As previously noted, the National Day of Prayer is May 1st, by virtue of Presidential declaration and in accordance with US law. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has complained that the NDP “task force” (associated with Focus on the Family) has coordinated with military bases and Chaplains for the observance. Using his oft-repeated hyperbolic and alliterative talking points, Weinstein promised
that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation fully [intended] to include this despicable collusion in [their] current Federal litigation against the Department of Defense as yet another stunning example of a pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice of unconstitutional rape [of] religious liberties…
Jason Leopold, a former journalist and frequent voice for the MRFF, took issue with the fact that coordinators for the task force were required to sign a statement that ‘confirmed their commitment to Christ.’ Read more
As previously noted, US Army soldier Jeremy Hall, represented by the MRFF, has sued the Army. The Associated Press picked up on the story, and it is now on CNN and Fox.
If ever Michael Weinstein needed proof that cadets could not be brainwashed by religious propaganda, it was his own presence at the Air Force Academy Wednesday afternoon that provided it.
Weinstein was invited to speak at the Academy after he complained about the speakers at February’s Academy Assembly, the topic of which was “Dismantling Terrorism.”
Unlike any of the previous speakers, however, Weinstein made no claim to have any authority on the ongoing war on terrorism. Instead, Weinstein has made a name for himself, and the “foundation” he created, by repeatedly suing the US military for its alleged support of Christianity. Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), formed just a few years ago, has sued the Air Force Academy for Christian favoritism (the suit was dismissed), more recently sued the Secretary of Defense on behalf of a Kansas soldier (notably, after running ads seeking plaintiffs), and even threatened to add the Academy Assembly incident to his current lawsuit.
Weinstein did not even suggest he would offer a “balancing” perspective on Islam or global terrorism, which is what other advocacy groups had called for. Instead, he said he wanted to “deprogram” the cadets from the content they heard in February. While the point of the Academy Assembly was terrorism, Weinstein very evidently made Christianity the topic of his MRFF symposium. Read more
As previously noted, the Colorado Springs Gazette has reported that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation will present an “alternative view” on Islam and the War on Terror at the Air Force Academy on April 9th.
As one of the speakers, Weinstein has maintained that the military is overrun with fundamentalist Christians, who he recently referred to as
homophobic, misogenistic (sic), anti-Semitic and Islamophobic [with] a virulent desire to subordinate the Constitution … to…the weaponized gospel of Jesus Christ. (the Aspen Times).
To counter this, he plans to show portions of a soon-to-be-released documentary (in which he and his family play a role), which focuses on
Christian anti-Semitism as the model for all religious hatred, exposing the cross as a symbol of a long history of violence against Jews and Moslems.
Reza Aslan, another invitee, is also on the record sharing Weinstein’s beliefs.
The Academy forum is being held under the auspices of academic freedom.
More than a week after the initial melee, the New York Times picked up the story on the Naval Academy chapel practice of dipping the US flag at the altar (previously noted here).
There is nothing significantly new in the article, though it does seem to indicate that the initial hysteria over the incident (generated primarily by Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation) was misplaced. (For example, no one “disobeyed a direct order.”)
Interestingly, columnists are quick to reference the US flag code, which says the flag should never be dipped. However, the US flag code is a guide, not a punitive regulation. Previous attempts to make it punitive were struck down by the Supreme Court as unConstitutional. Thus, while someone may disagree with the practice, it is not prohibited.
NYT reference courtesy of the Religion Clause, and recently updated on ADF.
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.