Mikey Weinstein Confuses, Contradicts Self in Debate with Ron Crews

Update: Chaplain Crews reports Mikey Weinstein plans to send “clients” into military chapel services to “monitor sermons.”  Crews also reports that groups are ready to defend chaplains subject to Weinstein’s attacks.

Last week TheBlaze posted a podcast from The Church Boys that included what they called a “heated” debate between Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and retired US Army Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews. The nearly 45-minute broadcast is largely Weinstein monologuing with his normal talking points to, or over, the hosts and Crews. (The audio is available below.)

For those that want the Bottom Line Up Front, the “debate” made clear that Mikey Weinstein doesn’t have a clear position, but he holds it very strongly and with great animus toward Christians.

“Perverts” and Marching Orders

For nearly half the show Weinstein railed against chaplains who would issue “anti-LGBT marching orders” and scream “perverts!” from the pulpit. No one seemed to really understand what he was talking about, and he never explained himself. It would seem he was attempting to set up a straw man that never really got going.

Strong Bonds and Marriage Retreats

Weinstein said it would be a “declaration of war” if a chaplain did not lead a marriage retreat that included homosexuals.

It’s important at this point to note that a chaplain not leading a marriage seminar with homosexuals does not adversely affect anyone’s religious liberty — the thing Weinstein says he wants to protect, and the middle two words of the four-word name of his “charity.” Conversely, requiring a chaplain to lead such a retreat against his theological beliefs, or failing to provide a retreat that did not affirm homosexuality for the vast majority of US troops who share the theology of the chaplain, would adversely affect a great many people’s religious freedom.

Weinstein, a self-appointed “religious freedom” advocate, is willing to “go to court” because a chaplain won’t lead a homosexual marriage seminar, but he ignores — more accurately, he attacks — the religious freedom of chaplains and heterosexual couples in that same context.

Separate but Equal

Chaplain Crews did a fairly decent job of deconstructing one of Weinstein’s go-to attacks. With regard to marriage retreats and seminars, even the US military recognized the potential for conflict when homosexuality was openly accepted. Currently, it is the general (though not universal) policy that if such a seminar includes homosexuals, it can only be led by a chaplain whose theology is open to homosexuality. If one is not available, then another later event will be scheduled with an affirming chaplain while the available chaplain can lead the seminar for everyone else.

Also, if homosexuals are to be included in such a seminar, the other participants are informed so they can withdraw, if they wish, if their theology would be in conflict with that presented during the seminar affirming the homosexual couples.

Weinstein derided this accommodation, claiming Christians were attempting to institute “separate but equal” for homosexuals. Chaplain Crews responded [emphasis added]:

“The reality is chaplains have been doing separate but equal for a long time, meaning that at a military installation you’ll find an Episcopal service for Episcopalians, you’ll find a Lutheran service for Lutherans, you’ll find an Evangelical Protestant service for protestants, you’ll find a Catholic service for Catholics.

All of those services are provided to meet the needs of the military personnel, not for the chaplains…All those services are separate but equal services, and chaplains have been doing that for a long time to meet the needs of the military personnel.

“The troops” are Weinstein’s weak point, and the troops are often forgotten in these discussions. Despite the constant references to chaplains, this argument isn’t about “chaplain’s rights.” US military chaplains do not exist for their own benefit; they exist for the benefit of the service members they serve. When Weinstein says “a chaplain cannot…,” he’s actually saying US troops who share that theology “cannot….” By extension, Weinstein is attacking US troops who hold the same religious beliefs as the chaplains.

Realizing he was on shaky ground, Weinstein illogically responded to Crews’ explanation of separate services with “that’s fine,” apparently because separating religious support based on religious beliefs doesn’t “destroy good order and discipline.” But Weinstein immediately attacked again — and contradicted himself, again — saying separating religious support based on religious beliefs does “destroy good order and discipline” — if such beliefs speak to human sexuality.

In other words, Chaplain Crews presented a consistent, principled position about religious liberty for US service members, while Mikey Weinstein based his position on sex.

Preaching Truth from the Pulpit

Weinstein said that he would attempt to “prosecute” chaplains for what they preached from the chapel pulpit (as well as, presumably, the congregation of US troops there to hear it) if the sermon impacted good order and discipline. He justified his attacks with Parker v Levy, a 1974 US Supreme Court case in which the Court said a military officer did not have the protected “free speech” to tell others not to join the military (he opposed the war in Vietnam).

