Mikey Weinstein, MRFF Defend Christian Chaplain…or Did They?
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein bristles at accusations his organization is “anti-Christian”, despite a deep well of examples to bolster that characterization. To defend himself, Weinstein frequently touts the unsupported — and irrelevant — claim that “96% of his clients” and many of his friends and family are Christians. He and his research assistant, Chris Rodda, are also quick to tout instances in which the MRFF (says it) has defended Christians to rebut the accusation it spends all of its time attacking Christians, and Christians alone.
To that point, the MRFF recently said it had “assist[ed] [a] senior Christian military chaplain” with regard to a complaint that arose as a result of his chapel sermon. As published by the MRFF [emphasis added]:
A senior active duty Christian Military Chaplain [sic] contacted MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein for assistance in responding to an investigation initiated after a sermon he preached during a worship service at his military base chapel. This investigation resulted from…complaints levied by a congregation member alleging Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Contempt for the President of the United States based on the content of this MRFF client’s sermon.
Briefly, the Navy chaplain declined to answer the investigating officer’s questions, instead exercising his right to an attorney. An attorney associated with the MRFF called the IO and said a statement would come through him.
Meanwhile, the IO reportedly interviewed other members of the congregation and decided that was enough, eventually telling the chaplain no statement was necessary.
End of story.
There are two interesting points here.
First, no action by the MRFF had any influence on the investigation. It was certainly reassuring to the chaplain to have legal representation — as anyone who has been on the receiving end of an investigation instigated by the MRFF can attest. (Interestingly, Chris Rodda and the MRFF seem to feel investigations are prima facie evidence of wrongdoing, regardless of their outcome. In this case, though, they claim the investigation was just out of “obligation”.) But that doesn’t influence the incident itself.
Second, and more importantly, why did Mikey Weinstein decide to help this chaplain?
Note within the MRFF statement the emphasis that the comments by the chaplain were made during his sermon.
That appears to be irrelevant.
Based on context and Weinstein’s prior behaviors, we can reasonably conclude Mikey Weintein supported this chaplain not because of any principled support for religious liberty, but because Weinstein agreed with the ideology of the chaplain.
The chaplain went out of his way to say the “complainant” was an “avid supporter of President Trump,” and apparently something the chaplain said in his sermon inspired an accusation of contempt for the President. Weinstein is well on record as opposing President Trump, which means Weinstein likely aligns with the chaplain, rather than the accuser.
Weinstein opted to assist the chaplain because he agreed with him, nothing more. (For his part, the “senior military Christian chaplain” said he’d “been an admirer of MRFF for many years,” which should give you an idea of his leanings.)
The repeated references to the “content” of the sermon appear to be a red herring, because Mikey Weinstein has a long, colorful history of criticizing the content of Christian chaplains’ sermons — at least, when he disagrees with the content of the sermon or the Christian beliefs of the chaplain speaking.
This goes all the way back to 2005 at the Air Force Academy, in a Basic Cadet chapel sermon Weinstein criticized in his book, includes a chapel sermon in Afghanistan, and even extends to pastors preaching to their civilian congregations. The MRFF has shown videos of chapel worship songs, with Mikey Weinstein saying
this is what we at MRFF are up against…the Dominionist “Holy Warrior” indoctrination of US service personnel!
Did you get that? US Marines singing a song at church are “what [Mikey Weinstein is] up against.”
Weinstein has called chapel sermons “constitutional violations” and demanded action against the chaplains — including that they be “prosecuted.”
And all of these attacks by Mikey Weinstein have been for theological statements by a preacher in a sermon to a congregation made up of willing participants — not political statements, as in the case of this Navy chaplain, nor in a non-sectarian setting. They were statements of Christian doctrine that Mikey Weinstein didn’t like — so rather than defend a Christian chapel sermon, he attacked it.
MRFF would never object to any member of today’s military…privately engaging in any religious activity.
Obviously, that’s exactly what Weinstein and his MRFF have objected to — when they object to the beliefs within that “religious activity.”)
The truth is that military chapel sermons have a fairly strong defense with regard to religious liberty (see Rigdon v Perry, 1997, for example). It is not inconceivable that a chaplain would relate a religious sermon to the commander in chief, so it is entirely likely the chaplain’s statements were completely defensible as the content of his sermon. Based on his comments, it appears even the chaplain knew that — without any help from the MRFF.
So did Mikey Weinstein “assist” a “Christian chaplain”? Sure he did, because the chaplain held beliefs with which Mikey agreed.
Weinstein has a long history of defending only those with which he agrees — while excoriating those he dislikes, principles notwithstanding.
So, if you’re a “Christian” who holds MRFF-approved beliefs, sure, the MRFF will “assist” you if something happens in your church service — especially if it’s critical of President Trump.
If Mikey Weinstein doesn’t agree with your beliefs? God help you — because Mikey Weinstein won’t.