Soldier Punished in Beating
of Jewish Trainee
Friday October 10, 2008
By Russ Bynum
Associated Press Military Writer
SAVANNAH, Ga. - An Army trainee will face nonjudicial punishment rather than criminal charges for beating a Jewish soldier so badly he was treated by a hospital, the military said Friday, in a move that keeps many details of the attack secret.
Fort Benning commanders decided not to seek a court-martial in the attack on Pvt. Michael Handman and will resolve it as a personnel matter rather than a crime.
"I'm infuriated," Jonathan Handman, the beaten soldier's father, said Friday. "The Army's continuing to do what they tried to do from the beginning, which is just shovel this under the carpet. It should be treated and charged as a hate crime."
Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganaro said the Army would not release the name of the soldier responsible for the attack, the punishment he received or the results of a military police investigation because nonjudicial punishments are protected under the federal Privacy Act.
Handman, 20, of Atlanta says he was beaten by a fellow trainee Sept. 24 in a laundry room next to their barracks. He was treated at the Army hospital on Fort Benning in Columbus for a concussion and bruising to the left side of his face.
Four days before the attack, Handman was interviewed by commanders of his basic training unit about complaints he'd made in letters to his parents that he had been harassed by two drill sergeants because he's Jewish.
The Army later acknowledged one drill sergeant had ordered Handman to remove his yarmulke, which he wore with his uniform, as he ate in a dining hall. Another drill sergeant had called him "Juden" — the German word for Jews.
Manganaro said military police concluded the attack on Handman wasn't motivated by religious bigotry, but she would give no other details.
"There isn't anything more that I can add," Manganaro said. "The investigation is not public information and the results are not public information."
Handman's father says he believes his son's religion was a factor in the attack because it followed too closely behind his son's harassment complaint to be coincidental.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, agreed. He called the Army's denial of a religious motive in Handman's beating "complete garbage and an absolute cover-up."
"Michael Handman was turned into a punching bag for the Army because of his religious faith," said Weinstein, who has helped the Handmans pursue the case with the Army.
Army commanders have the discretion to forward investigations into violations of military law to a court-martial or to handle them administratively, as happened in Handman's case. Manganaro said the decision to pursue nonjudicial punishment was made by Handman's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Anthony Benitez.
While Fort Benning officials would not say what punishment Handman's attacker received, Manganaro said the maximum allowable would be 45 days restriction where he would be unable to leave his unit buildings, 45 days of extra duty, a reduction in grade and forfeiture of pay.
Fort Benning officials transferred Handman to a new training battalion of about 900 soldiers a week ago to separate him from his attacker and the two drill sergeants, who were reprimanded for religious discrimination.
Handman began basic training Aug. 29 and soon wrote a letter to his parents in which he said, "I have just never been so discriminated against/humiliated about my religion." He said he feared some of his fellow trainees "wanted to beat the (expletive) out of me... And the only justification they have is because I'm Jewish."
Handman's parents contacted U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who forwarded their concerns to the Army. Four days after commanders interviewed Handman about being harassed, he was beaten.
Russ Bynum has covered the military based in Georgia since 2001.
Kansas Atheist Soldier
Friday October 10, 2008
By John Milburn
Associated Press Writer
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - One of two atheist soldiers at Fort Riley who has sued the Department of Defense over alleged religious freedom violations is dropping his case.
The head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said that attorneys for Pfc. Jeremy Hall were to file papers Friday in federal court in Kansas to end Hall's case, citing his plans to leave the Army next spring.
Mikey Weinstein, the foundation's president, said the lawsuit was being dropped to avoid a legal fight over whether Hall has standing in federal court if he is no longer in the Army. However, Weinstein said all of the foundation's other allegations of a pattern and practice of religious discrimination by the military will go forward in a second lawsuit.
"He broke the barrier for us to have more people come forward," Weinstein said. "He served as a shining light that attracted all the other potential witnesses."
Spc. Dustin Chalker, a combat medic with an engineering battalion, filed a second lawsuit in October. Chalker, who has served in Iraq and Korea, alleges that he was required to attend three events from December 2007 to May 2008 at Fort Riley in which Christian prayers were delivered.
