How the Religious Right Spreads Phony Stories of Persecution of Christians in the Military
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 11:48:51 AM EST
We've seen these disinformation and smear campaigns orchestrated by the Religious Right play out before: Religious Right organizations make an outrageous claim; in this case, a secret meeting aimed at attacking the religious freedom of Christian conservatives in the military, took place at the Pentagon April 23, 2013. This phony claim spreads like a virus through conservative networks. The story takes off at outlets like, Fox News, WorldNetDaily and other right wing websites, blogs, e-mail newsletters and on twitter.

The target of this particular campaign is Michael L. "Mickey" Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Since its founding the MRFF has been dedicated to battling Christian fundamentalism in the military. For waging this battle, the Religious Right's has labeled Weinstein -- a registered Republican and former military prosecutor who served in the Ronald Reagan Administration -- an "anti-Christian extremist," "a religious bigot" and the "Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan."

Over the years, Weinstein has been swamped with hate mail.

Now, he is one of the Religious Right's premier public enemies.

MRRF's fight for religious freedom in the military

According to the MRFF website, the organization aims at "ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."

On April 23, of this year, Weinstein, president, former ambassador Joe Wilson, and Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, met with several generals and a military chaplain in a non-secret and ultimately well-publicized meeting at the Pentagon to discuss an assortment of issues related to the military, including religious proselytizing.

"The armed forces are on the verge of falling apart," Wilkerson, told the Washington Post's Sally Quinn in a story published three days after the Pentagon meeting. In addition to religious proselytizing, Wilkerson said that other problems include "sexual assault, suicides, lowering entrance standards and war weariness. They are in trouble, and the leadership is oblivious."

Quinn reported, "Sexual assault and proselytizing, according to Wilkerson, 'are absolutely destructive of the bonds that keep soldiers together.'"

After the meeting, Weinstein told Quinn "that military leaders need to understand that 'there is systematic misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the military.' He said it is all part of the same culture.
'This is a national security threat. What is happening [aside from sexual assault] is spiritual rape. And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished.'"

According to Quinn, "The proselytizing they referred to is primarily from 'dominionist' or fundamentalist evangelical Christians. Weinstein's organization has 33,000 clients, and 96 percent are Christian. These clients come to him to complain about having their religious freedom undermined in some way."

The MRFF has fielded numerous complaints from active duty soldiers over the years. Quinn listed a few:

  • "Recently, an Army commander in Europe overturned a jury's conviction of an officer for sexual assault, despite the fact that the decision was unanimous."

  • "So called "Jesus rifles," with gun sights inscribed with Bible quotations, were used in battle by troops. The MRFF fought successfully to have the New Testament passages removed."

  • "Last year, Marine officers at a U.S. base changed the name of their fighter attack squadron from "Werewolves" to "Crusaders," with a cross and shield as an insignia. MRFF fought the change after receiving many complaints from Marines. MRFF won, and the squadron is back to Werewolves."

  • "A chaplain in Afghanistan recently was the target of complaint for sermonizing to troops, including Afghan soldiers, that they had approximately 2,000 days to live and needed to 'get right with Jesus.'"

  • "Weinstein even got the military to force an officer to remove an atheist bumper sticker from his car. An evangelical Christian complained about the sticker, which bore a drawing of Satan and a Christian fish."

The un-secret "secret" meeting

Christian right groups characterized the Pentagon meeting as a secret meeting aimed at stripping Christians of their religious freedoms.

In a piece dated April 28, titled "Pentagon Taps Anti-Christian Extremist for Religious Tolerance Policy," Ken Klukowski, senior fellow for religious liberty at the Family Research Council and a faculty member at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University School of Law, threw out another rumor: Weinstein "will be a consultant to the Pentagon to develop new policies on religious tolerance, including a policy for court-martialing military chaplains who share the Christian Gospel during spiritual counseling of American troops."

Chris Rodda, the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, and a contributor to Talk2Action, recently noted that Klukowski's story on Breitbart was pure fantasy, aimed at ginning up the Religious Right's base.

She also pointed out that between May 1 and May 13 ran at least eight Weinstein-bashing stories, in which he was called an "anti-Christian extremist," and a "religious bigot."

Perhaps the biggest get for the Religious Right came in early June, when Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) "introduced an [religious liberty] amendment to the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)." According to Rodda, "The real purpose of Fleming's amendment, however, is not religious liberty -- unless you consider government permission to freely discriminate against and harass LGB service members to be religious liberty. As Huffington Post Deputy Politics Editor Mollie Reilly very succinctly explained, what the Fleming amendment would actually do is take away the ability of military commanders to stop anti-gay harassment and discrimination within their ranks."

Despite White House objections, the amendment passed the House on June 13.

