War Zone America – While Americans fight and die in Iraq and around the world, true to their oaths to the country we all love, a war is being fought from the boardrooms, from the White House, and from within the U.S. Military on whether or not America will remain the vision of hope our Founders intended it to be or become something very different. For a long time we did not understand what was happening. Now we do.
The tools that would convert the vision of freedom into a perpetual servitude are in place forged by frightened little people who value profit and their own security over the wellbeing of others. Theology, philosophy, policy, hate, fear, greed; all of these they spin and blend into the means that serve their purposes. We cannot permit this to continue. We will fight back – and we will win.
The following article is a well honed presentation intended to redefine the terms of engagement. The site from which it originates is a professionally thought out tool, political in nature, intended to reduce the issues and those who oppose the agenda presently in motion to convert the US military into a weapon under the control of those presently in power.
Weinstein's Crusade, or Tilting at Windmills –
FROM THE CHRISTIAN FIGHTER PILOT ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER
MAY 3, 2007
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 (Gazette). 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."
While the issue of religion in the military has been removed from the courts for now, it remains to be seen if it will be enlivened in the new Congress in January. Various amendments to the 2007 Defense Authorization Act were proposed in order to respond to complaints from various parties regarding military religion. Ultimately, no amendments were permitted, but the Act did rescind the most recent Air Force and Navy policies on religion until Congress could debate the issue next year. Weinstein called the decision, reached in a congressional compromise, "red meat" for religious conservatives. According to the Associated Press, Democrats generally oppose the language that would 'guarantee a chaplain's religious free exercise.' Instead, they may try to increase restrictions to prevent what they describe as military "proselytizing." Steve Israel (D, NY) has said that Congress "will...work with the military on a new set of guidelines that reflect America's mainstream values and ensure good order and discipline on our military bases." Given that the Democrats will control Congress beginning in January, the outcome is uncertain. (Air Force Times)
In an effort to keep his cause in the spotlight, Mr. Michael Weinstein has renewed his self-described 'litigation and agitation' of religion in the military by filing a grievance with the Inspector General (IG) at the Pentagon, as reported in the Washington Post and Fox News. His complaint—which was announced to the media prior to being received at the IG office—alleges multiple regulation violations and Constitutional infractions when uniformed servicemen appeared on a video promoting the Christian Embassy evangelical organization. Weinstein said the video was "a testament to systemic problems of religious bias and constitutional neglect that continue to occur within the United States armed forces." The Americans United for the Separation of Church and State claimed that "if the investigation finds that the officials in the Christian Embassy film defied military regulations by appearing in uniform, Weinstein will push for immediate courts martial." NPR claims that the MRFF is considering filing a class action lawsuit. It is worth noting that Harpers contributor Jeff Sharlet claims to have "broken" this story a month ago, though neither Weinstein nor Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post give him any credit.
Mr. Weinstein's use of the Inspector General is interesting. Evidently, he wishes to avoid having a court throw out another case due to his lack of standing, given that neither he nor his organization are in the Air Force, nor do they specify any complainant who is. Weinstein's access to the Inspector General—which is essentially an internal oversight function—is tenuous at best. If he brings his complaint as an outside party, there do not appear to be any specific guidelines (or Air Force obligations) regarding his complaint resolution. If his complaint is brought under the auspices of AFI 90-301, which governs the complaint program of the IG, then he would technically be bound by it as well. This is important because it determines to what degree Weinstein is successful in his crusade. For example, he can bring a complaint as a third party (he has no official interest in either party of the complaint) (1.45.6); however, he would only receive acknowledgement that his complaint had been received, not any information regarding its resolution (18.104.22.168).
Using the IG does, however, place him in a unique political position. If the IG refuses his standing to complain, he has generated grounds for a further public relations campaign against the AF and another potential lawsuit. If the IG takes the case and finds fault in anything, then he will appear vindicated. If the IG takes the case and finds no basis for his complaint, then Weinstein can simply complain that the AF can't independently investigate itself and that even the IG is overrun by right-wing evangelicals. In short, he's got nothing to lose and much—primarily significant publicity—to gain. In fact, he has explicitly stated that he is using this incident not so the IG can address his complaint but only to gather information so that he can "fashion it into a dagger and then stab at the heart of this unconstitutional, wretched, vile, darkness at the Pentagon. This unconstitutional darkness, we will stab at it with our dagger until we kill it."
His organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, also distributed a "compliance report" that contains a list of alleged abuses of religion in the military. The first is a repeat from his opinion article some months ago that railed on a US Air Force squadron for having "Crusader" symbology in their emblem. The second is a Bible verse that appears over the door of an Air and Space Basic classroom doorway at Maxwell Air Force Base. The third is a "Happy Thanksgiving" email sent from an official email account (af.mil suffix) which contains Bible verses. The fourth is "illegal and coercive proselytizing" conducted by Force Ministries and Officers' Christian Fellowship.
