Mr. Michael Weinstein delivers his standard lines in a recent interview with the LoneStar Iconoclast. (Article contains vulgar language.) Interestingly, he asks the question:
…when Jerry Faldwell [sic] or Pat Robertson come out with eight million bumper stickers saying, “Vote Christian,” you tell me how that isn’t insubordination, sedition, or treason?
Several months ago, Mr. Michael Weinstein made some boisterous but virtually ignored comments about the reasons for his conflict with the Air Force. During an interview with the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix Online (and repeated in his April 25th debate at the Air Force Academy), Weinstein said
I am not at war with Christianity or with evangelical Christians, but with a subset: postmillennial, reconstructionist, dominionist, evangelical Christianity.
(During the Academy debate, Weinstein said “pre-millennial,” rather than post, and added “dispensational” and “fundamentalist.” In an email reply to a request for clarification, Mr. Weinstein indicated that pre-millennial was a “correction” to his previous descriptors.) While dramatic, there have been few public responses. Weinstein apparently enjoys a status as one of the few “religious” Americans who can call for the “defeat” of another religious sect and not be roundly criticized by the press and the public. More recently, Weinstein made similar assertions when he said
We have a Christian Taliban within our US military, the Pentagon has become the penacostalgon and this administration has turned the Department of Defense into a faith based initiative…Dominionist Christians [are] praying and preying on non-Evangelical Christians.
Though his original lawsuit against the Air Force Academy was dismissed, Weinstein’s crusade continues. He has already announced his intentions to file a new federal lawsuit to overcome the “technicality” that scuttled the first. To understand why Weinstein acts as he does, it is interesting to analyze who he says he is “at war” with. Read more
According to local news reports, the debate between Weinstein and Sekulow at the Air Force Academy was “cordial.” Presumably, both sides are working on their after-action reports, as none have yet been published. According to the Fox report, Weinstein had demanded to speak at the Academy and the debate was the format the Academy agreed upon. The only content yet known about the debate includes Weinstein’s assertion that Jewish servicemen not be allowed to wear a yarmulke, while Sekulow maintained they should.* Weinstein also made known his intentions to file another lawsuit against the Air Force, this one including plaintiffs that have standing. The debate can be heard here.
*Neither Weinstein nor Sekulow were entirely correct about the yarmulke. While Rabbi Goldman did lose his lawsuit in 1986 in which he sued to wear the yarmulke, the 1988 (updated in 2003) version of Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17 specifically allows the wearing of a yarmulke. There are still “exceptions,” but the Jewish headgear is the only religious apparel specifically mentioned.
According to his website, Mr. Weinstein is scheduled to debate Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the ACLJ, at the Air Force Academy on 24 April. The Academy website says that the debate is to answer the question, “What is the appropriate balance between religious freedom and official neutrality in the military?” Sekulow’s announcement is here.
A recent addition to Mr. Michael Weinstein’s press portfolio has been an interview with the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, in which he states that ‘all Jewish people’ know that “postmillennial reconstructionist dominionist evangelical” Christians are putting America on a train to “Slaughterville,” saying that “2007 looks more like 1937.”
Mr. Michael Weinstein has said his “fight is far from over” in his self-described war against evangelical Christianity in the military, despite the recent dismissal of his lawsuit against the Air Force Academy. According to his blog, Weinstein believes that the suit was dismissed on a “technicality;” once that technicality is overcome, the suit will be renewed. Judge James Parker dismissed the suit because it contained only “vague allegations” and no evidence of harm from people who lacked standing—because they weren’t cadets. Weinstein was unfazed and said:
“Religious bias and the outrageous violations of the separation of church and state continue to spread rampantly throughout our military” and that the “military is full of evangelizing fundamentalists.”
Christian fighter pilots face a unique challenge in their roles as “government officials” and religious individuals. The struggle is ongoing in large part because the American public is confused or misinformed about the correct relationship between religion and society. Weak Christian responses to these public misperceptions have failed to reverse the resulting rise of secularism in America.
Misunderstandings of the proper role of religion in American society have 200 years of history behind them and center on a few simple words in the US Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
In 1996, an Air Force chaplain urged his congregation to participate in the “Project Life Postcard Campaign,” an attempt by the Catholic Church to persuade Congress to overturn President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban. Military leadership believed that such actions constituted “political lobbying,” so chaplains were prohibited from encouraging their congregations to participate. With the assistance of the Becket Fund, the chaplain sued and won in District Court in April of 1997. [Becket Fund report]
In 1999, an Air Force lieutenant trained as a missileer asked that he not be placed on alert with an officer of the opposite gender. (This would require him to be in the cramped quarters of a missile control center for days at a time with only the company of the other officer.) Because he felt that the potential for temptation would affect his commitment to his wife, he sought relief under Department of Defense regulations requiring religious accommodation. Several commanders accommodated him; eventually, one revoked the accommodation and gave him an “unprofessional” rating on his OPR. Fearing the OPR would unjustly hinder his career, the lieutenant appealed to a records correction board to have the OPR amended; they partially edited the “unsubstantiated” statements on the OPR. Eventually, the lieutenant sued the Air Force with the assistance of the Becket Fund. A year later (2003), the Air Force settled and removed the OPR and all references to it from his records. [Becket Fund report]
In late 2005 Navy Lieutenant (Chaplain) Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a 1991 USAFA graduate, went on a hunger strike near the White House to protest an effort to have him removed from the military for insisting on praying “in Jesus’ Name.” He said he would maintain his hunger strike until the President signed an executive order codifying the chaplain’s right to pray in accordance with his beliefs. After 16 days, the chaplain ended his strike when his commander wrote a letter stating he was permitted to pray in Jesus’ Name while in uniform. [Klingenschmitt personal website]
Today, two Air Force officers–a chaplain and an F-16 fighter pilot–have joined the defense of an ongoing lawsuit that has pitted the Air Force against Michael Weinstein, a 1977 US Air Force Academy graduate who claimed that his son had experienced the fruits of proselytizing evangelical Christian cadets and officers. According to the Alliance Defense Fund, the two joined the Air Force defense because if Weinstein prevailed, “their ability to share their faith and to candidly discuss religion…would be in jeopardy.” The fighter pilot stated that he felt he had the “right to discuss my faith without censorship or fear of retribution.” [ADF Report]
In the face of public scrutiny of religion in its ranks, it appears the military is slowly distancing itself from religion. The initial Air Force religious guidelines told officers they could not use public expressions of faith, advocate a particular belief system, use “well-intentioned” expressions of belief, or have religious content in their emails. While the first revision of those guidelines softened those stances, the potential that the Air Force could one day become anti-Christian now seems possible. Christian officers must not only assess their actions in the light of regulations but also consider the court of public opinion. An otherwise permissible action could still conceivably result in a detrimental news headline, official complaint, or Congressional investigation; even if a Christian was “acquitted” after a complaint, would the cost—to his professional career or personal witness—be worth it? If even chaplains are investigated for religious offense, what is a Christian fighter pilot to do if he desires to have an active witness for Christ? Read more