Pagans Dispute Mikey Weinstein’s Claims of Forced Christian Event
Mikey Weinstein’s hate-filled attacks manage to unite Christians, pagans
A few days ago, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein launched a tirade of accusations that US Soldiers at Fort Gordon, Georgia, had been “force marched” to a chapel event and required to listen to Gospel music and a call for conversion to Christianity [capitalization original]:
Large numbers of very junior enlisted soldiers — presently undergoing the rigors of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at your installation — were ORDERED by their Army superiors to form up from their barracks and MANDATORILY marched over, in formation, to one of the Fort Gordon chapels and FORCED to participate in an elaborate, Fort Gordon-sponsored and produced Christian proselytizing program…
As a now VERY convenient, Army-ordered, captive audience, your young U.S. Army soldiers were INVOLUNTARILY inundated with loud Christian rock music and INVOLUNTARILY prayed over by an all-too enthusiastic Protestant/Christian Army chaplain…trying his level best to get them to accept and surrender to his version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
(Weinstein’s letter carefully said “Army soldiers and Army personnel,” apparently obscuring the fact civilians, not just Army trainees, were included in those complaining about being “INVOLUNTARILY” ordered to attend the event. One supporter also noted Mikey Weinstein needs to “lay off the caps lock.”)
In a released official statement, Fort Gordon disputed Weinstein’s characterization, noting the event itself has been ongoing twice a year for a decade, and it is clearly advertised as optional [emphasis added]:
“The event you inquired about was the Spiritual Fitness Barbeque, which is part of a voluntary program helping to develop soldier resiliency,” according to the statement… “Written instructions were provided to the units…were clear that this was strictly a voluntary event, and that soldiers are not required to attend.”
Not only that, but Army leadership was at the event and saw Soldiers coming and going as they wished, indicating no one was being forced to do anything [emphasis added]:
“More than 500 soldiers RSVP’d,” the statement continued. “The brigade commander was in attendance for the event and saw soldiers coming and going freely, with no complaints from soldiers he spoke with.”
That doesn’t mean an officer or NCO somewhere in the chain of command, with goodwill or not, and with intent or not, incorrectly conveyed some kind of implication the Soldiers were expected to attend. Things like that have happened before, after all. Fort Gordon even said they’d look into that possibility:
“The command will look further into the incident to ensure there was no miscommunication about the voluntary nature of this event,“ the TRADOC statement read.
That’s a fair statement — and an acknowledgement that even if someone did miscommunicate the nature of the event, it is not an indication of violations of the Constitution, coercive proselytizing, or otherwise “BLATANTLY and wretchedly WRONG from a moral, ethical and especially legal perspective”, as Mikey Weinstein put it.
It wasn’t just the Army leadership at the Post that quickly dismissed Weinstein’s vituperative accusations. It turns out even the local pagans pushed back against Weinstein. Justin Fischer, who was a pagan Faith Group Leader until 2016 and is now a volunteer with the Fort Gordon “open circle,” said he’d been unable to find any Soldiers who actually experienced what Weinstein claimed:
As a volunteer with the Fort Gordon Open Circle, I have been digging into this since I first saw the news break.
So far, the soldiers I have talked to say there was no coercion or outright orders to attend the event. I have not spoken to all of our members yet, and I do not have members in every company in the training brigade.
That Fischer cannot speak for all the Soldiers is a fair qualifier, but his experience also provides support to Fort Gordon’s assertion there was no institutional attempt to make it a mandatory event.
Fischer then took Weinstein himself to task for denigrating the chaplains and commanders at Fort Gordon who have, from his vantage point, apparently done an admirable job of supporting religious liberty — even for non-Christians [emphasis added]:
Having read Mr. Weinstein’s email conversation, I will say that I am very disappointed in his attitude towards the garrison command and chaplain’s office. I have been involved with the open circle here since 2008, and we have had nothing but cooperation and support from the chaplains office and the garrison and training brigade command.
Whenever we have had issues with individual NCO’s or Officers treating pagan/heathen soldiers, we have had nothing but unqualified support and direct action in resolving those issues. He needs to ratchet it down a few notches and let post investigate this.
Fischer may yet happen upon a Soldier who did hear or perceive direction to attend the event. Fort Gordon, too, may find an NCO or officer who “miscommunicated” the actual nature of the event. Even if they do, however, that does not make the incident a constitutional crisis or, as Mikey Weinstein put it, a “FORCED religious conversion event…[that] callously tears asunder the good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion” of the Army.
Even Fischer seems to anticipate that, noting the command and chaplains have given “nothing but unqualified support” to pagans. In other words, it is not the scandal Mikey Weinstein is making it out to be.
Notably, nearly all the media reports on Weinstein’s accusations include pleas for Soldiers involved to contact the media — because, it would seem, the media is unable to independently verify Weinstein’s claims. Shocking.
Sometimes a spade is just a spade, Mikey, and even the occasional shooting star doesn’t mean the sky is falling. Of course, it’s likely even Weinstein recognizes this to be the case, but he has to do something to get attention.
Mikey Weinstein is likely cursing the timing of his announcement, since his manufactured scandal is now being overshadowed by the actual military religious freedom case ongoing with Col Bohannon — about which Weinstein’s “military religious freedom” charity has said absolutely nothing.
Telling, isn’t it?