Chalker's lawsuit alleges the military allows religious discrimination by fundamentalist Christians who try to force their views on others, especially subordinates. Its examples include programs for soldiers, presentations by "anti-Muslim activists" and a "spiritual handbook" for soldiers endorsed by Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Named as a defendant is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Defense officials have said that the military has a standing policy against discrimination and preserving religious freedom for all in uniform.
Hall and the foundation filed a lawsuit in September 2007. Hall claims a higher-ranking officer prevented him from holding a meeting while deployed in Iraq. The lawsuit was withdrawn and refiled in March, adding claims that Hall was threatened with retaliation from other soldiers and officers, including the blocking of his promotion to sergeant.
Weinstein said Hall recently was transferred to another military police company and will be able to leave the Army as planned in 2009. Hall, 24, plans to go to college and serve as a liaison with the foundation on religious freedom issues.
Weinstein said Hall had endured numerous threats and mistreatment from fellow soldiers, including a death threat against him and his wife that was left on his telephone. Fort Riley investigators traced that call to another soldier on post.
"His life has been a living hell. He's been mistreated and we will not forget any of that. He stood. He took it for everybody," Weinstein said.
On the Net:
Military Religious Freedom Foundation: http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org
Fort Riley: http://www.riley.army.mil
Department of Defense: http://www.defenselink.mil
Film criticizes military evangelism
Wednesday October 8, 2008
By Pat Lohmann
Michael L. Weinstein said he didn't know what he was getting himself into when he founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in 2006.
Now the Albuquerque native and his family endure death threats from religious fundamentalists, he said.
Weinstein was on campus Monday for a showing of "Constantine's Sword," a documentary about evangelism in the armed forces.
"You can't use your military position to force-feed your religious view on a helpless subordinate," Weinstein told the audience in the SUB theater.
The documentary focused on the pressure placed on soldiers to attend evangelical services while in training.
Weinstein and his son, Casey, said they faced criticism and humiliation while attending the United States Air Force Academy because of their Jewish faith.
This religious pressure leads to anti-Semitism in the military, Weinstein said, and breaches the separation of church and state.
He said it warrants a national lawsuit against the Department of Defense.
"The nature of our lawsuit has to do with what we call the four Ps: the pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice of unconstitutional (metaphorical) rape of the religious members of our honorable and noble members of the U.S. military," Weinstein said.
He said soldiers who refused to convert to Christianity told him their jobs became more dangerous as a result.
"We have many soldiers that tell us that if they don't accept this biblical worldview, they're the ones who get the most dangerous assignments to go down streets where there's likely to be a higher frequency of (rocket-propelled grenades) or (improvised explosive devices)," he said.
Weinstein said pursuing the lawsuit has alienated many Christians.
"We usually get 10 to 12 death threats a week," he said. "I got one at 5 p.m. today that lasted exactly six seconds, indicating that I would be smited tonight before the sun went down and that my house would catch aflame."
He said his house in the Sandia Heights has been vandalized on several occasions. Twice his tires have been slashed and windows busted, and, over the summer, a swastika and crucifix were drawn on his home, he said.
Junior Amber Weinstein, Michael's daughter, said the threats are intimidating but not enough to stop the family's lawsuit.
Amber Weinstein said she has been criticized by students, including a former ROTC colleague, about her Jewish faith and her father's cause.
UNM senior and political science major Mackenzie Woods organized the presentation of "Constantine's Sword."
Woods said that when he learned about Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation four months ago, he decided to bring "Constantine's Sword" to campus.
"This is a contemporary dynamic of the separation of church and state," Woods said after the documentary.
He said it is fortunate that Weinstein and his organization, which operates out of Albuquerque, could attend to spread the word about this issue.
"There are individuals right in the local community in Albuquerque that are fighting for a cause in Washington, D.C., where high-level executives are taking immediate action," Woods said.
