Mikey Weinstein Attacks Air Force for Gospel Explosion
On July 23rd, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF published a blog claiming Cannon Air Force Base was “hammer[ing] helpless subordinates” with the Christian Gospel. At issue was a chapel-sponsored concert/event called the “Gospel Explosion” with Wess Morgan. Weinstein specifically named two SNCOs in his vituperative attack, saying [Weinstein emphasis original]
USAF Master Sergeant Keith L. Lucas e-mailed a flyer to his subordinates promoting an on-base, sectarian religious proselytizing event called “Gospel Explosion” and explicitly “requested” (in other words, ORDERED in military chain-of command parlance) that they “please post everywhere and spread the word…thanks!!”
Master Sergeant Marvin Jimerson Jr. even instruct[ed] all 27th SOW First Sergeants on base to “Please disseminate within your units.”
This “scandal” is notable for a few reasons.
First, Weinstein includes a paranthetical ‘shout out’ to the wing commander, named as Col Benjamin Maitre (and to whom former Captain Weinstein refers as “sport”). This likely means Weinstein attempted to threaten the commander directly and was rebuffed, or that he simply declined to even contact the commander because commanders are following Air Force guidance and not corresponding with him. Either way, that’s a “loss” for Mikey Weinstein in his self-described “war” against Christians and religious freedom in the US military.
Second, Weinstein had a difficult time obtaining traction in the press for his outrage (as well as even his own base, as indicated by the lack of interest in his post). Absent a few local news articles, it took several days before the story was released on the AP wire services, and by then the bigger story was the Air Force dismissing Weinstein’s attack and defending the religious freedom of its Airmen.
To those unfamiliar, it is very common for information about base events to be distributed through the unit First Sergeants in the Air Force, and Weinstein posted a copy of on-base email traffic indicating that’s precisely what happened. (The legality of Airmen sending Weinstein copies of their government emails is a not-insignificant topic for another day.) Cannon AFB Public Affairs validated the use of a common information flow [emphasis added]:
Lt. Erin Recanzone of the base’s public affairs office said the “Gospel Explosion” flier was distributed in the same manner as one for any activity at the base, like a standup comic or a golf tournament.
“Cannon Air Force Base is definitely dedicated to an environment where Air Commandos can feel comfortable observing the tenets of their personal religious beliefs,” Recanzone said. “Because of that, we do thoroughly investigate concerns of religious freedoms or accommodations.”
Notably, the PA officer went out of her way to use affirmative wording, saying the Air Force was “dedicated” to helping Airmen feel “comfortable observing the tenets” of their faiths. That is, the Air Force’s emphasis was on the rights of their Airmen to free exercise, not avoiding offense of other parties.
Cannon AFB also said the religious event was treated precisely the same as — that is, equal to — any other event for the Cannon AFB community.
The religious event was given no preference nor any restriction simply because it was about a religious event.
And that’s where Mikey Weinstein and his assistant, Chris Rodda, took issue, with a near-comical twisting of words and treating opinion as fact. In her own subsequent blog post, (which gained even less attention than Weinstein’s original) Rodda said:
Distributing a flyer promoting an evangelical Christian “Gospel Explosion” through the command’s email distribution system is a blatant violation of this Air Force Instruction.
That’s not true in any way, shape, or form. This isn’t the first time the MRFF has tried to tell the military how to interpret its own regulations, however, and it isn’t the first time they were wrong. While Rodda and company may want the Air Force Instructions to be interpreted that way, their desire does not equate to fact.
Rodda also claims the senders were “endorsing” the message by virtue of sending it out over email:
The “leaders at all levels” in this email distribution chain were absolutely officially endorsing and extending preferential treatment for the Christian faith by using this email distribution system to distribute this flyer.
That’s also not true in any way, shape, or form. In fact, by treating it like any other event, they ensured no event received “preferential treatment.”
Rodda then steps into very unusual territory, claiming the very distribution may have violated the rights of those being “forced” to send it [redundancies removed, emphasis added]:
Any airman…told to distribute the flyer…was being told…to promote a religious event that might have been contrary to their beliefs…
Think about that carefully. These NCOs are the normal conduit for information within the units. In that regard, their job is to let their Airmen know about opportunities within the community (whether or not they are religious in nature).
The MRFF is saying it’s acceptable for a military member to pick and choose which religious messages he distributes to his unit based on his personal preference. And this is from an organization that claims to support religious freedom.
This is yet another example of the moral inconsistency of Chris Rodda and Mikey Weinstein. The two repeatedly take positions based on their objective at the moment rather than enduring principle. The result is rampant self-contradiction that demonstrates their purpose is to promote an agenda, not liberty. They support the freedom protected by the US Constitution only insomuch as they agree with those exercising it. Their agenda requires mental contortions and intellectual inconsistencies that ultimately make their argument nonsense.
Weinstein, Rodda, and likely even some of the Airmen they cite are “outraged” because the event being publicized is Christian. Their personal hypersensitivity to Christianity is probably the reason they don’t notice when similar messages are distributed through the Shirts about Islam, “Gay Pride,” or a football giveaway sponsored by the local NFL team. None of those messages creates endorsement or preferential treatment, nor does any Airman have to agree with a particular event to pass it on to his Airmen who might be interested to know about it. (Think Weinstein and Rodda would defend an Airman for not distributing a message about “gay pride” because it was, as Rodda so eloquently stated, “contrary to their beliefs”?) That’s how the information flows through the unit, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
There is one word of caution worth mentioning: Chris Rodda pined for the days of former Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, who, among other Air Force generals at the time, was described as a sometimes-ally of Mikey Weinstein. Rodda accurately says that Gen Schwartz did say messages regarding religious issues should be distributed through the chaplaincy, rather than the command. However, Gen Schwartz never codified that in regulations, and since the Chief of Staff can set policy but not command, his words were ultimately not continuing official guidance. Still, commanders were “informed” of the Air Force’s institutional opinion on the matter — an opinion that was derided by some as both detrimental to commanders and discriminatory toward religion.
With a new CSAF, however, the unofficial “expectation” no longer applies. Under current CSAF Gen Mark Welsh the Air Force’s institutional perspective on religion has changed — in a manner that has been codified, and in a manner that views religious exercise much more positively.
While Rodda may lament the loss of influence her MRFF once had, it is also worth noting that the influence could return, should Generals be installed who view their position more favorably.
Still, the good news in this non-troversy is how easily Weinstein’s balloon was deflated, first by the press and then by the Air Force. Weinstein’s acolytes have still been high-fiving in the comment section, but where the issue of religious liberty matters, he had no influence and liberty prevailed.
And its a very good thing when military religious freedom is protected from the attacks of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Repeated at the Stars and Stripes.