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Cadet makes assumption on Constantine's Sword trailer

April 7, 2008


Storyville Films,

While I do not plan on watching the movie Constantine's Sword, I did watch the movie trailer and some things about it jumped out at me. I am a Christian as well as a cadet at the US Air Force Academy, and I noticed that clips of the Academy were used when talking specifically about the "dangerous" combination of religion and the military (obviously some kind of reference to the religion controversies that have made headlines here in the past few years). I do not know all of the issues behind these controversies, and I agree that the military should not proselytize its members or anyone else to follow a certain set of religious beliefs (although as a Christian I do believe that I should share my beliefs in a non-invasive way). However, I get the idea that this scandal has been overplayed, as is any scandal here.

That fact that the scandal dealt with Christianity only made the situation worse. This is an age in which Christianity, a faith that is supposed to represent the majority, is stifled whenever someone comes forward and mentions that they are offended at the mention of the Name of Jesus, but it is still supposed to be funny when a stand-up comedian or South Park character mocks that same Name.

Your trailer also contains the statement, "This is the moment when Christianity turns violent." On the screen right after this is said is an image of a cadet on the assault course shoving a bayonet through a mannequin. What exactly is this image suggesting? Do you think the Air Force Academy trains us as cadets secifically for some kind of crusade or violent religious campaign? You have the right to make a film about whatever you want, but I do not appreciate what is portrayed here. It is an insult to me as a cadet who has put an enormous amount of work into my job here, and more importantly it is an insult to my faith, in which I firmly believe.

Although some people may have made mistakes, the Air Force Academy is certainly not here to brainwash us into fighting a crusade, and even though people throughout history have misrepresented Christianity, their misinterpretations do not define Christian creed or way of life for all Christians.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Very respectfully,
D.S.


Dear D.S,

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom
Foundation, and director Oren Jacoby have asked me to reply to your concerns regarding the showing of Constantine's Sword at USAFA as I may be most capable of conveying our message to you. We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy doolie year to reach out to us, but I would like the opportunity to clear up a few misunderstandings with you.

First, let me tell you that I am a graduate of USAFA, as is my husband, brother-in-law, and father-in law, Mikey. We are very proud of our service to this country and want to ensure that the military service continues to honor those who have served and are serving by upholding the oath, which every member of the military must swear, to defend the Constitution. Unlike these three great men, I am a Christian which I think gives me a somewhat unique perspective and ability to understand where you are coming from. Let me assure you that this movie in its entirety (although only a short clip will be shown) should be seen by everyone but especially by every Christian. It is not a movie that 'bashes' Catholics, Christians or religion in general; it is a movie about reconciliation through acknowledging the mistakes of the past which include the crusades, and not letting religion be used for anything but beauty and peace in this world from this point on (because I do think my God is a God of peace).

Within just the first few words of your email you begin to stray from truth and that which is right. If you disagree with something, then you should inherently desire to gather all of the facts on both sides if for no other reason than to be able to attempt to support your own ill-founded opinion. I'm not even sure why your email continued after that first sentence. If you haven't seen the movie and don't plan to, then you have no factual basis to argue ANYTHING. THEN you continue by admitting you know basically nothing about the religious controversies at USAFA. I still don't understand how your email could possibly continue when on both accounts you admit to having no real knowledge, wisdom, or insight. I always recommend knowing before speaking; its the reason God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth and not vice versa.

For the sake of argument, we will assume you did not already make these egregious mistakes in logic and continue. Your quaint idea that some form of religious proselytizing that is non-invasive exists is quite immature and frankly demonstrates not an ounce of cultural cognizance on your part. There are many cultures who are EXTREMELY offended by ANY form of proselytizing. Not so ironically, one of these cultures happens to be Muslims especially in the Arabic world. You may reference the book No God But God, by Reza Aslan (or ask him yourself when he visits USAFA) to verify
this cultural aspect which should be well known to everyone but especially anyone that may one day find himself deployed to Iraq. You may also reference The Politics of Truth by Ambassador Joe Wilson the last American diplomat to meet with Suddam Hussein before the gulf war or you can ask him yourself when he is at USAFA with Reza and Mikey. I wish I could find the appropriate words to express to you just how offensive and disrespectful any
form of proselytizing is to them and many others, but I'm afraid adequate words don't yet exist.

