Mikey Weinstein Defeated? No Chance!
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jul 04, 2007 at 07:44:51 PM EST
In the latest newsletter from WallBuilders, "Good News from a Surprising Source: The Federal Judiciary," David Barton presents "numerous decisions indicating the positive changes currently occurring within the federal judiciary," touting victories for the theocons in cases over athletic prayers, crosses in city seals, student religious expressions, prayers at public gatherings, etc., attributing this wave of success to the increase in evangelical voters in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Among the many cases highlighted in Barton's newsletter is Weinstein v. United States Air Force, the 2005 case citing numerous instances of evangelical Christian proselytizing at the Air Force Academy and elsewhere throughout the Air Force. But, while Barton's readers might get the impression that Judge James Parker's dismissal of this case in October 2006 put an end to Mikey Weinstein's fight, nothing could be farther from the truth. This case was only the beginning. Since founding the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in 2005, Mikey has received hundreds of similar complaints of rampant evangelism from military personnel of all religious backgrounds, and a number of other lawsuits are on the horizon.

From Barton's "Good News" about Weinstein v. United States Air Force:

Military Academies

In 2005, secularist Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the Air Force Academy, filed suit against the Academy, alleging that Christian chaplains there were coercing their beliefs on cadets, punishing those who would not comply, and threatening that if they did not attend Christian services, they would burn "in the fires of hell." It was also claimed that cadets were forced to attend prayer meetings and that motivational speakers brought in to speak to cadets were religious individuals.

When the charges made national headlines, Air Force officials at the Pentagon panicked. Rather than waiting for an investigation to determine if the allegations were true, in August 2005 they quickly issued a new policy restricting when chaplains could pray, stipulating what could be said in their prayers, and limiting their opportunities to interact with soldiers. Not surprisingly, this radical change was met with great resistance by many Members of Congress (including Representatives Duncan Hunter, Todd Akin, Randy Forbes, Walter Jones, Marilyn Musgrave, and dozens of others). Late last year, those Members were successful in getting those restrictions rolled back and the First Amendment rights of military chaplains fully restored.

Meanwhile, despite the Pentagon's over-reaction to the press stories, the process began to work as it should. An official military review panel investigated the numerous charges and cleared the Academy. Noting that some cadets and staff members might have (maybe) made insensitive comments, the panel found no evidence of the systemic problem that had been alleged. (This is an illustration of the principle in Proverbs 18:17 that "Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.") ...

Well, Barton is right about one thing -- "Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight." In this case, setting the record straight is a matter of filling in the parts of the story omitted by Barton, such as how Mikey Weinstein became aware of the problem at the Air Force Academy. But, of course, if Barton let on that what propelled Mikey into this fight was the harassment his own sons were subjected to as Jewish cadets at the Academy, it might make the "family values" crowd who read his dribble see Mikey as a concerned father rather than "The Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan," as he's been called. Barton's description of Mikey as "secularist Mikey Weinstein," combined with his failure to mention anything about the complaints of anti-Semitism, would naturally give his readers the desired impression that this was a case of secularism vs. all religion, rather than a case exposing the direction that religion is taking in the military -- one brand of Christianity vs. all other belief systems, including those of many Christians.

In a response to comments made by Rush Limbaugh last December, Mikey stated:

I firmly believe that the encroachment of religious fundamentalism on our armed forces destroys their ability to successfully serve the American people. Servicemen and women, cadets, midshipmen and civilian personnel are crying out that constant coercive evangelizing and the pressure to adhere to a religion that is not their own, negatively impacts their ability to study, serve and stand together as a cohesive fighting unit in the war we are currently waging.

I think George Washington and his officers would have agreed with Mikey. Just read what Washington wrote to the Continental Congress in 1777 when a change in the Revolutionary army's chaplain system raised the possibility of religious disputes among the troops.

I shall order a return to be made of the Chaplains in Service, which shall be transmitted, as soon as it is obtained. At present, as the Regiments are greatly dispersed, part in one place and part in another, and accurate States of them have not been made, it will not be in my power to forward it immediately. I shall here take occasion to mention, that I communicated the Resolution, appointing a Brigade Chaplain in the place of all others, to the several Brigadiers; they are all of opinion, that it will be impossible for them to discharge the duty; that many inconveniences and much dissatisfaction will be the result, and that no Establishment appears so good in this instance as the Old One. Among many other weighty objections to the Measure, It has been suggested, that it has a tendency to introduce religious disputes into the Army, which above all things should be avoided, and in many instances would compel men to a mode of Worship which they do not profess. The old Establishment gives every Regiment an Opportunity of having a Chaplain of their own religious Sentiments, it is founded on a plan of a more generous toleration, and the choice of the Chaplains to officiate, has been generally in the Regiments. Supposing one Chaplain could do the duties of a Brigade, (which supposition However is inadmissible, when we view things in practice) that being composed of four or five, perhaps in some instances, Six Regiments, there might be so many different modes of Worship. I have mentioned the Opinion of the Officers and these hints to Congress upon this Subject; from a principle of duty and because cause I am well assured, it is most foreign to their wishes or intention to excite by any act, the smallest uneasiness and jealousy among the Troops.(1)

1. George Washington to the President of Congress, June 8, 1777, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, vol. 8, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1933), 203.


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