Mikey Weinstein Attacks Grand Forks AFB, Salvation Army

Last week an enlisted Airman at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, sent an email soliciting volunteers for a Salvation Army food distribution that is scheduled to happen today and tomorrow. Apparently, one of the recipients forwarded the email to Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who says he promptly complained to the base. Grand Forks passed Weinstein to their higher headquarters Public Affairs, to whom Weinstein says he sent this professional email thoroughly explaining his concern:

Volunteering for the Salvation Army “during duty hours”?

That’s it.

A local Grand Forks site quoted Weinstein saying 

The problem is it’s during the duty day. That’s when the American people are paying for members of the military to provide national defense…

Now, there are plenty of people — Airman included — who might agree with Mikey Weinstein that Airmen should be doing their jobs during the duty day, not volunteering. In fact, some claim a broken enlisted promotion system values non-duty-related community service as much as job performance — sometimes more so. Since many Airmen are essentially “required” to perform community service to get promoted, it is not unusual for them to be granted duty time to accomplish that service. And there are a great many people both in and out of the service who take issue with that.

But Weinstein shades his otherwise principled statement with a tinge of bigotry toward religion. He’s fine with Airmen volunteering for other organizations while they are being paid to provide national defense, just not the Salvation Army. His quote, in full, was [emphasis added]:

The problem is it’s during the duty day. That’s when the American people are paying for members of the military to provide national defense, not support one particular version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through an organization like the Salvation Army.

Just to be clear, they were soliciting volunteers to hand out food to needy families — not preach sermons.

You can’t have it both ways, Mikey. Either you treat all organizations equally, or you don’t. You can’t let Airmen volunteer for one organization but then restrict them from another — because you don’t like their religion.

That’s discriminatory, Mikey. But you know that, don’t you?

25AF PA, apparently withholding laughter but declining to respond with “duh?”, sent an email saying

We hold in highest regard our partnerships with communities around the world. Airmen of 25th Air Force are thankful for the opportunity to give back to the communities which support them throughout the year.

25th Air Force Airmen have donated thousands of hours in community service across a wide array of charities, to include the United Way, Humane Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Wounded Warrior Project, just to name a few.

In each and every case, we seek to do so in a way that upholds our Air Force core values, governing guidance, and applicable law.

They’re right, of course. Do a 5-second internet search and you’ll find Airman, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines supporting a wide variety of community service organizations (religious and not) during duty hours and in uniform — as they have for decades. There’s nothing special about this particular support for the Salvation Army at Grand Forks. It shows no favoritism or lack of propriety.

See, for example, the US Navy supporting the Salvation Army just this past summer, or these Sailors just a couple of weeks ago:

Grand Forks has been supporting the Salvation Army for some time, largely through the Network 5/6.

Another example of such support has been Fort Carson’s annual “Operation Happy Holidays”, a foot march to the Marian House Soup Kitchen (a Catholic charity) in Colorado Springs, also home to the US Air Force Academy. Each year hundreds of Brigade Soldiers march their canned goods and toys to the Catholic charity — during the duty day, in uniform.

Interestingly, it appears Mikey Weinstein has never complained about that one — or any of the other hundreds of well-publicized examples.

Weinstein didn’t like the 25AF response.  He waited two days and then fired back with lots of CAPITAL LETTERS and ellipses, “demanding” an answer:

…The Military Religious Freedom foundation (MRFF) demands to know what the USAF command chain at Grand Forks AFB is going to do to fix this blatantly unconstitutional mess below[…]are you aware of the separation of church and state in this country?[…]your disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst silence is intolerable and only exacerbates the humiliation and oppression felt by our MRFF clients at this AFB in North Dakota [sic][…]
…MRFF demands that you reply NOW to address this disgraceful civil rights violation below…

Quite the temper tantrum.

Mikey Weinstein might not like it, but Mikey Weinstein is also a vindictive Grinch, and what he likes or doesn’t like is irrelevant. US military leaders can allow their troops to support charities of all kinds if they so choose — even during the duty day, and even in uniform.

Grand Forks AFB was correct to pass Weinstein on to PA, and PA was right in how it responded to Weinstein. Yes, Mr. Weinstein, we support lots of charities. Thank you for your interest in national defense.

Leave it to Mikey Weinstein to complain about US troops donating time, food, and toys to children in their communities.

Stay classy, Mikey.