Christianity is NOT a religion that is "supposed to represent the
majority". Christianity is a religion that represents no one but God. I don't pray to the majority; I pray to God. But in case you were wondering Christians only account for about 1/3 of the worlds' population; non-Christians far outnumber us (still feeling like the majority?). If you think there is one Christianity out there then you are sadly mistaken. I would conjecture there are millions of Chritianities out there within the millions of INDIVIDUAL people that each have their own INDIVIDUAL perspectives on every aspect of Christianity. I am certain my Christianity is different from your Christianity. But that should be construed as a strength not a weakness. That is one aspect that makes it beautiful not ugly. That is one aspect which can be used to represent tolerance and acceptance and not prejudice and bigotry. Regardless, even if every single member of the military or even every citizen of America was Christian it still would not matter. As Sandra Day O'Connor has said, "In America, we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment." THIS is what makes America worth serving for.

I am sorry that you did not understand or misconstrued the trailer for the movie; however, if you saw the entire movie you would no longer question these trailer scenes. The historical and sad truth of this matter is that the crusades DID HAPPEN and they were carried out under the banner of the cross while holding the sword of the King. If we take ANY lesson at all from history, it is that religion and weapons are not a good mix or at least not for the minority. But I guess as long as you are in the majority you will not be the one to raise your voice in protest when it is the minority being oppressed, or the minority being silenced, or it is the minority being slaughtered. MY bible impels me to stand up and speak for those that have no voice or have been silenced. This is why I am writing to you. And this is why I appeared in Constantine's Sword. The crusades were about one religion killing another. But I suppose you think this bears no striking resemblance to USAFA PAYING Walid Shoebat to come to USAFA and tell all of its cadets that "WE NEED TO KILL ISLAM". The truth gets no more evident than that. What emails did you send when Walid Shoebat said that in Fairchild
hall? Did you stand up and defend any of your muslim classmates? Ah right, your bible says to stand up for the strong, to stand up for the majority, and to stand up to defend wrongdoing.

We are not trying to outlaw the word Jesus. We merely want to ensure that the United States military continues to uphold its sworn duty of defending the Constitution, all of it, even the part about not letting any government entity establish any religion and not having any religion test for any of its members. We do not want to ban military members from praying; we just want to ensure that no military member is forced to pray to a God that is not their own or forced to pray to God in general.

How dare you say this "controversy has been overplayed". How dare you say this controversy has been overplayed when you admit to knowing NOTHING. HOW DARE YOU! I can't help but wonder if you would say this FACING the army private who was given the most heinous duties in Iraq because he was an atheist. Would you say this facing the cadet who was repeatedly called a f***ing Jew in front of his classmates who stood by and did nothing? Would
you say this to the cadet knocked unconscious in the bathroom because he was not Christian? Would you say this to my husband's face when he was ORDERED to pray to a God which was not his own? Would you say this to my face when I was told to get used to being treated like a minority because I wasn't the right kind of Christian for the Air Force? Would you tell this to my face after the commandant of cadets ordered me in his office to bring all the non-christian cadets I knew to New Life Church? No, I don't think you
would say this to my face, I don't think you would say this to my husband's face, I don't think you would say this to my brother's face, and I don't think you would say this to the 7,500 honorable servicemen and women who have written to us as a last resort. I think you only have the courage to say this over email.

Somehow you think that your few months at USAFA gives you such an expertise that you no longer need any facts or knowledge. My family and I have the facts and the personal experiences AND countless more months (in fact 75 more years) at USAFA and in the Air Force than you do, SMACK (*S*oldier *M*inus *A*bility *C*ourage and *K*nowledge - just in case they don't teach you kids that anymore). Unfortunately in the age of the internet, any email
you send may spread like wildfire and may rightfully be construed as the official position of the Air Force especially when you are clearly using your government email account (and I am assuming your government computer), while making sure that Storyville Films knew you were a cadet at USAFA, and signing your email in an official capacity. Let me assure you that your email IS construed as the official position of a cadet that will one day be an officer in the United States Air
Force. The Air Force is not an entity in itself, but an organization
composed of its members of which you are one that has just officially expressed his position on the matter. YOU ARE in association with the United States Air Force in every way! I ask you now to officially deny this position and reaffirm that you do in fact intend to defend the constitution as you go forth into the rest of your USAFA career and on into the Air Force.