Weinstein readily dismissed Crews’ counter-reference to Rigdon v Perry (1997). The much more recent DC District Court case said the US military

clearly interfere[d] with military chaplains’ free exercise and free speech rights, as well as those of their congregants

when they forbade chaplains from preaching about legislation regarding partial birth abortion. Their counsel, the now well-known Becket Fund, said the ruling allowed chaplains to “preach freely without government interference.”

“Government interference” with chaplains’ preaching — and interference with the troops’ ability to hear sermons consistent with their faiths — is precisely what Weinstein is proposing.  And he’s disguising it as a call for religious freedom.

Preaching Against Sin is OK, Except When it Isn’t

The hosts of the Church Boys were eventually able to interrupt Weinstein’s unending monologues to ask questions. One host asked if simply listing Biblical sins, among which is homosexuality, would meet Weinstein’s threshold for ousting the chaplain from the military. In a long and meandering response, Weinstein eventually said listing Biblical sins would be acceptable because it simply stated a theological position.

The host then accurately pointed out that’s exactly the opposite of what Weinstein wrote in his own article a little more than a week earlier, when he called for chaplains to be kicked out of the military simply for preaching that very theological position [formatting original]:

If chaplains believe that they MUST publicly and visibly preach to their troops a message that their LGB comrades are sexual-deviant “sinners” because of their “choice” to be gay, then these views are fatally noxious and totally destructive to unit cohesion, good order, morale, and discipline in the armed forces.

Weinstein was unable to explain his self-contradiction. In fact, he said he would “stand by” everything he said, apparently not realizing he was confusingly “standing by” opposing statements.

The hosts then asked a particularly astute question: Would Weinstein also demand the ouster of a chaplain who preached against divorce?

Weinstein’s response: Well, you’re not born a divorcee.

Everyone — likely including Weinstein — picked up on the fallacy of his position. Weinstein had repeatedly claimed the only thing he cared about was “good order and discipline,” yet the effect on good order and discipline is independent of how someone was born. It is self-contradictory for Weinstein to claim saying “homosexuality is a sin” is worthy of discharge while saying “divorce is a sin” is not.

The “what about divorce?” question is normally used as a “gotcha” against Christians who publicly oppose the acceptance of homosexuality. It was interesting to see it turned — successfully — against someone holding the presumably affirming position.

The Result

In truth, nothing Weinstein said was really new.  He has been attacking chaplains’ sermons for years, while his organization — that is, his research assistant Chris Rodda — simultaneously contradicted him and said those sermons were “of course, permissible” because they were protected religious services.  Those attacks rarely carried the day, however, because even his supporters (and some staffers) could acknowledge the implications to the religious liberty of US troops if the US government began dictating the content of sermons during religious services.  Weinstein now seems to think he can win if he makes the fight specifically about sexuality.

Given that unprincipled position, do you think Chris Rodda will continue to defend religious chapel services against attacks by her own boss?

Ultimately, Weinstein’s participation in The Church Boys show did little more than demonstrate that he was incapable of articulating and defending a rational position. He has continually contradicted his own statements, and, significantly, is unable to explain why his diatribes against Christians do not equally apply to exclusive religious doctrines in every Abrahamic religion.

Those are shortcomings he and Chris Rodda have shared, but they generally don’t work against them — because their supporters simply don’t care.

It would seem that Weinstein is doing the same thing he’s done for years: He’s hitching his horse to the latest big thing in the media and public conversation — the thing he thinks will get him the most attention. He wrote an op-ed online calling for US military chaplains to be kicked out over gay rights because it would shock the conscience in a time when “gay rights” and religious liberty are top searches on the internet and topics in the public conversation — and it would be a dog whistle to his base. It may be little more than a fundraising ploy.

Most of Weinstein’s acolytes won’t have the attention span to listen to his ravings for 45-minutes (to be fair, few would). Merely saying that he “debated” Ron Crews on the topic of gay rights versus religious rights will win him praise, though, from those that hate Christianity as much as he does. And those are the people who fund his “charity” — which he seems to use to fund himself.

But would Weinstein actually go to court if a chaplain preached about homosexuality? It’s possible, but Weinstein hasn’t followed through on a promise to file a lawsuit in years, and, as noted, his position is so confusing even he probably doesn’t know.

Still, would Weinstein actually go to court if a chaplain preached against homosexuality?

No doubt, we’re about to find out.

Listen to The Church Boys Freefall Q&A: Mikey Weinstein vs Ron Crews here: