Senior Air Force Officer Defends Mikey Weinstein

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein recently published an anonymous, 3,000-word essay from a “senior officer” describing why MRFF “clients” always remain anonymous in their complaints against Christians and religion in the US military.

While the treatise is meant to provide justification for the “clients” in Weinstein’s anonymous attacks on Christians in the military, many people would likely agree with the general, neutral premise — highlighting oneself can negatively affect a military career. For example, Tony Carr blogging at John Q. Public and many others have become outlets for members of the military unwilling to name themselves out of fear for their careers. As Weinstein’s acolyte says:

One doesn’t need to commit a punishable offense…to derail a career and if I’m a commander judging a group of subordinates, I don’t even need to bother myself with the mountains of paperwork that would come with actually initiating disciplinary action against one of my junior officers…

Instead, I just can as easily kill the career of an unchosen one with sweet kindness and honesty…If you don’t have a complete, unbroken string of golden soccer trophies for every assignment and year of service, you’re done…

Again, the implication is not unlike that made by Carr recently (explained in explicit detail just this past weekend), essentially saying commanders may find administrative ways to “punish” those they dislike — potentially including, likely to the MRFF’s chagrin, Christians who have rocked the boat while practicing their faiths.

Thus, the general theme is a “shared” story not limited to those who support Weinstein’s agenda. In fact, Weinstein himself has used this very theme as a tool to attack Christians in the military. While Weinstein chooses to keep his own clients anonymous, Weinstein makes a pointed effort to “out” military Christians, highlighting them as broadly as he can to their entire chain of command for the explicit purpose of impacting their careers — with the added bonus of trying to stigmatize Christianity in the military on the whole.

Though the institutional details of Weinstein’s supporters may be common to the entire US military, the author of the letter to Weinstein still managed to demonstrate some pretty significant ignorance — or idiocy — for a “senior officer.” For example, he said

I fight against the epidemic of fundamentalist Christian religious extremism in our military because my oath to the Constitution absolutely requires me to do so.

Contrary to the melodramatic assertion, an officer’s oath to defend the US Constitution does not require him to conceptualize and “fight” fantastical conspiracy theories. Only a bigoted view of Christianity in the US military makes this statement even remotely logical, and even then it fails common sense. After all, of the religious extremists who have threatened the United States within the US military, every single one has been a Muslim. Why, then, does this “senior officer” choose to “fight” Christians, rather than Muslims? Given the irrational logic, he seems to be showing personal prejudice.

Trying to convey how “simplistic” the subjugation of the personal must be to the official within the military, the author says [emphasis added]

I can’t participate in a political candidate’s rally in uniform or show support for one candidate over another in my workplace. This even can extend to the bumper stickers on my car if I drive it onto my base.

That second sentence is flatly wrong, as explicitly stated in AFI 51-902. If a “senior officer” can get such a simple statement wrong — while simultaneously stating it so confidently — it undermines his credibility on many levels.

Weinstein’s acolyte then goes on a diatribe of examples of troops who don’t feel “welcome” when exposed to some form of religious expression, and he makes asinine statements as assumed conclusions:

The MRFF client that doesn’t want to attend the base’s celebration of the National Prayer Breakfast…[thinks] that by setting up an RSVP system for the event run by a base organization, staging it during the duty day on-post, in uniform, that it’s clear that the base leadership is stating that religious practice is a necessary condition of honorable service…

That said client thinks it is “clear” is interesting, but that opinion has nothing to do with reality. The military institution does not need to change to fix this “client’s” problem with personal introspection.

The Marine infantrymen that doesn’t participate in the commander-called pre-mission prayer isn’t the perpetrator…

“Perpetrator” of what? Supporting the needs of his troops? As with the prior example, the author is attacking what others are doing, as if the feelings of an MRFF client are more important than the rights of US troops.

…nor is the sailor that doesn’t feel welcome when the gate guard greets him with “Have a blessed day” upon arriving at work.

This repeats the much criticized complaint at Robins, which even atheists derided as petty and hostile. A sailor that “doesn’t feel welcome” because someone says “blessed day” has, again, a personal problem, not an institutional one.

The Muslim airman can’t feel included when, on Ash Wednesday, everyone else in his office has a black cross finger-painted on their forehead. The Jewish soldier might not appreciate that base funds are used for a Christmas Tree lighted by the commander.

With these last two lines, Weinstein’s protégé reveals the obsessive bigotry the MRFF and those who associate with it often display. First, it is highly unlikely that any office in the military is comprised entirely of Catholics who observe Ash Wednesday. The truth is that many offices have some Catholics, and when their peers, subordinates, and superiors see them wearing ash, they think little to nothing of it. In the same vein, those who have Muslim peers who fast during Ramadan similarly think little to nothing of it, and those who have Jewish peers who wear a yarmulke in uniform think little to nothing of it.

Unless, it seems, those peers are MRFF clients, who seem to have a case of the vapors if exposed to an act of religious expression by anyone in remote proximity.

The MRFF solution is, of course, to restrict religious freedom.  Since a “Muslim airman can’t feel included” when he sees Catholics on Ash Wednesday, then those Catholics shouldn’t be permitted to exercise their faiths and wear ashes.  If a Jewish soldier “might not appreciate” the Christmas tree, the military shouldn’t allow Christmas trees.  In other words, the goal of Weinstein’s MRFF is not religious freedom.