Thank you for your time.
Very Respectfully,
A.W.


Dear D.S,

Hi, I am a friend of Mikey and an acquaintance of Oren. I teach theology at a University in Chicago and long ago I too spent some time in the Air Force

I read with interest your email. I note your pride in USAFA and your respect in yourself; a genuine respect for the hard work it takes to make it every day as a cadet at the Academy. Well, I think you should be proud of the Academy, it is a unique school with high standards. I also think that you should be proud of yourself. You are close to completing what may have been the most challenging year in your life. You have survived and succeeded; you have learned and changed, grown and gained a certain wisdom along the way. You obviously feel bonded to the Academy and close to those fellow cadets with whom you are making this journey. Good. Great struggles well shared often produce the deepest and most meaningful friendships.

I understand your desire to defend the Academy and her cadets. From the perspective of the thumping stairwells of Vandenberg and the well-worn strips of the Terrazzo it seems that no one, except the cadets currently pounding those stairs and strips, can possibly know the “real” heart of the Academy. How dare “outsiders” critique an institution which they can’t possibly understand? Furthermore, how can any negative portrayal of USAFA square itself with the admiration and respect you feel for a place and a people who have helped you become the young man you now are? Sure, USAFA has its’ problems, but so does every institution; and USAFA tries harder than most to solve difficult issues.

I sense that you feel your Academy and your faith are both victims of an unfair and overly critical external attack. As you say, “no cadet is being brainwashed; no one is rushing off on a modern crusade.” You perceive your school and your chosen religious expression as somewhat powerless against these relentlessly critical media attacks.

I think perhaps the missing puzzle piece is---power. As you state in your letter, the Academy is not working to “brainwash” cadets. But, it is working very hard to create new “norms” in your life. That is the job of any initial military training; to create an environment where standardization, attention to detail, respectful behavior, understanding of hierarchical authority and loyal to the organization become a “new norm” of everyday life. The Academy does this very well and it has powerful mechanisms to compel and coerce former civilian students to become future Air Force officers. However, the most effective of these powerful mechanisms is the very pride and bonding you demonstrate in your poignant letter. The validity, honesty and purity of the genuine friendships which have sustained you through your first year in the Academy seem degraded and offended by the critique of outsiders. The faith upon which you relied in your darkest hours and to which you credit your highest achievements, the faith shared with other cadets, is now subject to criticisms which do not resonate with your experience. The power of the Academy is the power to create an environment where the cadets themselves sustain and enforce the “norms” of cadet life; not by rules and regulations, but by the bonds of unit cohesion and the many compulsions of cadet honor and friendship. (I am not speaking of the “Honor Code.”) I am speaking of that “code of honor and loyalty” which actually moves cadets to stand by and with one another in the most difficult of circumstances.

When this power to create a “new norm” of life is linked with the powerful feelings we have about faith and religion---even in offhanded or seemingly accidental ways, it seductively corrupts the very purpose of military training. Suddenly, the “new norm” is really only “normal” if our bonding and unity of purpose can be recognized, not only in the uniforms we wear, the special language we talk, the perpetual sleep deprivation we suffer, the unending competition through which we struggle, the better days of future officership for which we hope, but also in the specific faith we profess and share. Sure, we all may not be Christians right now ---but wouldn’t we share so much more if one day we all were? Sure, everyone has the right to their own beliefs, but if Jesus really is the “way the truth and the life,” shouldn’t we want to share that “Truth” with the people closest to us? This is the power to “norm” which is most effective in military environments; the power flowing through those friendships and loyalties which in very tactile ways sustain us and help us to know who we are and why we are here. This is the power to “norm” which, once we are in the military environment, is intentionally impossible to escape.

This power is so powerful because it seems so natural, so true, and so real. But it is this power through which military systems most effectively create and sustain the standards and discipline necessary to command and control. When the intimate mechanisms of this power are used to promote religious ideology then the “new norm” becomes an extension of that religious perspective.

This is the concern of Mikey, Oren, and so many others observant of our current military structure. This is the cozy merger of religion and government which does indeed result in the dismantling of democracy, civility and conscience.

