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In an as yet unpublished reply, Richard Baker, an associate of Weinstein’s, continues to accuse the Academy of using the men to proselytize, even though the forum is already complete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
In previous posts (original, update) regarding the MRFF lawsuit against Jeremy Hall’s superior officer and the Defense Department, it has been noted that the American judicial system has been loathe to interfere with the separate judiciary of the military. It has also been noted that, to this point, it does not appear Hall utilized the in-place grievance systems.
So as not to depend on “urban legend” and rumor, a little research resulted in finding the Supreme Court case of Chappell v. Wallace (1983), which addresses both of these concerns, and is quoted extensively below.
In Chappell v. Wallace, 462 U.S. 296 (1983), which can be referenced in its entirety here, the US Supreme Court held that superiors could not be sued by their subordinates because Read more
This is an update on the previous post (below) regarding the MRFF lawsuit against the military.
The MRFF lawsuit (now available) is “comprehensive” in that it lists virtually every military ministry the MRFF could think of, and accuses the military of undefined impermissible conduct with them. Michael Weinstein lists 11 different “evidences” of “patterns and practices” of improper promotion of religious beliefs. The 11 examples essentially comprise the most recent highlights of Weinstein’s “war” against evangelical Christianity in the military; some of the examples are vague, and none of them are substantiated. One of them will likely be quickly ruled moot, as the 523rd Fighter Squadron “Crusaders,” terminology with which Weinstein objects, have been deactivated since May and thus no longer exist.
It appears Weinstein intends to use one court case to address Read more
According to a press release, Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has sued the military on behalf of an Army soldier. According to the announcement, an officer harassed Army Specialist Jeremy Hall when he attempted to convene a meeting of atheists. (The text of the suit is not yet available.)
Updated 20 September: The text of the lawsuit is available here. See the new post for latest commentary.
The lawsuit apparently names the Defense Secretary Robert Gates as defendant because the incident is evidence of “a pattern of military practices that discriminate against non-Christians in the military,” which he allegedly permitted in his role as Defense Secretary.
Much like his Academy lawsuit, it appears that Weinstein is attempting to aggrandize a discrete event into a larger opportunity. A niche news article on the suit (which has yet to be seen in the mainstream media) indicated that the assertions meandered from the soldier to other unrelated issues, like alleged military support of civilian Christian organizations as well as the recent Pentagon IG report (previous commentary). Weinstein himself has implied that this goes ‘beyond’ the two men, and said that Read more
As previously reported on the Religion Clause, TruthOut is reporting that Weinstein’s MRFF is again complaining about an outside Christian organization having access to the Pentagon. This time it was David Kistler’s HOPE ministries.
The article makes it unclear whether it is the theology that is the issue (since much of the article is a mockery of Kistler’s views) or the fact it was a religious organization.
While the writer makes it appear that it is “intuitively obvious” that the Pentagon again violated the ‘Constitutional separation of church and state,’ that is not the case. Chaplains routinely host outside visitors of varied religious persuasions for the spiritual benefit of their servicemen, which is their legal duty.
While Weinstein may disagree, the Constitution and the courts have supported the religious influence of the chaplaincy and its programs in the military.