Chris Rodda, Mikey Weinstein Go Off Script on Religious Freedom

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation believes the 2014 NDAA language requiring the US military to accommodate religious expression — not just religious belief — is “a good thing.”

Simultaneously, Weinstein’s MRFF also believes the language is “a blank check for bullies.”

Awkwardly, Weinstein and his “special research assistant” Chris Rodda issued opposing MRFF statements on precisely the same subject.

In mid-December, Rodda, speaking for Weinstein’s “charity,” said this in a little-noticed MRFF posting [emphasis added]: 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the organization I work for, actually sees the greater specificity of the new language as a good thing. We fully agree with the assessment made by the Religion News Service the other day that “the final law weakened gains social conservatives made a year ago,” and that “[t]he new language should also make it easier for military leaders to protect the rights of gays and lesbians in the military.”

A few weeks after he highlighted that very post, Weinstein made his own feelings known on January 3rd, saying the same language was [emphasis added]

A blow to equal rights & military freedom in the U.S. military & a blank check for bullies, proselytizers, and bigots

So does the MRFF support or oppose the law’s language? Do they “fully agree” the military can now more easily protect “gays and lesbians,” or do they think its a “blank check for…bigots?”  Besides obvious issues of messaging, why the disconnect in reaction to precisely the same law?

The answer is pretty simple: The MRFF reaction isn’t based on principle or religious freedom; their reaction to the bill is based on how they think their opponents feel about the bill.

At the time, Rodda was reveling in the apparent disappointment by US Rep John Fleming (R-La) that the language wasn’t exactly what he had proposed, and that it was “not as strong as we would like.” She also cited an article, discussed here, that appeared to show “conservatives” lamenting the loss in Congress. (Rodda failed to realize the author of the RNS article erroneously based his comments on reactions to months-old proposed legislation.) In other words, if conservatives — that is, those supporting religious freedom in the military — felt this was a loss, then the MRFF saw it as a “good thing” and “welcomed” it.

Problem is, Rodda was wrong, and multiple “conservative” groups, columns, and outlets have praised the passage of the language, including the Family Research Council and retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty — both banes of Weinstein’s existence.

In fact, when he made the ‘bullies and bigots’ remark, Weinstein was reacting to an article quoting Chaplain Crews praising the language:

“We all know to believe something you have to act on it,” says Crews. “And so we went back to Congress this year and they added some words to that language that include expressions of belief are protected, which we think is a significant improvement.”

Naturally, if Chaplain Crews thinks it is “a good thing” and “welcomed” it, then Weinstein must oppose it.

The MRFF now says the language it once called “a good thing” is “a blank check for bullies, proselytizers, and bigots.” The law hasn’t changed in the ensuing weeks. Weinstein’s response changed only because he misperceived the reactions of his ideological opponents.

Apparently, the driving force behind the MRFF and its positions isn’t principle, liberty, or rights. Weinstein’s MRFF is driven by “what other people think.”  So much for religious freedom.