The Crusaders have had their symbology for years (and there is no record of a complaint from within the organization). The offending Bible verse (Isaiah 40:31) is interpreted by Weinstein to mean that "only those Christian officers who 'wait upon the Lord,' apparently, will 'mount up with wings as Eagles.'" He fails to note that the verse is actually Jewish in origin. With regard to the offending email, limited personal use of office email is permitted; the sender addressed the message to specific people, not an entire distribution list, and as a Staff Sergeant did not outrank anyone she sent the message to. Weinstein does not document any "proselytizing" by any evangelical organization, only noting that the goal of specific evangelical organizations is to influence the military with Christianity. There is nothing unconstitutional about an organization saying they want to evangelize the military. Even the offending video was made some time ago in 2005.
The unattributed statement of the AU regarding courts martial is irrelevant, as Weinstein would have no say in the punishment of active duty officers, and it is unlikely that such a "crime" would warrant a court martial. NPR's implication of a class-action lawsuit is also moot, as Weinstein lacks standing given that he is an observing third party.
Weinstein's activism must be countered, or else his goal of removing Christianity from the military may continue unimpeded. It is regrettable that there does not seem to be a means to counter his efforts without aiding his infamy. Notably, after his initial press release Weinstein received virtually no coverage until Rush Limbaugh picked up the story in late December (at which point Weinstein stoked his media machine and garnered significant attention). Even this site might be furthering a story that might otherwise die in the public arena.
Though his complaining does not have significant public traction, he may still affect change in the military, so his overtly antagonistic views toward Christianity in the military must be countered. This is particularly true in light of his aggressive accusations against Officers' Christian Fellowship and similar organizations. As noted on page 16 of his "compliance report," Weinstein takes issue with the mere existence of a non-profit, private organization that has no official military connection. Weinstein appears intent to not only remove Christianity from the military, but also to remove any potential Christian influence that might originate outside the military itself. His perception of Constitutional religious liberties is evident.
Weinstein, a professed Jew and member of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, is a self-described activist and "watchdog" of evangelical Christianity in the military. He is hunting for something to decry; or, in the words of the Alliance Defense Fund in a Focus on the Family interview, Weinstein is "throwing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks." These unfounded and inflated allegations are another example of Weinstein trolling the military for something about which to complain, and the military will suffer all the more because of his search for notoriety.
Response to the Christian Fighter Pilot Association Newsletter, May 3 2007 Newsletter
By Richard Baker
As an Air Force Veteran and life long supporter of the Constitution, I am becoming increasingly disturbed at the apparent, if not obvious, growth of extreme Christianity in the Armed Forces and by extension, our country.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was begun on the premise that no one in our armed forces should be subject to religious coercion. Nor should anyone in a supervisory capacity be permitted as a privilege of rank or position to practice such coercion. The reasons, of course, are obvious.
Yet such religious coercion is not only commonplace but rampant in our military institutions. Often it is camouflaged by commingling it with secular activities or a casual invitation from a commander to his subordinates to join him for breakfast after church. Sometimes a group of similar thinking young soldiers or airmen will attempt a conversion at the behest of a Chaplain or superior officer. Sometimes it comes in the form of a well-produced video featuring powerful and familiar general officers and colonels, in uniform, proselytizing their little hearts out. Perhaps it might be an entire Air Force squadron of fighter pilots such as the 523rd TAC Fighter Squadron of Cannon AFB New Mexico who envision themselves as modern-day crusaders and sport a squadron patch replete with Armored Helmet, Christian Cross, Broad Sword and the legend "Crusaders" proudly emblazoned thereon.
The religion of which I speak is a lesser known but power-driven slice of Christianity called PreMillennial Reconstructionist Dominionism. This 'theology' is more about power than it is about spirituality. The purveyors, as a condition of their doctrine, must convert entire populations to their brand of Christianity. I'll leave to your imagination the fate of those who do not convert. The U.S. Military is a tool of policy; members of the military work in a 24/7 environment that is hierarchical. They understand the chain of command; pressure from those in positions of power can be delivered without words. Therefore any suggestion or invitation from a superior officer must be open to careful scrutiny to ensure lines are not crossed.
Mikey Weinstein, to whom the author refers as "boisterous and virtually ignored" founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to defend those who are powerless in the face of such coercion including his own son who is an upperclassman set to graduate this year from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Mr. Weinstein, himself an Academy graduate, counsel to President Reagan and whose immediate family has amassed over 120 years of service to America in peace and war, felt compelled to counter Christian coercion at that venerable institution. In the process of discovery, despite the disclosure of egregious irregularities committed by various quasi-religious Christian organizations and their representatives, a finding was made by the Air Force that, although some improper proselytizing did occur, it was not seen as a systemic problem.