Our Constitution seeks to speak truthfully about the power of religion and government. Our Constitution demands that government assume special burdens in regard to assuring the accessibility of religious discourse and practice outside the envelope of government power. Our Constitution also demands that government actors assume special burdens in regard to articulations and applications of religious expression and practice within the envelope of government power. These are difficult and often contentious Constitutional demands.

As a thoughtful cadet I encourage you to continue to struggle with these intellectually, spiritually and emotively difficult issues. Keep in mind that the suffering, isolation, and fear you do not see, may be the existence intentionally erased by the very power structure in which you live. And that, by the way, is a central message of that guy--- you--- know Jesus.

M. M.


 

Air Force Times Logo

Academy invites more
controversial speakers

By Patrick Winn - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 8, 2008 11:22:22 EDT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Air Force Academy, holding its second high-profile panel on terrorism this year, will invite a Middle East analyst, longtime academy critic Mikey Weinstein and former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of former spy Valerie Plame.

The forum, titled “USA’s War on Terror: Not a Battle between Christianity and Islam,” will take place at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. It is open to cadets, academy staff and faculty, news media and select others.

In February, the academy hosted a controversial forum led by three self-professed terrorists-turned-Christians who claimed past involvement with shootings and bombings in the Middle East. The academy said their backgrounds were vetted, but the session was criticized by Islamic groups for promoting Christianity and denigrating Islam, and by others who doubted the speakers’ terrorist claims.

On that forum’s heels, this session will play host to better-known speakers with ties to major news stories.

In 2005, Wilson’s wife sued Vice President Dick Cheney over allegations his chief adviser, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, divulged her classified identity as a Central Intelligence Agency operative and obstructed justice when confronted. Libby was convicted on counts of obstructing justice, perjury and false statements, though the suit against Cheney fizzled.

As a diplomat under President Bush, Wilson was sent to Niger to investigate whether Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium to build nuclear arms. In a later op-ed piece that appeared in The New York Times, he disputed Bush administration statements about the threat, leading to his fallout with the administration and the outing of his wife.

Weinstein, a former Air Force attorney and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, unsuccessfully sued the academy in 2005 over claims of widespread unauthorized evangelism. He remains an active critic of evangelism throughout the military.

A third speaker, Reza Aslan, is a writer, religious scholar and frequent commentator for National Public Radio and CBS News.


 

Ed Braytons Blog

Ed Brayton's Blog

Posted on: April 10, 2008 9:16 AM, by Ed Brayton

Rodda Shreds Donohue

My friend Chris Rodda has a post at DailyKos responding to the Catholic League's Bill Donohue and his ridiculous attacks on Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. In a presentation at the Air Force Academy, Weinstein is to include a short clip from a movie called Constantine's Sword, which deals with the history of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church. Donohue throws a fit about that, claiming that this is an "outrageous assault on Catholicism."

The real irony of all this, as Rodda points out, is that Donohue represents the worst kind of Catholicism - as opposed to the many Catholic chaplains in the military who generally do a terrific job compared to many of their Protestant colleagues. Almost all of the problems the MRFF has pointed out in the military comes from Protestant evangelical and fundamentalist chaplains and officers, not from Catholics.


The Catholic League's portrayal of MRFF as anti-Catholic is ridiculous. Of the over 7,500 service members and veterans who have contacted MRFF for assistance, 96% have been Christians, and 1,800 have been Catholic. MRFF has received virtually no complaints about Catholic chaplains or unconstitutional activities by Catholic organizations within the military. Among the prominent members of MRFF's diverse Advisory Board is Gen. Robert T. Herres, USAF (ret.), former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and a Catholic.


And she points out that what Donohue calls "Catholic bashing" is actually an argument from Catholics themselves over two different strains of Catholic thought, one traditionalist and one more progressive. Naturally, Donohue seeks to portray any criticism of Catholic traditionalism, even from Catholics themselves, as being anti-Catholic:

Donohue's mischaracterizing "Constantine's Sword" as "Catholic-bashing" is absolutely absurd. In fact, the James Carroll book upon which the film is based explicitly illuminates examples of Catholic iconoclasts such as Peter Abelard, Nicolaus of Cusa and Pope John XXIII as ideal examples of how a more tolerant, Enlightened Catholic faith should be lived.


