you’re in a leadership position you can’t have something that would potentially imply if you have a certain belief, you can’t come see me.
That’s the same logic that has caused some commanders to tell officers they can’t have Bibles on their desks — an accusation the DoD has refuted by saying the military has no such policy. But here you have an example of USAFA basically teaching that very policy to its future officers.
Also at BizPacReview.