"Soldier: Mandatory Talk
Monday October 6, 2008
By: Sam LaGrone AFT Staff Writer
An atheist serviceman said the Air Force tried to save his soul with PowerPoint evangelism. And he's suing over it.
When Army Spc. Dustin Chalker attended a mandatory commander's call at RAF Lakenheath, England, last March, he was subjected to religious discrimination in violation of the Constitutional barrier between church and state, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 25 by Chalker and the New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
At the meeting called by Lt. Gen. Robert D. "Rod" Bishop, then commander of the 3rd Air Force, base staff were given a lecture on suicide prevention, which - according to the slide presentation obtained by Air Force Times - was predominantly based on the best-selling evangelical Christian self-help book "The Purpose Driven Life."
The training, dubbed "A New Approach to Suicide Prevention: Developing Purpose-Driven Airmen," was given by Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Christian Biscotti for the 1,000 troops assembled, according to the lawsuit.
On the slides, Charles Darwin is grouped with communists Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, and evolution and atheism are called "purposeless models." The presentation also said America's faith in God was the reason for its "motivated people" and implied the Soviet Union failed, in part, because of its belief in evolution.
The lawsuit claims the presentation was a poorly veiled attempt at promoting a particular brand of Christianity and creationism, couched in a mandatory information session.
The Air Force chaplain's office acknowledged Biscotti gave the presentation but said the chaplain's office didn't approve the content.
"Spiritual fitness is a common element in suicide prevention programs since personal satisfaction in the spiritual dimension is a significant contributing factor to internal well-being and a powerful deterrent to self-harm," read an e-mail from the chaplain's office to Air Force Times.
Military Religious Freedom Foundation's president doesn't agree. "It's weaponized Christianity," Mikey Weinstein said.
David Odom, a Southern Baptist minister and the executive director of leadership education at Duke University's Divinity School, isn't so sure. He told Air Force Times that while it comes close to the line between church and state defined in the Constitution, in his opinion, it's not a clear-cut violation.
However, Odom said, the basis of Biscotti's presentation is clearly rooted in a certain type of Christian theology.
For example, one slide, titled "The Metaphysics of Hope," says without any "purpose" or "hope," people are "lost." Odom said the admission of being lost is the first step in an evangelical conversion and people could easily substitute Jesus and Christianity in place of hope and purpose.
Biscotti did not respond to requests for comment.
Mikey Weinstein Honored
Jews For Racial & Economic Justice
12th Annual Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer
Thursday, November 20th, 6-9pm
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
New York City
This year JFREJ will be honoring Ann Cook, Deborah Meier, Mikey Weinstein & Families for Freedom
Past Risk-Taker honorees have include Allen Ginsberg, Michael Ratner, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Rev. James Forbes, Art Speigelman, Grace Paley, Debbie Almontaser, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Domestic Workers United, to name a few.
PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS TO THIS EVENT
October 3, 2008
MRFF Chapter President Richard Baker responds to a MRFF
detractor. The MRFF detractor quotes Mikey Weinstein in a widely distributed press article. Snippets of the detractor's email are in ITALICS, and his actual comments are in BOLD.
Your Cavalier attitude toward the heinous activities committed against innocent young American troops is truly disturbing. I have answered your remarks below.
In a message dated 10/3/2008 7:53:18 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time, [withheld]@[withheld].com writes:
A U.S. Army soldier was brutally beaten by other soldiers in his platoon earlier this month following two incidents in which a drill sergeants allegedly used anti-Semitic slurs to address the soldier....The moment we were contacted [the] MRFF did what it always does in these ever more frequent, tragic matters of unbridled, military-sponsored Christian religious oppression...
Because we all know only Christians are anti-Semitic.
At the MRFF, our concern is not the traditional centers of sectarian hate with which we are familiar and where hatred and violence against various religious bodies flourish as a matter of course and national policy. There are those who can hopefully address those issues.
Rather, our concern centers on the loci in which no religious discrimination or hatred is supposed to exist, our armed forces and service academies.