In late June, the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, a new Christian conservative enterprise, formed "to protect the 'right' of anti-gay Christians in the military to continue to discriminate against and harass LGB service members in a post-DADT and post-DOMA military."

Four primary organizations in this coalition are the Family Research Council (FRC), the American Family Association (AFA), Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL), and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

In mid-September, the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition met with officials at the Pentagon to discuss their concerns. An email to American Family Association supporters said: "We made our point very clear...Christian soldiers and airmen have the right to express their faith and to maintain deeply held religious convictions in every area including homosexuality and homosexual marriage."

The AFA's email acknowledged they had "specifically expressed alarm at the undue influence on the military of noted atheist 'Mikey' Weinstein with whom the Pentagon has met on a number of occasions," and that they had been assured by Air Force officials that "Weinstein's self-proclamation of influence is greatly exaggerated and that the Air Force no longer returns his phone calls."

Chris Rodda pointed out that "It was that started the rumor that Mikey Weinstein had become a Pentagon consultant! And ... it was Ken Klukowski, who also just happens to work for the FRC, one of the member organizations of the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition [who started the rumor and who] was at this September 12 meeting!"

The Christian Right has been smearing and slamming Mikey Weinstein for quite some time and there is no reason to think their attacks will end anytime soon. Accompanying an article titled "Military Assault: Freedom to Share Christ Within Ranks at Risk," in the July 2013 edition of Decision magazine -- a publication of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association -- is a sidebar titled "Mikey Weinstein: One of the Most Dangerous Men in America."

Despite its lack of veracity, the secret meeting story led to a new Religious Right coalition, legislation in Congress, more fundamentalist fundraising pitches, and, most importantly, another opportunity for the Religious Right to claim martyrdom.

The wingers never fact check anything, and will believe it if it fits their worldview. Sigh.

by phatkhat on Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 08:39:52 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

The Sour Grapes Of Wrath: Tenn. County Politician Seeks To Stave Off God's Vengeance
It has become a cliché to say that you spotted an article online that was so strange you first assumed it was from The......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
The Catholic Right Star and the Porn Star -- Revised and Updated
An international network of some of the world’s most vitriolic Religious Right activists and self-proclaimed orthodox religious leaders is holding its ninth global conference......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Banned In Boston (And Elsewhere): The American Tragedy Of Censorship
When I was kid, the phrase "Banned in Boston" confused me. I thought of Boston as a liberal, cosmopolitan city. Surely they didn't censor......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Bill Donohue Mum While Andrew Napolitano Calls Pope Francis "A False Prophet"
Catholic League president Bill Donohue goes after anyone he believes is engaging in anti-Catholic behavior, real or imagined. But as we have come to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
A Decade Of Disgrace: Marking Ten Years Of The `Values Voter Summit'
The annual Values Voter Summit (VVS), the nation's largest gathering of the Religious Right, begins today. The event, sponsored by the Family Research Council......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Looking Beyond the Francis Frenzy
Much has been and will be written about the Pope regarding his historic visit to the U.S.  But it will be important to try......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Barton Bounces Back: Religious Right Purveyor Of Ersatz History Still Going Strong
Three years ago, Religious Right phony historian David Barton published a ridiculous book called The Jefferson Lies that argued, in part, that Thomas Jefferson......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
The Papal Visit Brings Forth Ugliness From the Right
In a recent press release, Catholic League president Bill Donohue warned, "Pope Visits To U.S. Occasion Ugliness." Donohue then went on to describe the......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Coercion In Kansas?: State Worker Claims She Was Fired For Non-Attendance At Christian Service
Let's say some people at a company want to get together during lunch hour and hold a Bible study. It's totally voluntary, and they......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Kim Davis and Southern Civil Disobedience
Kim Davis, the county official who refused to grant marriage licenses, fits the profile of a long line of civil disobedience from the South.......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
An Anti-Theocratic, Progressive Christian Leader
I recently posted a short excerpt here, from an interview I published with Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, the new General Minister and President of......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Litany Of Lies: FRC's Perkins Packs An Email With Copious Falsehoods
I realize that people may be tired of reading about the saga of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk who is in jail......
By Rob Boston (6 comments)
Kim Davis is No Jack Kennedy
Kim Davis, the embattled Kentucky county clerk who sits in jail for defying a Federal Court order to issue marriage licenses to everyone who......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Book Report: Yes, Politicians, We Know You Love The Bible. What Else Have You Read?
Real estate magnate Donald Trump says lots of outrageous stuff, but none of it seems to slow him down. His latest gaffe, however, ought......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
American Renewal Project
On my journey to the American Renewal Project in Austin, Texas, I listened to hard right talk radio out of Houston.  There was an......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)

Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (1 comment)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (0 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (2 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (2 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (2 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (3 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (4 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.