In his lawsuit against the Air Force Mr. Weinstein simply intended to require the Air Force to comply with constitutional law and to guarantee that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, as designed, assured freedom from religious coercion as well. An interesting narrative of the circumstances leading up to the law suit and subsequent founding of the MRFF can be found in Mikey’s book "With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military," available on line or at fine book stores everywhere.
I can assure you that Mikey is neither ‘boisterous" nor was his suit ignored. Okay, so he was a little boisterous. The Air Force let the Genie out of the bottle when they fudged on their responsibility to protect cadets from religious harassment. In the words of Admiral Yamamoto, speaking of the United States following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear we have wakened a sleeping giant." In that sense the Air Force has wakened a sleeping giant in Mikey Weinstein.
However, Mikey is not at war with all Christianity as stated by the author; his disagreement is with those who say they report to a "Higher Authority" than the U.S. Constitution. Anyone with an IQ above that of a banana knows that it would be treason to abrogate the entire constitution in favor of any religious dogma. But it is Dominion Christianity, the stuff of the Taliban, a doctrine that surpasses in its awful scope Islamic Sharia Law and Dante’s Inferno combined, that threatens the very bedrock of constitutional law.
The author believes that Mikey’s asking the military to curtail overt proselytizing is an attack on the Christian Faith and in light of that attack, what should good Christians in the military do? Well, he thinks Christians must defend, with vigor, their right to religiously harass their fellow airmen, sailors or soldiers, and basically keep doing what they are already doing but be a little more discreet about it. Oh and don’t forget to get religious beliefs into politics. (As if Dominionism was not already a fait accompli in this administration.)
The author also believes that Christians, too, must communicate their determination to respond to the likes of Mikey Weinstein in order to defend their Constitutional religious freedoms and those of their fellow servicemen. To assume, however, that any attempt to curb illegal proselytizing is somehow abridging the rights of Christians is a real stretch.
Some of the more active proselytizers in the military, such as Gen Jack Catton who places God above all things, including family and country and Gen. Bill Boykin whom you remember proclaimed that George Bush was appointed President of the United States by God talk about the wonderful tradition of Christianity and their pride in performing "God’s Work" on Earth.
Quite apart from the fact that an omnipotent God should be able to handle his own work, it seems they have forgotten that their forebears in Domination Theology following that great tradition of doing God’s Work, slaughtered several million Muslims in the Crusades. That same tradition includes the inquisitor who pressed a heated iron to the flesh of a child in the firm belief that it would relieve him of demons and send his soul speeding to heaven. They have forgotten the soldier driven by his superiors to ignite the fire beneath a family of pagans who were "soiling God's Green Earth" by their very presence. They neglect the horrible torture of those accused of witchcraft and the decimation of the Hawaiian population by Presbyterian Missionaries and their band of disease ridden Christian Sailors or even more heinous, the six million Jews who perished while most Christians looked the other way and with the full acquiescence of Pope Pius XII in the Vatican Accord of 1933.
Today, these same zealots say "You can’t mean that bringing the word of God to the unchurched, even if it is a bit aggressive and which we reserve the right to do, is in any way comparable to the Crusades or Holocaust?"
What line do these zealots think is too far? We need to ask ourselves that question. They have pressed past the standards maintained by previous generations, extending to their own theological brethren and faith-based organizations the right to infiltrate America’s secular institutions. Given this dramatic change of military practice it will not be long before our military, imbued with the unshakable belief that they too are doing God’s work, will be marching to the strains of "Onward Christian Soldiers."
But for Mikey Weinstein and a few others who, despite death threats and real dangers to their families, somehow find the courage to face the Goliath of extreme Christianity in the military this insidious program would be even further advanced than it is. Just slowing it down a bit has taken a Herculean effort.
The author of this newsletter, whom I will assume is a fighter pilot who happens to be Christian, represents the future of our armed forces. And yet the dangers of subordinating his basic intelligence and skills to the bee hive doctrines of extreme religion are simply not apparent to him.
The names Marshall Applewhite of the Heaven’s Gate Cult and Jim Jones and the People’s Temple and the ease with which they herded their followers to their demise don’t seem to have rung a bell.
Here’s hoping our young enthralled author as well as all those who deign to foist their version of God and His divine agenda on others will take a deep breath and remember that they gave a pledge to defend and protect the Constitution, not the Bible. That is why America's military exists. That is the faith and promise that they, and we, must hold in our minds today.
Known widely as the bionic hero, celebrated Richard Baker is a highly decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam Conflict who from the shrapnel still remaining in his body still sets off metal detectors when he walks through security at the airport. Baker's military service began in 1959, continuing into Vietnam from 1964 and 1965 with the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron attached to the 20th Special Operations Group. In 1967, after his military service, Baker became a General Partner KKFM Radio,Colorado Springs, moving on in 1980 to start his own company, Baker and Associates Advertising and Entertainment Company. Baker retired in 1990. Today he still lives inColorado Springs, Colorado with Donna, his wife of many years.