Dear Military Religious Freedom Foundation: Remove one Bible, thousands will take its place
by Sonny Hernandez
On Friday, April 8, 2016, officials at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) removed a Bible from a display table that venerated prisoners of war and Armed Forces service members missing in action. Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who spearheads a disreputable, anti-God advocacy group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), was the culprit behind the unprincipled legal demands that caused officials at WPAFB to capitulate.
WPAFB officials didn’t need to subjugate themselves to the MRFF’s ultimatum. Here is why: MRFF leader Michael Weinstein is a self-described defender of religious liberty who has conspicuously targeted conservative Christians, which contravenes the Constitution that he professes to safeguard. In my opinion, Mr. Weinstein hates conservative, Bible-believing Christians and makes legal threats to intimidate senior military leaders.
But when he is ignored, he will flee.
Mr. Weinstein is the purveyor of conservative Christian denigration, and his heedless efforts of legal intimidation are possibly the indemnity for his fundraising, since his ability to litigate lawsuits in court has resulted in an embarrassing amount of victories: zero. This is why Mr. Weinstein should not be taken seriously.
On Saturday, June 4, 2016, voluminous Bibles were disseminated throughout WPAFB to support the religious needs of the Airmen and civilians throughout the base. This was also an evangelistic endeavor I led to exercise my faith. As a military chaplain assigned to WPAFB, this is expected especially since I am endorsed by an orthodox, Bible-believing ecclesiastical endorsing agency. The Constitution protects the rights of Airmen at Wright Patterson to receive support for their spiritual needs, and it supports my First Amendment rights, without government interferences and censorship, to exercise the irreducible tenets of my faith. I will represent my endorsing agency by ensuring that Bibles are interminably distributed and exhorting other Christians to do the same.
If the rights of my Airmen or my evangelistic endeavors are interceded with discrimination against biblical orthodoxy or by legal intimidation from the MRFF, I will remind them: I fear God, not the MRFF, and my authority rests on the testimony of Scripture, not the MRFF. Military chaplains that trust in the veracity of Scripture must be faithful to their endorsing agencies and care for the Airmen they serve, which includes the conservative Christians that Mr. Weinstein attacks. Here are two reasons:
First, Title 10 (US Code) prohibits chaplains from performing duties incompatible with their endorsing organizations (Section 8067:H). Here is an example: a Catholic Priest will not conduct an Orthodox Jewish service and an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi will not conduct a Catholic Mass. Why? A Catholic Priest and an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi do not have ecclesiastical approval to conduct a practice outside of their faith traditions. If a chaplain cannot perform a duty because it is incompatible with his faith tradition, then accommodation will be provided by the Air Force. I should note that I am endorsed by a conservative, Bible-believing endorsing agency that ardently believes the Holy Scripture is sufficient and inerrant. As a result, I cannot and will not conduct ministry outside of the tenets of my faith which includes, for example: officiating homosexual weddings, accepting as truth the evil of Islam or any other false religions, or accepting as truth the false notion that Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons cults are Christians. The free exercise of religion guarantees my protection as a Christian chaplain.
Second, military chaplains provide spiritual care and the opportunity for Airmen, their families, and other authorized personnel to exercise their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Bible-believing Christians serve in the military. Therefore, their constitutional rights matter. WPAFB conducted a “religious needs assessment” in 2016 which articulated the demand for Christian chaplains to protect the constitutional rights of the Airmen they serve. I have had several Airmen express their concerns to me that their Christian values matter, and they strongly felt that Christians should be able to talk about their faith without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, Mr. Weinstein repeatedly fails to accommodate the constitutional rights of conservative, Bible-believing Christians, since his foundation is restless in besieging their rights. This is why (in my opinion) Mr. Weinstein’s anti-God advocacy group is not a religious freedom foundation, but rather a foundation that seeks to be free from any Bible-believing religion, especially since his enmity against conservative Bible-believing Christians is transparent.
If Mr. Weinstein was the culprit behind WPAFB removing a Bible from a POW table, which military base will it be next? The victims of Mr. Weinstein’s legal affront are not usually Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, or Marines, it is usually senior commanders. Legal threats can easily stir emotions and cause foreboding. Mr. Weinstein’s intimidation seems to incite fear by stigmatizing Bible-believing Christians as (what he deems) unconstitutional and a threat. Instead of listening to his vicious circularity, chaplains should encourage their senior military commanders to consider the following three suggestions if contacted by Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF:
- If contacted by Mr. Weinstein, do not: (1) act hastily, (2) respond to his demands (3) or become fretful when he makes a legal threat. (Ed note: This is actually official Air Force guidance that was initiated in 2010 and republished as recently as last year.) Remember: He has to rely on legal intimidation to provide the indemnity for his fundraising because he has zero wins in the court room. Instead, Mr. Weinstein lauds himself with “victory” not because he wins in court, but because military officials yield and obey his threats. Do not become his victim!
- Continue to ensure the free exercise of religion for all Airmen. This includes conservative, Bible-believing Christians and military chaplains who pray in the Name of Jesus and evangelize per their ecclesiastical endorsers (as I do all of the time when serving). Remember: there are no policies that prohibit either practice by a chaplain (praying in the name of Jesus and evangelism), and the free exercise of religion provides protection. Know the rights of all Airmen and chaplains, especially their ecclesiastical endorsing agency requirements.
- Resist him, and he will flee. Mr. Weinstein conceals himself behind a computer and has made a career out of loathing anyone who will not accept his obscured and delusional beliefs. Personally, I have been attacked by Mr. Weinstein. Rather than accede to him, I contended with him by offering to debate him multiple times, and Mr. Weinstein has not responded, as expected. (See the previous article for more clarification on how to faithfully respond to a Weinstein attack.) Once Mr. Weinstein is denounced and then ignored, he will flee. [Ed note: See “US Navy Ignores Mikey Weinstein“, for an example.]
Despite the removal of the Bible from the POW/MIA remembrance table, Mr. Weinstein cannot impinge on the rights of Airmen or my evangelistic endeavor of distributing Bibles at WPAFB. Mr. Weinstein does not contend with anyone who distributes material that references Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns or fairies. Why? It is because none of them exist! Weinstein always contends with references of God because he knows God exists. Mr. Weinstein does not reject the truth of the Bible because it contradicts itself; instead, he rejects the Bible because it contradicts him, which is why he always tries to suppress the truth because he loves his sin.
Finally, to my readers: if you are currently stationed at WPAFB, you and your friends are welcome to join my evangelistic endeavors to distribute Bibles throughout WPAFB. I would gladly provide you with as many Bibles as you request, as I have ministry colleagues that are able to supply an unlimited demand at my request. Every month, I will ensure voluminous Bibles are distributed, and I will continue to place the banner of Jesus Christ at WPAFB, for God’s glory. Mr. Weinstein may remove one Bible from WPAFB, but thousands will take its place. If Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF try to interfere with legal intimidation, those who receive his demands will be reminded:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Chaplain (Capt) Sonny Hernandez is a US Air Force Reserve Chaplain assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In April 2015, he was selected as the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Individual Mobilization Augmentee Company Grade Officer of the Year, and in May 2016, he was selected as 445th Airlift Wing CGO of the Quarter, first quarter. Hernandez earned a Doctorate from Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The opinions expressed here are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views of any government, military, or religious organization. Sonny Hernandez wrote this article as a civilian on his own time on an issue of public interest.