USAFA Cadets Defy Mikey Weinstein, Pray in End Zone Before Game
Before the Mountain West Conference championship game this past weekend, US Air Force Academy cadet football players defied the invective and threats of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein — and prayed in the end zone. As captured on video by NBC San Diego:
Mikey Weinstein’s criticism has been called petty even by his supporters, yet he is claiming these cadets taking a knee in the end zone prior to the game violates Air Force instructions, the US Constitution, and the law:
The Academy’s unfettered endorsement of mass pre-game, football team prayers, on the field of play…is clearly violative of Air Force regulations…[and] the Constitution. These cadet-led, cadet-initiated public prayer demonstrations run directly counter to the U.S. Supreme Court’s specific prohibition of such activities…
After the game last Saturday, Weinstein let loose again, demanding the prayers be stopped:
“It’s a disgrace. It’s a putrid example of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, triumphalism and exceptionalism and it has to stop,” Weinstein said. “Those individuals that are dressed in the Air Force uniform. “
Consider how angry Mikey Weinstein must be to call taking a knee in prayer “putrid.” Would it really not be “putrid” if the persons kneeling were dressed in the very similar Indianapolis Colts uniform? How much hate can one man have to be so vitriolic about another man’s religious exercise that neither picks his pocket nor breaks his leg?
This is what might be known as a pocket complaint, or one that Weinstein has held in reserve until he feels either the political or news cycle timing is right for its release. Nothing about it is new, recent, or otherwise timely.
USAFA football players have been kneeling on the field in prayer for decades without issue. Just last year this site highlighted the USAFA JV squad’s combined team prayer with Arizona Christian University. Four years ago this site highlighted the global epidemic of Tebowing that struck the US military — about which Weinstein was silent, though atheist Jason Torpy did call for reprimands. Weinstein’s go-to media advocate, Pam Zubeck, could only find a picture from a game last year of just a few football players praying.
For his part, Weinstein ignores the US Military Academy at West Point — where he claims such “problems” don’t exist because he’s friendly with the Superintendent. But it turns out they pray, too:
Despite Weinstein’s standard manufactured outrage, there is no issue.
The Academy does not endorse, establish, favor, or otherwise promote a religion simply because it allows its players to pray. There is no constitutional issue of establishment. (Arguably, Weinstein is calling for the creation of a constitutional issue — of free exercise.)
Further, it is notable that as a former JAG Weinstein makes the ludicrous statement that the US Supreme Court can “prohibit activities.” For those who haven’t had American government class in a while, the Supreme Court cannot make laws nor enforce them (though some might dispute that given some recent events). No branch of government has passed a law creating a “specific prohibition” against cadet prayer — making Weinstein’s legal analysis a fiction.
Weinstein’s complaint practically defines asinine.
What is disturbing, however, is the ferocity with which some of his supporters are demanding the cadets be stopped.
Blogging at the Huffington Post, retired US Army Col Lawrence Wilkerson painted all who disagree with Weinstein as either crazy or part of the problem:
Any U.S. citizen who believes there is not a serious problem in the U.S. Armed Forces with fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity, must be…”smoking some good stuff.”
Or, of course, they are cut from the same piece of cloth as the fundamentalist, evangelical military members.
Notice that Wilkerson didn’t bother to include Weinstein’s standard qualifier of “dominionist.” He simply said all “fundamentalist, evangelicals.” And in an article about little more than football players praying, this is how Wilkerson describes these military evangelical Christians [emphasis added]:
These are fire and brimstone, your-religion-sucks, and if-you-don’t-switch-to-my-religion-right-now-you-will-die-by-the-flaming-sword-of-a-vengeful-Christ “Christians.” They live for your conversion or your death. Sounds like the Taliban, does it not? Or worse?
How Wilkerson — a public policy professor at William and Mary — makes an illogical leap from football players kneeling on the field to “they’re the Taliban!” is inconceivable. It likely reveals a deep-seated personal prejudice toward Christians irrespective of football prayers.
After all, what evidence does Wilkerson provide for claiming US troops “live for your conversion or your death?” Well, none, of course. That seems to the be same evidentiary support he uses when he repeats Weinstein’s standard talking point that the bad guys will hate America because football. Wilkerson says he thought about
how dangerous such an image was for the United States at this particular moment in time. Here’s what one active duty USAF general officer had to say…: “The optics are not just bad, but potentially deadly.”
No doubt, he was thinking of how almost any Islamic terrorist group, from Lashkar e Taiba, to al-Qa’ida, or ISIS/ISIL could employ the [prayer] for propaganda purposes.
Why does Wilkerson think Islamic terrorists would find propaganda value in a picture of a football player kneeling on the field — while that same terrorist would not find such value in, say, a picture of homosexuals kissing in a military uniform? ISIS is throwing accused homosexuals off roofs, not people who pray before football games. As expected, Wilkerson provides no facts or support for his sensational and unfounded assertions.
Wilkerson then pivots to demanding that heads roll, in a hypocritical staccato thick with unintended irony:
The U.S. Armed Forces must quickly shed this unconstitutional, dangerous blight…
Leaders who condone it — even encourage it — should themselves be removed from their positions… Summarily. Forthwith. This is no time to equivocate: you are either for the Constitution you took an oath to support and defend or you are out. Period. End of discussion.
A former Army Colonel thinks these cadet football players are acting against the US Constitution. This former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell thinks the US government needs to restrict the public religious acts of cadet football players to protect the US Constitution.
The same Constitution that prevents the government from restricting free exercise of religion.
Mikey Weinstein and Lawrence Wilkerson think kneeling in the end zone is a national security threat requiring the abrogation of human liberty and constitutional rights.
Not sure what they’re “smoking,” but it doesn’t appear to be very “good stuff.”
As an aside, USAFA initially handled this perfectly. Vice Athletic Director Col Brian Hill responded to Weinstein’s emails complaining about the prayers only to refer him to the Inspector General and note that if anyone actually filed a complaint, it would be handled through the normal, established processes.
That was outstanding. It did not unnecessarily legitimize Weinstein’s accusations, nor did it dismiss them: It simply said the complaint processes were open and would be executed if a complaint was initiated.
Later, however, a follow up article at Military.com (by the reliable MRFF reporter Bryant Jordan) said USAFA was “conducting an inquiry,” though it did not say whether the IG or some other grievance process had, indeed, been activated. The USAFA statement appeared to be in response to a media inquiry, not Weinstein’s demands.