What Donohue is actually doing is quite simple. As is his tired old habit, he is casting any form of Catholic thought that loyally dissents from a traditionalist mindset as Catholic bashing. His modus operandi is no different from Medieval Neo-Platonist reactionaries who spurned the scholasticism and rational inquiry teachings of Thomas Aquinas.

And it's exactly the kind of shoddy, overly simplistic "thinking" we've all
come to expect from Bill Donohue, a man who would out of his depth
in a mud puddle.


 

Fox 21 Logo

AFA panelist:
America losing War on Terror

By Mike Conneen
Posted: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 at 10:21 p.m.

Speakers

During a special forum at the Air Force Academy, cadets were told America is losing the War on Terror. They were also told the military is water boarding service members into accepting fundamentalist Christianity.

Those controversial statements were made by a panel of guest speakers, at the forum called "USA's War on Terror: Not a Cosmic Battle Between Christianity and Islam."

The speakers included former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, who publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq (and whose wife, Valerie Plame, was later outed as an undercover CIA agent). Mikey Weinstein, A 1977 AFA graduate who created the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), also spoke. Reza Aslan, a well-known activist and writer on Islam and the Middle East, seemed to spark the most interest among cadets.

The panel comes after another controversial panel in February, when the academy hosted three alleged "former terrorists." They told cadets they left behind terrorism after discovering Christianity.

In response, Aslan urged cadets to consider his argument. "If we're fighting an ideology that's convinced this is a holy war between Christianity and Islam, then we're losing. If not, we've lost already."

He claimed the U.S. is losing the War on Terror because it uses the same good vs. evil rhetoric as the terrorists. He said, "By doing so, we have validated their absurd, fanatical world view."

Wilson discussed his disagreement with the Bush administration and the decision to invade Iraq. He also praised the academy for providing a venue of opinions.

"What is absolutely critical in a heterogeneous society such as ours is that we continue to have respect for other people's faith," Wilson said.

Weinstein claimed MRFF represents nearly 7,650 active duty service members who feel oppressed by Christianity. He said, "We have 21 cases in the cadet wing. I'm sure some of you are here [at the panel] today."

Weinstein made clear, he did not attend to make friends. "We're suing you. Our foundation has sued the Department of Defense."

A few times, cadets talked over or laughed at the panel. They also repeatedly applauded cadets who expressed disagreement.

During a question and answer session, one argued, "Perhaps by not allowing freedom of religion in the military we are giving into [the terrorists] demands."

The speakers twice reprimanded the cadets for not listening. Afterwards however, whether cadets agreed or disagreed, many cadets surrounded the speakers with more questions.

The panel was delayed several minutes because of a disagreement between the speakers and academy officials. Mikey Weinstein wanted to show a clip from the new film "Constantine's Sword," which takes a critical look at religion at the academy. (Weinstein also appears in the film).

When the panel started, the academy's superintendent acknowledged concern over creating more controversy by showing the film and pointed out he had not yet screened it himself. At his request, he said Weinstein agreed not to show the clip.


 

Colorado Springs Gazette Logo

AFA refuses to show
film clips called anti-Catholic

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Air Force Academy officials declined to show clips from a documentary critical of Christian proselytizing in the U.S. military at a seminar Wednesday on war and religion.

Footage from "Constantine's Sword," a documentary premiering April 19 in New York, was scheduled to be shown to cadets during the panel discussion.

But academy sponsors decided at the last minute against using the film clips because several Catholic organizations nationwide complained that the footage was anti-Catholic, academy spokesmen Johnny Whitaker said.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement Wednesday that the documentary is "a propaganda film that trashes Catholicism."

The seminar, titled "USA's War on Terror: Not a Battle Between Christianity and Islam," was delayed 25 minutes while academy representatives debated whether to show the controversial footage, which reportedly included scenes involving alleged religious discrimination at the academy between 2003 and 2005.

The speakers were former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Iraq war; Islamic scholar Reza Aslan; and academy graduate Mikey Weinstein, who sued the Air Force in 2005 for allegedly encouraging Christian evangelicals to proselytize to cadets. The case was dismissed before going to trial.

Wednesday's event, which was not open to the public, was organized to counter charges of bias from the Muslim community and others after a February seminar at the academy in which cadets heard speakers claiming to be former Islamic terrorists who characterized Islam as a dangerous religion.

