Air Force Backs Down over Flag Ceremony, Mikey Weinstein Gets Upset

weinflagThe Air Force has backpedaled mightily over the apparent assault on retired SMSgt Oscar Rodriguez a few months ago during a retirement ceremony. The motivation for the three NCOs involved in the incident was allegedly to prevent him from saying “God” during a flag-folding ceremony for the retiree. Initially, Public Affairs at Travis AFB said

“Rodriguez ignored numerous requests to respect the Air Force prescribed ceremony and unfortunately was forcibly removed,” a Travis official said…

However, faced with a threat of a lawsuit, Big Air Force eventually rolled in and said Airmen can use what ever script they want — there is no “prescribed ceremony” when it comes to the flag:

Air Force personnel may use a flag folding ceremony script that is religious for retirement ceremonies. Since retirement ceremonies are personal in nature, the script preference for a flag folding ceremony is at the discretion of the individual being honored and represents the member’s views, not those of the Air Force.

The Air Force has also admitted these questions stemmed from confusion over the Air Force regulations which said one thing, while unofficial guidance said something else. The reason for the unofficial guidance? The JAG told them they couldn’t do that:

The Air Force on Friday said the regulation is misleading, because it does not distinguish between official ceremonies and informal retirement ceremonies. After military legal advisers interpreted that distinction, the Air Force adopted it.

“The bottom line: We are revising the Air Force instruction to clarify the policy,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement. “We acknowledge that the Air Force Instruction is confusing and should have incorporated the supplemental guidance. This instruction will soon be revised to clarify the policy.”

Most importantly, the Air Force made the decision with an eye toward Congress’ guidance on religious freedom [emphasis added]:

The Air Force also says that guidance is consistent with subsequent federal law and Defense Department policy reinforcing service member’s right to religious expression.

This looks like it will end well. An Airman who is retiring from the Air Force can have his retirement ceremony — a personal ceremony voluntarily attended — with a flag-folding script that has religious references if he wants to. This seems to prevent the Air Force from trampling on religion without military necessity, and it promotes free exercise.

That’s a good thing for military religious freedom, right?

Not if you’re the perpetually offended, anti-Christian Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.

As the Air Force begins its mea culpa over the assault and flag ceremony restrictions, Mikey Weinstein is claiming he’s “considering” filing a lawsuit if they do. (There’s not much to fear. Weinstein’s last lawsuit was dismissed in 2012 — it was #5 of 5 lawsuits he’d filed to be dismissed before even going to trial. He then repeatedly promised to appeal each one — and never did.  Paper tiger.)

Weinstein says he wants to defend the “justified ousting of a Mr. Oscar Rodriguez” which prevented him from “zealously shouting an unlawful religious-laced speech.”

Unfortunately, the factually-challenged Weinstein doesn’t even get the story correct. Further, he borrows a page from the absent Chris Rodda, his former research assistant, who frequently accused others of violating regulations without actually saying what regulations they violated. To that point, Weinstein never says why he believes the Air Force should restrict Airmen from having religious speech at their own retirement ceremonies, other than his spittle-flinging, bigoted tirade in which he said

Evangelical Fundamentalists are soiling the US Military with their never-ending attempts to infuse every possible occasion with GOD rhetoric…

Rather than speaking to the issue at hand, Weinstein takes the low road and threatens to impugn Rodriguez’s character. This could mean Weinstein believes a “hypocrite” doesn’t deserve religious liberty — a distinction not found in the Constitution — but it probably just means Weinstein doesn’t have an actual argument, so he’s going to attack the person, instead.

In the end, Weinstein is just publicity-seeking. He’s jealous of the attention heaped on the First Liberty Institute, which has been all over the news and even on national television discussing this incident. By contrast, Weinstein’s MRFF has been floundering, with many of his statements receiving little attention or being ignored entirely.  If Mikey Weinstein is going to continue using his personal “charity” to pay himself a quarter-million dollars a year from incoming donations, he needs some media attention.

While the Air Force has not yet fully resolved this incident, it appears to be moving in the right direction. If so, the Air Force will eventually affirm that it was wrong to restrict Airmen’s religious speech during personal ceremonies.

Military religious freedom will prevail, much to Mikey Weinstein’s dismay.

Also at John Q. Public and the AFTimes.