VA Gives Lessons on Defying Mikey Weinstein. Again.
As has been noted here several times before, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has made a routine event of having acolytes scour the country for POW/MIA displays, including those in VA medical facilities. Weinstein then complains loudly about the inevitable Bible on those displays in the hopes the organization would remove it. The world is made up of many people, including some who aim for peace at any price — and others who actually agree with Weinstein. As a result, Weinstein had some successes in having facilities ban the Bible, which Weinstein has loudly celebrated. While those “victories” undoubtedly inflated his ego, Weinstein has been unusually quiet about those facilities that ignored him and left the Bible there — even if he apparently abandoned his clients who were in “mortal fear” of the Bible.
The most recent incident was earlier this year, when Weinstein (and the FFRF) went after the VA in Manchester, New Hampshire.
But this time, the VA not only didn’t back down, but the national leadership also intervened — rather than leave it to the local facility director.
Not long after James Chamberlain sued the Manchester VA on Mikey’s behalf, First Liberty called on the VA to institute a national organizational policy on the overarching issues of religion. Weinstein mocked the move — likely because he realized it would bring an end to his regular fundraising, because it would standardize VA policy and prevent individual VA facility directors from kowtowing to his demands. As others have noted, though, there has been a long string of religious exercise issues associated with the VA, including everything from Christmas trees to Bibles.
The VA listened to First Liberty and instituted the policy. Mikey was not happy, calling the policies — which allow, for example, patients to request and receive religious texts — “repugnant.” How’s that religious freedom thing work again?
The primary victory in the publication of these policies is the elimination of Weinstein’s ability to continuously attack religious liberty at every single facility around the country. It standardizes and unifies the institution’s response to Weinstein’s demands. Whether one completely agrees with the policies or not, the good news is that the era of Weinstein nickel-and-diming his way through VA Medical Centers across the country is over.
That outcome is the same motivation behind calls for the US military to do the same thing with regard to religion in the military and institute a clear, DoD-wide policy protecting religious liberty. As it stands now, it may still take months-long appeals all the way to the top of the US military to reverse incorrect decisions by commanders — by which time the damage has long been done. This travesty would be eliminated by a more clear institutional policy on religious liberty, as the VA has done.
To date, the military has issued “Weinstein Guidance” in an unofficial format, but has generally left individual commanders to fend for themselves. Thus, sometimes a commander will agree with Weinstein ideologically and restrict his subordinates religious’ liberty as Weinstein demands; sometimes a different commander will disagree with Weinstein but kowtow in an attempt to make him go away. Occasionally, yet another commander will rebuff Weinstein’s advances and defend the rights of his subordinates.
Ironically, only one of those three responses has never been reversed afterward: Commanders who have defended their subordinates against Mikey Weinstein have been successful, 100% of the time. Commanders who have acceded to Weinstein have repeatedly had to reverse course. That “failure” rate on Weinstein’s behalf should tell you something, but the corporate knowledge never seems to stick, and Weinstein continues to act as a burr in the saddle of the US military over the same issues. Clearly instituting an organizational policy on religious liberty would mitigate Weinstein’s incessant attacks on the rights of US troops.
Weinstein’s connection to the Manchester VA lawsuit is somewhat unclear. He is not a party to the suit, and the law office involved is almost certainly working pro bono, so Weinstein isn’t likely funding it. Weinstein is mentioned in the text of the lawsuit only as background information — and irrelevant background, at that. Other than acting as a cheerleader, then, it seems Weinstein has no official relationship with the suit.
Arguably, that is to Chamberlain’s advantage, since every lawsuit Weinstein has filed with regard to religion and the military has been quickly dismissed.
Unfortunately for Chamberlain, this lawsuit is just like Weinstein’s past failures, and it, too, will certainly be quickly dismissed.
And dismissed it should be. It offends no one’s religious freedom for a Bible to be on a table in a public space. By contrast, it is a great offense to religious freedom to ban the public display of a Bible merely because it is a Bible.