A Tale of Two Chaplains: The Hypocrisy of Mikey Weinstein and Tom Carpenter
Mikey Weinstein’s MRFF and Tom Carpenter’s Forum on the Military Chaplaincy
advocate “Do as I say… not as I do.”
Last week, the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy’s hypocrisy was on full display. Tom Carpenter, a homosexual lawyer and former US Marine fighter pilot, co-chairs the Forum and seems to be its primary voice. Carpenter berated the religious expression of Air Force Chaplain Sonny Hernandez and called him unfit to serve — while the Forum Carpenter simultaneously leads says it supports a military chaplaincy with “free and diverse religious expression.”
It seems Carpenter and his Forum only support diversity of religious expression when they agree with the content of that expression.
Last week Carpenter also seemed to join with Michael “Mikey” Weinstein — a Forum ally — in criticizing military chaplains who attended an awards event hosted by the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, a group of chaplain endorsers that advocates for religious liberty within the military. The Forum re-posted reports on the MRFF’s accusations with the ominous statement that the “Air Force [is] in hot water again,” and didn’t contravene one of its own who agreed with Weinstein’s acerbic calls for punishing the chaplains. When others defended the chaplains, Carpenter weighed in by saying they were “clueless” about the rules and regulations regarding wear of the uniform. Carpenter clearly felt Chaplain (MajGen) Dondi Costin and the other chaplains in attendance were in the wrong.
So why didn’t Carpenter feel so strongly about his own event?
In early April, the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy hosted an event in Boston called “Pathways to Military Chaplaincy.” Its stated purpose was to
assist left-of-center and progressive seminaries in preparing military chaplains for the 21st century.
(Such advocacy is not wrong in itself (nor is it unprecedented), as “left-of-center” troops need religious support, too. That said, were a conference held to advocate for “right-of-center” chaplains, Chris Rodda would be first in line claiming “Christian supremacists” were trying to take over the world.)
Tom Carpenter was one of the speakers at that event.
Neither Mikey Weinstein nor the Forum’s Tom Carpenter called for Chaplain Erikson’s visible punishment or court-martial, as Weinstein did with the Chaplain Alliance event. Weinstein did not call Chaplain Erikson’s talk a “despicable violation of the US Constitution,” as he did with the Chaplain Alliance event. Carpenter did not pontificate about the serious DoD regulations regarding Chaplain Erikson’s wear of the uniform, as he did about the Chaplain Alliance event.
Chaplain Erikson headlined as a featured speaker at the Forum event in April. Chaplain Costin only gave a benediction at the Chaplain Alliance event in July. (Weinstein also targeted those merely attending the Chaplain Alliance event in uniform. Others attended the Forum event in uniform, too — and neither Weinstein nor Carpenter similarly attacked them.)
It is also worth noting that Chaplain Erikson is the Mobilization Assistant to the Air Force Chief of Chaplains; that is, he works directly for Chaplain Costin — the same man Carpenter, the Forum, and Mikey Weinstein say should be punished for doing even less than Chaplain Erikson did.
(And in what must surely be a coincidence, Chaplain Erikson is Chaplain Costin’s adviser on Reserve chaplain issues. In other words, Carpenter was sharing the stage at the “left-of-center” event with the man responsible for advising Chaplain Costin on the ongoing attacks against Air Force Reserve Chaplain Hernandez — attacks Carpenter himself has initiated, along with his ally Mikey Weinstein, over Chaplain Hernandez’s decidedly not “left of center” beliefs.)
Why does Mikey Weinstein have a double standard? That’s easy. Everyone knows Weinstein reserves his hatred for conservative (generally evangelical) Christians. Chaplain Erikson, a Catholic, was speaking at an event advocating “left-of-center” religiosity. Weinstein’s bigotry is “laser focused,” so he doesn’t care about him or the other chaplains who attended.
Carpenter, though, doesn’t have just a double standard: His conduct is that of an outright hypocrite. Carpenter personally hosted and shared the platform with a uniformed chaplain in April, then railed against a more benign event in which a uniformed chaplain spoke in similar circumstances in July.
Given Carpenter’s own words, it appears to be all about sexuality.
Carpenter is homosexual, and his Forum on the Military Chaplaincy was founded as an advocacy group for homosexuals. The April event was similarly focused on sex: It was held to discuss ways “to provide spiritual care for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender service members…” For Carpenter, it seems the Pathways event he hosted could do no wrong — because it supported the homosexual lifestyle.
By contrast, when speaking about the Chaplain Alliance event, Carpenter accused every chaplain endorser associated with the Chaplain Alliance of being “anti-LGBT.” Further, he disliked the other people who spoke at the July event because they were “anti-LGBT.” In other words, the Chaplain Alliance event could do no right because it was, in his view, opposed to the homosexual lifestyle. (Notably, Carpenter didn’t attend the event and doesn’t cite anything said at the event. A few who did attend the event took issue with his characterizations.)
Weinstein, for his part, knows he’s targeting Christians, even if he claims otherwise. The disturbing problem with Carpenter, though, is that he appears to have been sincerely blind to his own hypocrisy. His focus on homosexuality is so intense that he apparently failed to consider for even a minute that the event he was criticizing in July was not that different than the one he himself had just hosted. He could not see beyond his own bias to stand on principle. He was unable to apply “equality under the law” because of his own prejudice against those who believe differently than he.
If Tom Carpenter and his Forum have a shred of integrity, they will need to take the events from the past two weeks and conduct some serious introspection.
Does the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy really support “a Military Chaplaincy committed to free and diverse religious expression?” If so, how can they justify their declaration that a military chaplain was “unfit” for doing nothing more than expressing a “diverse religious” view?
Can Tom Carpenter see beyond his personal prejudice and objectively support military religious freedom and true equality, particularly within the chaplaincy?
The answers to those questions and the resulting actions they take will determine whether the Forum and Carpenter can be a legitimate voice for religious liberty in the future — or if they become just like Mikey Weinstein, who uses noble sounding words in a thinly veiled attempt to hide his bigotry.