Tag Archives: a second look

Religious Nutcases in Charge of the Battlefield (American Taliban)

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.

Re: Backward, Christian Soldiers | The Nation, Stephen Glain, February 10, 2011 | This article appeared in the February 28, 2011 edition of The Nation.

…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 [2010], 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.


Tea Party Caucus Takes Shape In Senate, Sort of…

Re:  Tea Party Caucus Takes Shape In Senate, The Huffington Post, Elyse Siegel

Rand Paul Supporter-cum-goon Tim Proffitt stomps a woman's head
Rand Paul Supporter-cum-goon Tim Proffitt stomps a woman's head

A newly-launched Tea Party caucus in the U.S. Senate will hold its first meeting on January 27, Roll Call reports.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who announced the creation of the political affinity group last week, first spoke of the idea during the 2010 midterm campaign. Shortly after floating the concept, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) took it upon herself to introduce the idea into the U.S. House of Representatives.

Roll Call reports that Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) will be members of the new caucus in the upper congressional chamber.

“Republicans in the Senate have already made a pledge to end earmarks and fight for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Paul in a joint statement released by his office, according to the Washington Post. “By joining with my fellow Senators, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, as well as grassroots groups who see the need for government reform, the caucus will work to enact real change to protect our country and its taxpayers from an ever-expanding government.”

Three. Three guys, Paul, DeMint, and Lee, making some back-room pact does not a caucus make. But! The great thing here is that we may see some fragmentation in the Republican Party. Finally. I knew that they could not hold the wall together forever.

The first rift that jumps right out at you here is the statement: “Republicans in the Senate have already made a pledge to end earmarks and fight for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Paul…”

Not true. Republicans in the Senate are actually pretty closed lip on the subject. This means that the majority of them actually want earmarks to continue. In legal terms, silence is not acceptance. But, I’ll bet the business/corporate lobby/interests in the red states are screaming. Earmarks mean improvements to commerce. They know it, we all know it and welcome it, even those of us on the far left.

Well, I’ve just got to say, three cheers for Rand Paul! The more the Right Wing© divides, the better.


The Looming Redistricting Debacle and How to Stop It

Re: The Republican Decade? | Mother Jones

Former Congressman Tom Delay
Mug Shot of Tom Delay

Not a fan of your new GOP-dominated House of Representatives? You’d better get used to it. After winning almost unprecedented power over the congressional redistricting process, Republicans are poised to lock in their gains for a decade or more. And there’s very little the Democrats can do to stop them. This year, the Dems could draw less than half the districts the GOP does.

Gerrymander is defined by Miriam Webster as an attempt (1) to divide (a territorial unit) into election districts to give one political party an electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible, and (2) to divide (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group.

Justification for dividing these territorial units has historically been the US Census, the latest one being completed this year. But a census is not strictly required to redistrict. More on this later.

The scariest results of the mid-term elections was the number of State Houses that flipped from blue to red. The how’s and why’s of the takeovers of state legislatures are still being hammered out between all the self-appointed experts and pundits out there. From ABC News:

Republicans took control of at least 19 Democratic-controlled state legislatures Tuesday and gained more than 650 seats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The last time Republicans saw such victories was in 1994, when they captured control of 20 state legislatures.

Republicans haven’t controlled as many state legislatures since 1928.

Across the country, the map for state legislatures has turned noticeably red as Republicans now control 55 chambers, with Democrats at 38 and the remaining yet to be decided. At the beginning of this week, Democrats controlled 60 of the country’s state legislative chambers and Republicans 36.

If you are worried that the GOP will try something in your state, you should pause and examine your state’s laws concerning redistricting as some states (mostly blue) have an impartial committee or panel convened to draw up the new state legislative, and congressional districts. But in most states, the reigning political party has awesome influence over the redistricting process. This whole issue is moot if the congressional lines are drawn fairly. (Fair means different things to different people. What I mean is that the new districts have demographic data from the census to justify the new lines drawn.) Some states, like Texas for example, can’t be trusted to do a fair job of it, so their redistricting plans have to be approved by the Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Texas is famous for gerrymandering, defined earlier. The most recent and one of the most dramatic cases of gerrymandering, without a recent census to back up the plan I might add, happened in 2003 and involved then Congressman Tom Delay, the House Majority Leader at that time. It seems that Delay wanted more House seats for Republicans, so he went back to Texas and personally lobbied for districts that favored Republicans. From Wikipedia:

Former House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay played an integral role in the Texas redistricting effort. An article in the March 6, 2006 issue of The New Yorker magazine by Jeffrey Toobin reported that DeLay left Washington and returned to Texas to oversee the project while final voting was underway in the state legislature, and that “several times during the long days of negotiating sessions, DeLay personally shuttled proposed maps among House and Senate offices in Austin.”

In defense of his activities, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) stated, “Everybody who knows Tom knows that he’s a fighter and a competitor, and he saw an opportunity to help the Republicans stay in power in Washington.” [10]

The Delay plan focused on diluting the Hispanic vote, especially in their 23rd district which takes up most of western Texas.

What happened after the GOP accepted Delay’s map is the point of the story. In Texas, as in most legislatures, for any business to be accomplished in the state house, a quorum has to be formed on the floor to even bring a piece of legislation there. The Texas Democrats, yelling foul, decided that if there were no quorum, then there could be no vote on the measure(s) in time for the deadline.

Feeling screwed, 50 Texas Democrats secretly fled the state to Ardmore Oklahoma just before the vote. That slick maneuver ended debate on redistricting. The Democrats ultimately appealed the gerrymandered plan that was approved by Bush’s Justice Department saying that there can’t be a real redistricting without a census.

To make a long story short, the US Supreme Court ruled in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, June 28, 2006, that a state could redistrict whenever it wanted to, but they went on the say that the plan for District 23 really did weaken Latino voting and had to be changed and put right in accordance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

So there is  your answer. If your Democratic delegation to the state house feels screwed when they take up the issue of redistricting, they could simply leave. Haul ass. Get on the bus, Gus. Florida looks good any time of the year. Why not? Republicans pull shicanery like this all the time. Why not turn the table on them?