SALON – Air Force’s mind-boggling violation: Members forced to swear religious allegiance

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • This latest attempt at religious conformity by military “leadership” is only the most blatant in an ongoing battle for the soul of the U.S. armed forces. The Air Force always seems to be at the wrong end of this debate, and the MRFF often fields calls and complaints from service members who are often pressured to convert to a very warped view of fundamentalist Christianity or being punished for not doing so, said [Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, founder and president of the MRFF].
  • I’ve only chatted with Weinstein over the phone, but I already like him. He’s filled with a righteous fury that is too often the tool of choice for the ill-informed right, but make no mistake, Weinstein knows what he’s talking about. He speaks in flowing full sentences filled with case precedent, personal anecdotes and a hard-to-match grasp of constitutional law. A former White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan and an Air Force veteran himself, he is of Jewish heritage but self-identifies as agnostic. As a registered Republican, he seems baffled that people are so blasé that the deadliest fighting force in the history of the planet—the U.S. military—is being co-opted by religious fundamentalists. When he broke it down for me, I felt a cold fear creep up my spine.
  • It’s horrifying that we are witnessing runaway religious fundamentalism on the anniversary of the worst religious-based terrorist attack in history, 9/11. The people forcing Christian sectarianism in the armed services are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Weinstein points out that this debate we’re having in America today is a propaganda bonanza for ISIS (or ISIL or asshats or whatever these marauding killers go by). We’re at war with terrorist and murders, not with Muslims. America is not an invading Christian army (or should not be), and if we act like one we will only hurt ourselves. In this way, radical Islamists and Christians who insist that “America is a Christian nation” have the same goal—to turn a war over politics and terrorism into a war between two religions. What could go wrong?”We are fighting a fanatical religiosity and I’m not talking about Wahhabist Islam. We have fundamentalist, Dominionism mixed in with actual weapons of mass destruction, combined with a total dearth of restraint or oversight,” said Weinstein.
  • The MRFF has 38,400 member or “clients” including active duty members of every service and branch, sailors, soldiers, Marines, and midshipmen. Of those 96% are protestant or Catholic, according to Weinstein. The remaining four percent that are a combination of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans and nonbelievers. They even have a dozen members of the Jedi Church. Weinstein’s group takes all cases and complaints of religious coercion regardless of the faith of the member. “This is America, so we don’t care,” he said.For his efforts and those of his staff and volunteers, he has become one of the most reviled men in America. He should be treated as a constitutional scholar and defender, but instead is treated to daily attacks, personal threats to his safety and a nonstop waterfall of hate. He’s had dead animals left on his front porch and swastikas and crucifixes painted on his home. For its consolation, though, MRFF has six Nobel Peace Prize nominations. “We have serious security,” he said. “This is not narcissism. It’s necessity.”
  • It’s gotten so bad that Bonnie Weinstein, Mikey’s wife of 37 years, is coming out with a book early next month filled with the hate mail. It’s titled: To the far right Christian hater: You can be a good speller or a hater but you can’t be both. They do get many nice, supportive comments as well, dozens of which have come in since this Air Force Policy was made public. Many Service members of all religions oppose a religious test for service.
  • Declaring a serviceman a liar, cheat or a scoundrel because he or she won’t take a religious oath is an attack on that person’s honor. I know it sounds goofy to people who haven’t served, but honor means something to fighting men and women. This religious malignancy can’t be tolerated in a secular, nationwide fighting force unless you want to create an army of religious terrorists.“When you tell someone they lack honor, because of your chosen religious faith or lack thereof it is no different than telling a person that they are stupid because of their skin color or sex,” said Weinstein.This latest battle in the Air Force proves that America needs the MRFF. The military protects everyone, all of us, agnostic, gay, liberals, conservatives, swingers and Satanists. If only some people and faiths are deemed worthy of service and protection, the military becomes something else, something ugly and dangerous. America should never stand for this kind of intolerance and hate.

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