Wednesday's speakers, by contrast, argued that the U.S. military's embracing of Christianity sends the message to Arabs that the Iraq war is not about freeing Iraqi people but about converting the Muslim world to Christianity.

Panelists showed a fiveminute film that compiled news stories alleging religious discrimination against non-Christians at military institutions, including the Air Force Academy. Photos showed military personnel holding Bibles, and military leaders were quoted using terms like "holy war" and "crusade" when talking about the Iraq war.

"Al-Qaeda wants to convince Muslims that this war is a crusade against Islam," Aslan told about 450 cadets and faculty in Fairchild Hall.

And the military, by using Christian rhetoric, "makes the war seem like one between Christianity and Islam," he said.

This will prolong the war indefinitely, Aslan said. "Religious wars do not end," he said.

Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told the cadets that the military's failure to crack down on religious discrimination breaks down the separation between church and state.

"This is not a left or right issue," Weinstein said. "This is a constitutional issue."

Many cadets were unswayed by the speakers' arguments.

"It's about a war on terror, not Islam," Matt Mc-Candless, 20, said

Travis Miller, 20, dismissed the five-minute film as propaganda and not representing the military's view.

He also said the academy has made progress toward religious tolerance.

"The fact that these speakers are here at all shows the great strides the academy has made," Miller said.


 

URGENT MRFF PRESS RELEASE

Catholic League Press Release
Attacks MRFF

April 9th, 2008

In a press release grossly distorting an event to be held today, April 9, 2008, at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Catholic League president Bill Donohue has accused Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, of an "outrageous assault on Catholicism." In addition to Donohue's misleading description of the event and unfounded accusations, the Catholic League's press release completely omits the reason this event is even taking place, and instead focuses entirely on a film, one short clip from which will be shown as a small part of the overall presentation.

AIR FORCE ACADEMY
HOSTS CATHOLIC-BASHING FILM

April 8, 2008

Tomorrow, the U.S. Air Force Academy is mandating that hundreds of students and faculty members attend a closed-door lecture on religious intolerance. It will also show clips from "Constantine's Sword," an upcoming movie. Catholic League president Bill Donohue registered his objections to this event today:

"The person pushing this agenda is Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation; he also appears in the film. In the mission statement of his organization, he stakes out a position against any member of the armed forces being 'compelled to conform to a particular religion or religious philosophy.' But evidently Weinstein has no problem orchestrating a propaganda film that trashes Catholicism -- in the name of fighting religious intolerance -- all the while insisting that the cadets and faculty be 'compelled' to attend.

"The movie is based on the widely discredited book by James Carroll, an embittered ex-priest. The book says the Gospels are inherently anti-Semitic and that unless the New Testament is gutted to the point where the messiahship of Jesus is rejected, Christian anti-Semitism will not end.

"The New York Review of Books said of Carroll that 'He is not a historian; everything he has to say on the subject of anti-Semitism is borrowed from other writers, and much of what he offers as fact is in reality highly contentious.' The authoritative interreligious journal, First Things, said, 'He has no degrees in the subject and, to judge from this book, no expertise in either Jewish history or church history.' Penn State professor Philip Jenkins went further saying, `He is overrepresenting his case in order to justify a 'reform agenda' that amounts to a blueprint for the annihilation of the Catholic Church.'

"We are sending copies of books by noted authors on this subject to the Academy's library, and we will also contact Superintendent Regni to see if he wants more. Moreover, we are contacting Colorado public officials, as well as D.C. officials who oversee the military academies, about this outrageous assault on Catholicism." Contact John.Regni@usafa.edu


What the Catholic League leaves out of the story is that today's presentation at the Air Force Academy is an effort to counter the message of intolerance recently delivered at the Academy by the "3 ex-terrorists." In February, self-proclaimed ex-Muslim terrorists turned evangelical Christians -- Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani -- spoke at the Annual Academy Assembly on the topic "Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today's Plague of Violence." The appearance of these speakers, known for their anti-Muslim rhetoric, was criticized by both MRFF and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). At that event, Walid Shoebat, when asked if he thought Muslims should be killed, responded, "You want to know if I think we should kill Muslims. I would never say that, that would be a stupid thing to say. We have to kill Islam."

