Mikey Weinstein Attacks Air Force Chaplains, Endorsers
Former Air Force Captain Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews are friends, sort of. They’ve spoken in the past about having dinner together at Weinstein’s house. This is despite the fact Weinstein’s MRFF is (almost) universally ideologically opposed to Crews’ CALL. Weinstein attacks religious liberty in the US military, and Crews defends against him.
Chaplain Crews recently honored outgoing Congressman Randy Forbes as the recipient of their annual Torchbearer Award. The ceremony at which the award was presented was well attended by several members of Congress — as well as uniformed Air Force and Army chaplains.
The event has Weinstein seething and demanding the chaplains be court-martialed. It remains to be seen if the personal relationship between Crews and Weinstein can withstand Weinstein’s bigoted diatribe in the MRFF “demand” letter addressed to the Department of Defense Inspector General:
[CALL] is well known as a ragingly anti-LGBT organization which has a long, quite unapologetic and formidable history of homophobic behavior of the most repulsive nature and magnitude…
This “awards event” was unquestionably a blatantly anti-LGBT, atheist-bashing, fundamentalist Christian supremacy event, with the other speakers including well-known anti-LGBT voices…
Pictures from the event clearly show US Army Chaplain (MAJ) John Scott give the invocation and US Air Force Chief of Chaplains (MajGen) Dondi Costin give the benediction. Two other attendees included the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Chaplains (BrigGen) Steve Schaick and US Army Chaplain (LtCol) Karen Meeker.
Interestingly, Chaplain Meeker is the only one not called out by Weinstein.
Weinstein is claiming their presence in uniform consituted illegal endorsement of both CALL and Christianity.
Is he right?
The Air Force responded with this statement:
“The AF Chaplain Corps provides or provides for the free exercise of religion to all Airmen and cares for Airmen of every faith including those who have no faith at all,” wrote Capt. Brooke L. Brzozowske in an email. “Spiritual care and advisement to leaders on matters related to religious, spiritual, ethical, moral, and morale concerns means that Chaplain Corps members advise military leaders and civilian religious leaders, who endorse chaplains, across the full spectrum of religious beliefs.
Phillip Swarts at the Air Force Times called this “sidestep[ping] the issue,” a characterization Weinstein repeated. The Air Force does routinely issue canned statements to such accusations, but it seems the two missed the nuance in this statement. Note the end:
Chaplain Corps members advise…civilian religious leaders, who endorse chaplains, across the full spectrum of religious beliefs.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty is an “alliance” of chaplain endorsers. Thus, the Air Force is essentially saying it is part of Chaplain Costin’s official duties, as well as the duties of his fellow chaplains, to “advise” and interact with endorsing agents like those at the awards event — even if those endorsing agents espouse a faith that Mikey Weinstein doesn’t like.
Weinstein’s research assistant, Chris Rodda, tried to buttress Weinstein’s claim:
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL) [sic] is a private activist organization — referred to as a “non-federal entity” in the military regulations that Maj. Gen. Costin violated by participating in this event in uniform.
While it was a noble effort, it shows Chris Rodda’s regular lack of depth. CALL is a group of endorsing agents. Are endorsing agents non-federal entities? That’s an interesting question — because it is the Department of Defense that defines the criteria for an endorsing agent. In fact, the term “endorsing agent” exists only because the US military requires its chaplains to be endorsed. And when these same endorsing agents visit military facilities, the DoD has dictated that they be treated with the honors of a GS-15 — the civilian equivalent of a full Colonel.
So the Department of Defense requires endorsing agents to exist, sets the criteria for recognizing them, and treats them as one step below a General officer — and yet Chris Rodda would claim they’re “private activists?” Seems you missed a few details there, champ.
Further, the DoD officially recognizes several “administrative agents/organizations,” which include compendiums of endorsers. For example, the National Association of Evangelicals is on the list, and the NAE, like CALL, “champions free exercise and expression of faith in our nation’s military institutions.”
Contrary to Weinstein and Rodda’s assertions, the Air Force rightly noted interacting and engaging with endorsing agents isn’t forbidden. In fact, its required.
While the Air Force statement does not guarantee an outcome in favor of the chaplains, it is notable the Air Force did not issue an irrelevant, canned statement. Someone actually crafted a statement that defended the chaplains in context.
Mikey Weinstein is apparently miffed at his old friend Ron Crews. The group of endorsing agents has been pretty successful at limiting Weinstein’s influence over the military, which is undoubtedly a sore spot that played into Weinstein’s spittle-flinging tirade about the event.
What really upsets Weinstein, though, is the fact these chaplains were there probably means he won’t be able to influence them. He’s lost one more key to the kingdom.
Ultimately, it boils down to Christianity:
Mikey Weinstein is the one who claimed attending this event was improper because of the religious beliefs of the endorsing agents.
Mikey Weinstein is the one who would impose a religious test and prohibit Christians that he doesn’t like from serving in the US military.
Mikey Weinstein is the one whose bigoted views are out of place in an American society that supposedly values religious liberty.
Anyone see a pattern? There may be attacks on religious freedom in the US military, but Mikey Weinstein isn’t defending US troops from those attacks…he’s the one instigating those attacks. Anyone who did the same thing for any other religious group would be called an “Islamophobe” or anti-Semite. Weinstein’s invective seems to get a pass because he targets Christians — Mikey Weinstein even admits he targets Christians.
And that’s why the US military should treat Mikey Weinstein’s “demands” like it would those of any other hate group.