The AP has released an article describing how Weinstein dropped his lawsuit against the Army (discussed in previous posts 1, 2) so he could re-file it, adding an allegation that Specialist Jeremy Hall, his plaintiff, has been passed over for promotion as a result of the ongoing lawsuit. The text of the new suit is not yet available. As noted in the previous commentary, the lawsuit previously listed virtually every Christian ministry to the military as illegal entities, and continued to cite “Constitutional violations” about units that no longer existed.
As reported on the Religion Clause.
According to the Associated Press, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization that has lambasted the Air Force for allegedly supporting evangelical Christianity, is being invited to the AF Academy to present its view of Islam. This follows the previous panel on terrorism, which had three panelists that the MRFF criticized for being Christian and unqualified. (See previous posts, 1 & 2.)
Two invitees are members of the MRFF board. Joseph Wilson was a Clinton era consultant on African affairs and acting ambassador to Iraq. Reza Aslan is an academic teacher and writer on Islam. Aslan recently went on the record (on a CNN blog) criticizing the Academy for hosting “fundamentalist Christians” during the last panel.
The third and final invitee is Weinstein himself, a Reagan era lawyer and founder of the MRFF. It is unclear what his qualifications are to speak as an “expert on Islam.”
Just as the MRFF accused the three “former terrorists” of ulterior motives, it seems unlikely that the MRFF–which has expressed no interest in Islamic issues–would be a legitimate source of “balance” for a previous panel on Islamic terrorism. The MRFF has a political agenda centered on evangelical Christianity. According to a San Diego news site (which implied that the MRFF was getting “equal time”), Weinstein has indicated that “deprogramming” may be a part of their upcoming panel–even though no accusations of religious impropriety occurred after the previous panel.
What is clear is that non-Islamic religious issues will be a focus of Weinstein’s visit.
As reported on the ADF and Religion Clause.
As covered on Military.com, some people are upset that a Protestant chapel service ritual at the US Naval Academy includes “dipping” the American and Brigade flags at the altar.
In particular, Michael Weinstein was upset that the Academy Superintendent, Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler, had issued an order that the ceremony stop, only to later allow it to continue. In criticizing the reversal, Weinstein said, in typical fashion,
Vice Admiral Fowler…wins the ‘Fundamentalist Christian Most Intimidated Award’ for 2008…Such profound duplicity and cowardice fatally disgraces the U.S. Naval Academy…
The implication in the article is that the Vice Admiral had his order overruled. (Given that the article also says the Admiral would refuse to return if not “obeyed,” which is an unusual thing for an officer giving an order to say, it is possible that an “order” was not given, but that he expressed a preference that is being misreported.)
It might be somewhat ironic that Weinstein, who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), would back a military officer who attempted to dictate the rituals of a religious chapel service. That very issue–that a state actor would direct a subordinate’s religious observance–was probably what led to the reversal, as such an order would be unConstitutional.
Also reported on Reasoned Audacity.
According to a press release, the Air Force has replaced its “No one comes close” with “Above all” for its future recruiting efforts.
No word yet on when Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation will sue the Air Force for using the title of a popular evangelical Christian worship song as its new slogan.
(Above All, written by Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche, was popularized by Michael W. Smith’s 2001 Worship CD. Weinstein’s 2005 lawsuit accusing the Air Force of advancing Christianity was dismissed. He is currently using a lawsuit against the Army to accuse the Secretary of Defense of allowing the entire American military to become a vehicle for Christianity.)
Update to previous post.
The Colorado Springs Gazette has an editorial that took the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to task for complaining about the Academy’s choice of speakers in its recent political forum. The paper accused the MRFF of “scouring the landscape” to prevent religious expression and ignoring the value of academic freedom in the process.
The MRFF admitted that its primary concern was that the speakers were Christian, which is consistent with MRFF founder Michael Weinstein’s self-described blood-letting “war” with evangelical Christians.
In an as yet unpublished reply, Richard Baker, an associate of Weinstein’s, continues to accuse the Academy of using the men to proselytize, even though the forum is already complete and no such complaints have been made.
In acknowledging that the Academy should not proselytize, the paper noted that Council on American-Islamic Relations also took issue with the three speakers; however, they requested that other, more “moderate” speakers be invited to balance the “extreme” views of the three men. They did not attempt to silence them because they were Christians, as the MRFF would do. In fact, CAIR even offered to help the Academy find speakers with such a balancing perspective.
As part of the academic environment at the Academy, policies on forums and speakers often result in “unusual choices” for speakers, some of whom are not even favorably disposed to the military. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the AF Academy has invited three former Islamic terrorists who have converted to Christianity to speak as a portion of an annual political forum. One of the speakers has “criticized Palestinian sympathizers,” and has been accused by Eileen Fleming, a freelance blogger and Palestinian advocate, of fabricating his terrorist past.
Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation was quick to criticize the decision to invite Christian speakers. Said David Antoon, MRFF board member:
What’s troublesome to me is this is pure ideology and it has nothing to do with academics…This is the Air Force Academy. It used to be an academic institution of excellence. It has become a political Bible college with the evangelicals holding so much influence with what’s going on there.
The criticisms come even though the MRFF didn’t know the men, hadn’t researched their background, and did not address the other people, topics, or ideologies of the forum. Apparently, the only issue with which the MRFF was concerned was the men’s Christianity.
Update: In response to concerns that the three men were Christians, another Gazette article notes that the Academy said the three would constrain their comments to, shockingly, the topic of the forum (terrorism).
As noted in a prior post, Michael Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation intend to expand their recent lawsuit against the military, intending to impact religion in the military as a whole. The MRFF’s lawsuit against the Air Force Academy was thrown out in 2006. Like the Academy suit, the recent lawsuit is based on an individual event, but Weinstein intends to similarly use it to (in his words) Read more
Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation is again focused on Campus Crusade for Christ. CCC is the parent organization of Christian Embassy, which was the impetus for an Inspector General investigation earlier this year that found officers unlawfully supported the organization.
Weinstein’s latest accusations–which he contends will be integrated into his ongoing lawsuit against an Army Major and the Secretary of Defense–revolve around the concept of “government-paid missionaries,” a term sometimes used in reference to Campus Crusade military members. Read more