Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein is an attorney, businessman and former Air Force officer. He is founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and author of in which he describes his fight against alleged coercive evangelistic practices by some members of the military.
…Only wags and heretics would suggest that such a stigmata-like wound places Weinstein in the company of another Jewish prophet who spoke truth to the legions of an imperial power. At the very least, however, his journey from corporate lawyer to patriarch of a tribe of persecuted minorities is worthy of an Old Testament morality play. For the past half-decade, the Air Force Academy alum has labored to reverse the currents of Pentecostalism that course through the US military in general and the Air Force in particular.
It is an asymmetrical struggle, an endless round of Whac-a-Mole with a network of fundamentalist groups that would otherwise level the wall separating church and state with the help of supine, if not complicit, Pentagon top brass. In the battle over the meaning and implications of the First Amendment, Weinstein has staked himself at the fault line between the free-exercise clause and the establishment clause, which simultaneously preclude Congress from legislating a state religion and guarantee freedom of worship.
“The free-exercise clause does not trump the establishment clause,” Weinstein says from the living room of his home, a tastefully designed adobe ranch house in Albuquerque. “Our Bill of Rights was specifically created not for the convenience of the majority but to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. From that perspective it is absolutely imperative.”
Since he established his watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), in 2005, Weinstein has built a client base of more than 20,000 mostly Catholic and Protestant—as well as Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, atheist, and gay and lesbian—members of the military. For them, Weinstein and MRFF are the only recourse for servicemen and -women who have been either punished for their faith or subjected to fundamentalist proselytizing in violation of military guidelines.
In a nutshell, the Army is adding fundamentalist christianity to the already overflowing brainwashing pot that th young recruits find themselves in the moment they step down from the bus at basic training. “Hardcore” is probably the drill sergeant’s favorite. But, playing favorites with religion is not only in violation of the establishment clause it flies in the face of military regulations, as previously stated. The conclusion or inference of that statement is that those activities must be held up to the light and scrutinized or bounced off those military guidelines that prohibit such action. Will that happen? The author seems to doubt it and I think that this is the presupposition; the article is a statement that pleads for more men like Weinstein to put themselves forward into this fray.
Leading the Pentecostalist charge is a constellation of different groups, none more prominent than Military Ministry, an affiliate of Campus Crusade for Christ, a global outreach network with an estimated annual budget of nearly $500 million, raised largely from individual donors and congregations, according to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Military Ministry maintains branch offices at the nation’s main Army bases, as well as overseas initiatives like Bible-study programs globally. The group’s mission statement, according to its website, is “To Win, Build, and Send in the power of the Holy Spirit and to establish movements of spiritual multiplication in the worldwide military community.” In a 2005 newsletter, Military Ministry’s executive director, retired Army Maj. Gen. Bob Dees, said the group “must pursue our…means for transforming the nation—through the military. And the military may be the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure.”
Military Ministry is particularly well represented at basic training installations like Fort Jackson in South Carolina, the Army’s largest boot camp. According to MRFF researcher Chris Rodda, the group instructs recruits through Bible-study programs that “when you join the military, you’ve joined the ministry,” and it ardently associates conquest on the battlefield with religious conversion. In a 2007 report, MRFF provides links to photos of Fort Jackson troops posing with rifles in one hand and Bibles—some with camouflage covers—in the other. A Bible-study outline distributed by Military Ministry cites Scripture to sanction killing in combat by “God’s servant, an angel of wrath,” to “punish those who do evil.”
I have to pause here and consider just who is it anyway that gets to decide “evil”. This is, in my humble opinion, largely political since civilian politicians run the military and will not hesitate to use the Army to further political ideology – take George Bush, for example. He did not hesitate to label muslims as “evil”. Fox news, of course, ran with this theme to the point of boredom. When you have religious/military leaders preaching to “punish those who do evil” some of the low-information young soldiers take what is told them by these superiors as concrete orders.
In April , in response to MRFF demands, the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to the Rev. Franklin Graham, known for his Islamophobic remarks, to speak at a National Day of Prayer Task Force service. In August Weinstein revealed that troops from Virginia’s Fort Eustis were confined to their barracks and assigned cleanup duty after they refused to obey their commanders’ orders to attend the performance of a Christian rock group. That same month MRFF publicized the mass baptism of twenty-nine marines at California’s Camp Pendleton before their deployment to Afghanistan. News accounts of the ceremony, part of a battalion commander–inspired operation called “Sword of the Spirit,” were republished by Ansar Al-Mujahideen, a leading jihadi website.
The bottom line is that these regulations against command sponsored proselytizing were implemented not only to ensure good order and discipline, but also to protect the soldiers against unwanted distractions from their duties, especially if those soldiers who object are in the minority. By the way, isn’t that what our Bill of Rights is all about? Above all else, the Bill of Rights was created not to codify the rights of the majority, but to protect the minority from tyranny.