In addition to their offensive message, the "3 ex-terrorists" also appear to be frauds. Since beginning their speaking careers, the authenticity of their claims has been repeatedly challenged by academics and terrorism experts, who have found that many aspects of their stories don't add up.

The speakers at today's event will be MRFF president and Air Force Academy graduate Mikey Weinstein, a former White House counsel under President Reagan, and former general counsel for Texas billionaire and two-time presidential candidate H. Ross Perot; former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson; and Islamic expert Reza Aslan, a research associate at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy. Although Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker said the Academy's decision to allow today's event was not in response to the criticism, he acknowledged that it occurred only after the complaints were made.

The Catholic League's portrayal of MRFF as anti-Catholic is ridiculous. Of the over 7,500 service members and veterans who have contacted MRFF for assistance, 96% have been Christians, and 1,800 have been Catholic. MRFF has received virtually no complaints about Catholic chaplains or unconstitutional activities by Catholic organizations within the military. Among the prominent members of MRFF's diverse Advisory Board is Gen. Robert T. Herres, USAF (ret.), former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and a Catholic.

Today's event is mandatory because it is part of the academic day, approved by Brig. Gen. Dana Born, Dean of the Faculty at the Academy -- also a Catholic. The "3 ex-terrorists" event was also mandatory for those cadets whose academic schedule included the Annual Academy Assembly. The clip from "Constantine's Sword" that will be shown is from a part of the film focusing specifically on the Academy and Colorado Springs, and includes a news clip featuring Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, USAF (ret.), Superintendent of the Academy from 2003 to 2005 -- another Catholic.

Donohue's mischaracterizing "Constantine's Sword" as "Catholic-bashing" is absolutely absurd. In fact, the James Carroll book upon which the film is based explicitly illuminates examples of Catholic iconoclasts such as Peter Abelard, Nicolaus of Cusa and Pope John XXIII as ideal examples of how a more tolerant, Enlightened Catholic faith should be lived.

What Donohue is actually doing is quite simple. As is his tired old habit, he is casting any form of Catholic thought that loyally dissents from a traditionalist mindset as Catholic bashing. His modus operandi is no different from Medieval Neo-Platonist reactionaries who spurned the scholasticism and rational inquiry teachings of Thomas Aquinas.

As for Donohue's pronouncement that Carroll's book has been "widely discredited," more than a few prominent theologians, Catholics among them, would seem to disagree. While many of the book's reviewers have expressed their own ideological differences with certain aspects of Carroll's book, almost all agree that the overall subject is an important one that needs to be addressed, and almost none have made assertions of "Catholic-bashing."

This is the case even with one of the reviews quoted by Donohue, who, in the press release, presents only this one sentence from The New York Review of Books:

"He is not a historian; everything he has to say on the subject of anti-Semitism is borrowed from other writers, and much of what he offers as fact is in reality highly contentious."

The very next sentence of that review was:

"It is valuable all the same to have a Catholic writer trace, without hysteria or self-exculpation, the deep strain of anti-Jewish sentiment that has always infected Christianity, from the polemic against 'he Jews' in Saint John's Gospel down to some of the more unguarded recent utterances of the defenders of Papa Pacelli."

This seems to be the consensus among the most qualified reviewers.

"[Carroll] sees the anti-Jewish theme among Christians to be the basic flaw in Christianity. Christians, especially Catholics, have to own up to this, repent and reinterpret their relation to Jews." -- Martin Marty, Newsday

Martin Marty, an ordained Lutheran minister and columnist for the Christian Century since 1956, has been president of the American of Religion, the American Society of Church History, and the American Catholic Historical Association. He is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and of the Society of American Historians, an elected fellow of the American Philosophical Society. Marty is the author of 50 books and over 5,000 articles, and has received 75 honorary doctorates. The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where Marty taught from 1963 to 1998, was named for him upon his retirement.

