Question

To Mikey Weinstein

 

Why is it any of your business who a prayer breakfast has a speaker?  I am praying that God who you don’t think exists will convict your heart to draw you to Himself and cause you to realize that He loves you  and that Jesus is the reason for living and gives a person purpose for living.

I am saddened that a member of the USAF Academy alumni is spending his life in such a cause of denying other Americans freedom of religion.
(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),
First I’d like to thank you and your late husband for your many years of service to the Air Force and this nation.  I know your husband was a 1955 USMA grad and really one of the founding members of the (withheld).  I don’t think I ever met him, but I did hear of him and his many contributions to USAFA.  I’m sure we have friends in common, like the late Brig Gen Roger Bate.
I am a graduate of USAFA–as well as the brother and father of other grads–and have served many years on the faculty.  I’m also a strong and virtually founding supporter of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  You ask why the MRFF and Mr Weinstein should care who speaks at a prayer breakfast.  I’d like to explain why–and to assure you that there are, in fact MANY USAFA alumni of various religious backgrounds (many Christian) who agree with me.
First, it is questionable at all whether religiously-based “breakfasts” should be held during duty time in uniform, attended by commanders.  Many view this as coercive–setting an environment in which subordinates feel compelled to attend a religious meeting in order to be seen as supportive of the commander and other senior officers attending–regardless of their own personal views.  This is, in my mind, counter to the not only current Air Force and Dept of Defense guidance, but against the Constitution’s ban against religious tests to hold offices of responsibility and establishment of a state religion.  Not all military members pray.  Many pray to another god or gods.  All military members are allowed to prayer as they see fit and I will support and defend their right to do so–they just do not have the right or legitimate ability to COERCE or even encourage their subordinates to do so.  
So, as you can see, I oppose these breakfasts from the start.  If you want to prayer over breakfast, do it at home, do it personally, privately, and quietly at the dining hall or officer’s club, or with you closest peer friends off-base and off-duty.
Next, let’s discuss the speaker.  Lt Gen Jerry Boykin.  Jerry is, quite simply, unhinged.  He believes that we are AND SHOULD BE in a religious war pitting the US (which he views as an exclusively Christian nation) against all Muslim nations.  Even the simplest, most cursory internet search leads you to reams and reams of quotes from him that are inflammatory in the extreme.  He’s violated direct US policy by wearing his uniform in religious settings ADVOCATING religious war as if we were still in the 13th Century and he has called for us to suit up with horse and steel armor to head to the Holy Lands.  The man is flat crazy and has acted illegally for years–and has been reprimanded by the Army for his actions.  He actually causes harm and raises more risks with his slanted rhetoric than anyone I know.  Radical Islamists WANT to have a religious war, too, and Jerry’s screeds provide unwarranted evidence that lunatics like ISIS/ISIL/Daesh can point to that yield credence to their crazy thoughts and human rights violations.  I want to defeat these people–we all do.  BUT, I want to do it because their crazy, violent, and threaten basic human rights (including the freedom of religion) for all–NOT just because they’re Muslims.  I have MANY peaceful, loving Muslim friends.  As a matter of fact, my wife and I sponsor about a half-dozen Muslim cadets at USAFA and hosted a graduation party for two of them last night.  They’re families LOVE the US.  They respect our freedoms and want to emulate them.  These new lieutenants will be great advocates for moderation and freedom in their countries.  They’re might friends and, I dare say, proteges.  They are not threat, but Jerry thinks they are–and he thinks and has stated that his god is greater than their god and, therefore, the US should defeat ALL of these Muslims in violent war.
If this really the kind of speaker we’d like to have at a prayer breakfast to speak to officers of (supposedly) all religions, including Muslims?  Really?
I’ve taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States for more than 35 years and still serve.  Jerry embarrasses me and should embarrass all of us.  In a huge military with incredible diversity, talent, and unparalleled strength and lethality, he is obsolete and poisonous–like those lingering canisters of mustard gas that we’re still destroying at the depot in Pueblo, Colorado, fifty-plus years after their production for war in another era.  His views are simply contradictory to our Constitution and democratic, rights-based society.  He is the American Taliban.  That is why it is the business of ALL respectful Americans that this Imam of Christian Hatred not be allowed, much less invited, to poison any gathering of our fine military personnel.
May you have a peaceful weekend–and again my deepest thanks and respect to you for your and your husband’s service.
Sincerely,
A Senior Air Force Officer and USAFA Grad

 Dear (name withheld),
My name is Mark Gray,  I’m USAFA classmate of Mikey Weinstein and a supporter of his Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).  Mikey occasionally sends mail like yours to selected MRFF supporters.  He sent me your excellent and well-intentioned questions.  I extrapolated some questions, too.

So please allow me to address your questions.
1) You wrote “Why is it any of your business who a prayer breakfast has a speaker?”  My answer might take a circuitous route.  I’ll start by asserting that some fundamentalist Christian organizations would harness the US Government, including its military, to advance their Christian faith.  The MRFF resists these unconstitutional intentions and intrusions.  Lt. Gen. Boykin has long voiced his fundamentalist Christian positions, even while serving on active duty, and he has become even more vocal since retiring from the US Army and serving with the Family Research Council.

Yes, the Constitution of the United States protects freedom of religion.  Any and every religion.  NOT just his, or yours.  Our government may not, as a matter of policy, advance or inhibit any religion.  Military members also have that freedom, but when acting as an agent of the government, must subordinate his of her personal constitution-protected freedom so as NOT to appear to represent the US Government.

Therefore, a government activity appearing to advance a religion (such as Gen Boykin’s religion) just may not and must not occur.

2) You wrote “I am praying that God who you don’t think exists…”  Mikey is Jewish.  JEWISH.  He believes in a god, the Jewish god.  You dishonor him and all other Jews by saying the Jewish god doesn’t exist.  You’re saying, in effect, that the only legitimate god is your god.  And every other religion and every other human being who believes in his or her not-your god is wrong?  And your authority is the fallible man-written opinion-filled book called the Bible?  I don’t regard the Bible as a credible authority.  I just don’t.  So I don’t want anyone’s religion imposed on me, thank you.

3) You wrote “Jesus is the reason for living and gives a person purpose for living.”  This  is your opinion, and you share it with many other Christians of your/their particular brand or brands.  I’m glad you have found meaning and purpose in your life.  Please do not impose your god on me.  I have the freedom to believe what I choose, too.  And to not believe, as well.  In our country, in which every military member has sworn to support the constitution and its secular policies, NO RELIGION CAN BE ADVANCED OR HINDERED by the government in any of its policies or its activities.

4) You wrote “spending his life in such a cause of denying other Americans freedom of religion.”  But you, and Gen Boykin, would deny others their freedom of religion by insisting on their compliance with your version of Christianity?  Is that freedom?  Not in my book.

Thank you for writing, Kitty. Wishing you well.

Mark Gray
I‘ll fight for our country, but nor for your god.’

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1 Comment

  1. g

    It is amazing that the general was not court-marital and thrown into prison or kicked out of the service with no pension and retirement benefits. But as the saying goes, different spanks for different ranks.

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