The “senior” Air Force officer’s last line is borderline offensive, implying that a Jewish soldier wouldn’t “appreciate” a base Christmas tree — while apparently “appreciating” the base Menorah. The sentence is apparently a poor (and unsuccessful) attempt to rebut the obvious rejoinder that these attacks against religious expression in the US military come almost exclusively from militant secularists — which they do.

The hypothetical maligned troops the author cites have one common thread: An obsessive focus on self. The vast majority of US troops aren’t so delicately egocentric. When they see their fellow troops have some association with religion, the vast majority simply acknowledge the rights of their fellow troops to exercise those faiths, regardless how they feel about them personally. The vast majority who have someone say “have a blessed day” to them don’t get offended by such simple well-wishing.

Of course, not every US troop fits in this “vast majority” of tolerant, respectful service members, and it seems many of those who don’t are concentrated within the MRFF. This “senior officer” with “multiple decades of military service” clearly isn’t part of this unprejudiced majority, as he goes on to list his grievances [emphasis added]:

I’ve often wanted to counter some of what I’ve seen in my supervisor’s and peer’s offices: the bibles on the desk facing anyone who comes in; the “priority lists” on the office bulletin boards that say “God, Family, Job;” the inspirational religious texts on bookshelves, the not-so-subtle questions of “Have you found a new church home since you’ve arrived on base?”; the forced prayers at mandatory events where we’re asked or told to “remain standing now while Chaplain Snuffy delivers the invocation.”

This “senior” Air Force officer has such a lack of intestinal fortitude that he’s bothered to the point of offense by “texts on bookshelves.” So much for being a free thinker. How would he like to respond? By being overtly offensive and disrespectful, in some cases [emphasis added]:

I’ve thought of having a sign in my office that declares religion to be the opiate of the masses; quietly taking a seat and beginning my first course while the chaplain delivers his invocation the “Father of us all;” and sprinkled my bookshelf with the works of Hitchens and Harris.

So, as a high-ranking officer, he’s thought of belittling the beliefs of those around him in “response” to them having beliefs. He’s thought of starting to eat while the rest of a group pauses for a chaplain’s prayer. Those are pretty immature tantrums for a middle-aged Airman and, in the very least, disrespectful. Still, he hasn’t acted on those impulses because

I don’t want any one of them to think that I’m judging them in the workplace on anything other than their work.

That statement is thick with irony, because this “senior officer” absolutely is judging them on things other than their work, as his own words attest. Notably, the rationale for his “logical” position is based on a condescending assumption: That a member of the US military would be so infantile as to feel “judged” not because a person acted a certain way toward them, or even because that person had a certain religious belief, but only because that person had a book by Rick Warren or Sam Harris on their bookshelf.

Clearly, the MRFF and this “senior officer” have a disdainful view of the character of the average US service member.

He closes by demanding the US military punish

those that promote proselytizing in the work place, religious bias in promotions, foisted invocations, subtle religious coding, and other Constitutional violations…

While this “senior officer” may disagree with the degree of religious liberty in the US military, he does not — because he cannot — cite a single factual occurrence to support these accusations. His assertions — from official proselytizing to “religious coding” — are little more than tin-foil hat conspiracy theories promoted by the perpetually-offended Mikey Weinstein.

The majority of US troops aren’t like this “senior officer” who seems to be representative of many MRFF clients: hypersensitive wilting flowers who cannot figure out how to work and live respectfully with people who look, act, or believe differently than they do. It is perhaps the greatest irony — more accurately, hypocrisy — that the MRFF has become a bastion of intolerants who wage a war against an increasingly diverse — and officially tolerant — US military.

Many agree that it is true, as this officer asserts, that being highlighted by name within the military can negatively impact one’s career. In point of fact, Mikey Weinstein capitalizes on this dictum for his own attacks on US troops. Still, the truth of that statement does not lend legitimacy to the bigoted attacks on Christians in the US military by Weinstein or his organization, nor does it justify the ignorance about policy or prejudice toward fellow US troops expressed by this “senior officer.”

Despite the prejudicial demands of the MRFF, the US military says it values diversity and protects the religious liberties of US troops. Attacks by Mikey Weinstein and those like him will likely continue, and some may even be abetted by military officers who agree with his ideology. To this point, the military has generally rebuffed these attacks on service members of faith, though on occasion religious liberty groups have had to intervene and defend US troops after the military appeared to inappropriately react to Weinstein’s vitriol.

Mikey Weinstein has allies in his attacks on religious liberty in the US military, and it has long been known those allies included “senior officers” — including some in the senior leadership of the military services who were simultaneously charged to defend the services from his attacks. Fortunately, neither rank nor anonymity legitimizes Weinstein’s invective against liberty. Still, the continued preservation of military religious freedom should not be taken for granted.

US troops should continue to “confidently practice [their] beliefs” — as the Air Force specifically encourages them to do in a written regulation. If they are mistreated as they do so, they should try to seek assistance from internal military systems — but, if anonymity is needed for the very reason this MRFF acolyte explains, well-equipped, experienced, and successful external organizations are willing and able to engage to defend their military religious freedom.