"While it is difficult for Catholics to hear this story from [Carroll], our moral integrity as a church demands that we listen. ...This history needs to be restored to Catholic consciousness as challenging to faith as this can prove to be." -- Fr. John T. Pawlikowski, National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Pawlikowski, the author of 10 books, including Catechetics and Christ, Sinai and the Calvary, The Challenge of the Holocaust for Christian Theology, Christ in the Light of the Christian-Jewish Dialogue, and Jesus and the Theology of Israel, is a Servite priest and Professor of Social Ethics at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU), a constituent school of the cluster of theological schools at the University of Chicago, and director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies program at CTU's Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Center. He is a founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1980, and reappointed by both President George Bush and President Bill Clinton. He is also a member of the Advisory Committee on Catholic-Jewish Relations, National Conference of Catholic Bishops. His awards include the Nostra Aetate Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago, an award acknowledging distinguished and scholarly work done by an individual in the field of Catholic-Jewish relations. Fr. Pawlikowski appears in the film "Constantine's Sword."

"A deeply religious book written at levels of understanding and with clarity of insights rarely -- if ever -- reached in the telling of this painful story."
-- Bishop Krister Stendahl, former dean, Harvard Divinity School


 

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Battle for religious rights

Speaker wants to rebuild wall
separating church and state in military

By Karen Nolan
April 5, 2008

What do the U.S. military and Christianity have in common? Nothing, if Mikey Weinstein has his way.

Weinstein is the founder of Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to resurrect what he believes is the crumbling wall between church and state in the military.

Specifically, Weinstein believes that a minority Christian viewpoint - one that seeks to turn the military into a Christian force - is infiltrating the ranks at all levels. If they succeed, he says, their beliefs could be forced onto people around the world and here at home.

As Weinstein says it: "We're a Tiger Woods' putt away from becoming the United Fundamentalist Christian States of America, brought to you by the faith-based Department of Defense and its Pentacostalagon."

Weinstein has a way with sound bytes, as did two of his former bosses: Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot and President Ronald Reagan. That has helped propel his message into hundreds of newspapers and magazines, and on TV, radio and the Internet. He'll be speaking in Sacramento this Sunday, a free appearance that is open to the public.

He's also written a book about his cause, "With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military."

It's a cause that came to him four years ago, in the form of a conversation with his younger son, who at the time was a sophomore at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. His son complained about being unduly pressured by other cadets and academy leaders to give up his Jewish faith and become a Christian.

Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force academy graduate who served in Judge Advocate General Corps for 10 years and also did a stint in the Reagan White House, said he'd look into it. He thought it could be resolved with a few phone calls.

But as he probed, he began to see evidence of what seemed to be U.S.-sanctioned proseltyzation not only at the academy, but throughout the Air Force and in all branches of the military. Locally, he said he's event received complaints from Travis Air Force Base, though he would not detail them.

Now the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been in contact with more than 7,500 active-duty military members with similar complaints. Weinstein estimates that "96 percent" of those complaints come from other Christians.

"We're at war, with the fundamentalist Christians pitted against the nonfundamentalist Christian brothers and sisters," he says. "This is a national security threat internally every bit as much as that which is now challenging our country externally by a resurgent Taliban and al Qaida."

The threat isn't just to individual service members' ability to practice their chosen faith - or nonfaith, as in the case of an avowed atheist whose opportunity for a promotional interview was rescinded, allegedly because he declined to participate in Christian prayers, according to a lawsuit recently filed by the foundation.

And it's not just that "combat troops refusing to accept their commanders' biblical world view are sent on more dangerous assignments," or that "commanders are censoring movies," so that troops are having trouble obtaining "Lord of the Rings" or Harry Potter DVDs, as Weinstein has been told by service members.

The threat to national security comes when American Humvees are "driven through Iraqi cities playing, in Arabic, Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life," or when company commanders are allowed to hand out tracts in Iraq depicting Christians going to heaven and Muslims going to hell, as alleged by a soldier who contacted Weinstein. Such actions serve to fuel the belief in Muslim countries that they are engaged in another holy war, and that this time, the Christian crusade is being led by the U.S. military.

When he returns to Sacramento this weekend - Weinstein is a graduate of McGeorge School of Law - the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation will bring a simple message: "Join us."

"Our constitution doesn't separate drinking and driving or matches and kids playing with them. But it does separate church and state," he says. "That's our fight. The people I'm fighting view the separation of church and state as a myth."

Weinstein will speak from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in Room 4203 at the State Capitol, in a free public forum sponsored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It will be followed by a reception and book sighing at Congregation B'nai Israel in Sacramento.


 

 

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April 2008

Jewish Life Page

Click here to view (PDF) of entire article


 

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