JEWISH TELEGRAPHIC AGENCY – From darling to outcast: Mikey Weinstein’s crusade against religion in military

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  • WASHINGTON (JTA) — Mikey Weinstein couldn’t be happier to have an amendment in his honor approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.Yes, the amendment, passed June 13 and designed to keep Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation as far away from the Pentagon as possible, is more in his “dishonor.” But Weinstein is the kind of guy who revels in the dislike of his adversaries.
  • Weinstein and his opponents claim a common cause: freedom of religion. But while Weinstein wants troops free from coercive evangelizing by their superiors, a number of conservative lawmakers and activists see Weinstein as the threat to religious freedom.
  • The core of Weinstein’s threat, as depicted by his conservative opponents, is that he is at the vanguard of a bid to squelch religious expression in the military.In fact, Weinstein does not target Christian expression as long as there is no evidence of coercion. His problem is with commanders who intimidate subordinates by permitting proselytizing — or engaging in it themselves. “The military is indescribably tribal, adversarial, communal, ritualistic,” Weinstein said. “If you are being even gently evangelized by your military superior, ‘Get the f*** out of my face, sir’ is not an option.”
  • Former Jewish community associates of Weinstein would not speak on the record but delivered tortured accounts of their relationships with him, which essentially boil down to this: Weinstein is wacky and impolitic — and right. “It’s not that he’s not correct, it’s that he’s not political” is how one put it.Weinstein says he has no interest in such allies and has choice epithets for those that especially annoy him; he calls the ADL the “Apologist Defense League.”He says his mission — keeping the most powerful military on the planet out of the control of theocrats — is too important for niceties…
  • Rabbi Joshua Narrowe, until earlier this month the Jewish chaplain at the Air Force Academy, said he never saw any evidence of coercion. And while he would not count out the claims of Weinstein’s clients, he takes issue with his approach.“As long as they are anonymous, we can’t fix anything,” Narrowe said.Weinstein, hearing this account, returned to combative form, noting the account on his website of a recent commissioning ceremony in which a speaker allegedly urged the graduates to “help return this country to the Christian values it was founded on.”According to the foundation, Weinstein quickly received a pledge from a senior Academy official to review pre-ceremony briefings for speakers.

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