In all the MRFF client cases to which I have been made privy I cannot recall even one that involves discrimination by a Muslim chaplain or other Muslim officer, NCO or lower 4 grader, a Jewish Chaplain or other Jewish officer, NCO or lower four grader, or an Atheist or Agnostic of any rank against a Christian. The vast preponderance of coercive proselytizing is undertaken by Evangelical Christian chaplains, other Christian officers, NCO's or lower four graders against non-evangelical Christian troops. This indicates a widespread and pathological Evangelical Christian effort which we have come to know as Dominion Christianity. So, irrespective of your flip answer, another young soldier is, this very day, being rescued from the debilitating grasp of a Dominion Christian operative posing as a member United States Armed Forces.
The fact that only Christians are participating in this illegal and unconstitutional undertaking should set off alarm bells throughout the military and their respective academies. Yet, officers such as yourself, aid and abet this insidious violation by either participating in it yourselves or accommodating it as a privilege of command.
What must the parents of these young men and women think when they see their sons and daughters forced to bend to the dark side of Christianity and upon whom unconstitutional acts are routinely committed by the very officers and NCO's in whose trust they are placed. This is a betrayal of unimaginable proportions.
Wait for it...
"I want the Army to understand that MRFF will now use this entire incident in our just-filed Federal litigation against the Department of Defense."
That’s a relief. I’ve come to be disappointed when I don’t hear the same talking points after every incident. Still, I didn’t see any angry alliterative angst in this one, except for the tired “pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice...”
The "talking points" to which you refer must, it seems, be oft repeated in order to be understood. If you and those others who persist in illegal and unconstitutional activities would simply "get it," some headway might be made.
Instead, the barbaric onslaught of Dominion Christianity against the defenseless young men and women in your charge continues, unabated and under the aegis of senior officers, themselves committed to an insidious cabal of Dominion Christian organizations, so vicious, so uncompromising, so heartless and so deadly as to bring to my recall the entire sordid history of Christian world violence.
Extreme Christianity has been given a free pass in our troubled democracy by those who in one way or another profit by it. The KKK, Army of God, Aryan Nation, World Church of the Creator, Skin Heads, Neo-Nazis and other Christian Identity groups have been given free rein. In addition, the tacit approval given by this administration to the Dominion Christian mission has come from the highest government and military officials including the Christian-in-Chief in the Oval Office and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Christian Staff in the Pentagon.
Americans are slowly catching on to this subdural effort to compromise the constitution. Slowly, because no real American can immediately or fully fathom the depths of dishonor and subterfuge to which the dominion Christian agenda has sunk.
Today's dangerously warped Dominion Christian operatives do not speak of the Jesus I knew as a young man. They are instead proffering a hideous caricature of that esteemed gentleman. They have made the Prince of Peace the Attila the Hun of today's bellicose and militant Christianity, where instead of beating swords into plow shares, they are beating crosses into Atomic Bombs and strapping them to the backs of our precious children in preparation for the end times in which Armageddon will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is not too late for an officer such as yourself, with high marks for proficiency and ability to operate a modern war plane to rejoin a nation of diverse Americans, all of whom are children of our constitution first and who prioritize country, family and THEN their God in that order. Unlike yours, their God does not seem to mind.
Colorado Springs Chapter
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
October 3, 2008
Last year around this time I spoke with you about my concern of the high concentration of fundamentalist/ dominionist Christians within my command [withheld]. At the time I was working as [withheld].
What I witnessed I believed to be a network of company, field grade and flag officers who are fundamentalist/ dominionist Christians making decisions concerning our military operations based upon their faith as fundamentalist Christians. In addition, I expressed concerns about the Strong Bonds program, the congressman who carried the legislation which created it, his ties to the [withheld] and the inherent problems I saw with separation of church and state as it relates to the program.
As you may remember when I expressed these concerns to my superiors [withheld], I was targeted for a negative OER and, I believe, steps were being taken to end my career.
As such, I immediately was transfered to [withheld]. Unfortunately, I am witnessing what I believe to be the same problem in this command. Obviously, proving that this network of officers exists, which I now believe is throughout the army reserve, is difficult at best.
However, there may be a way to begin to gather evidence. One suggestion is to do a FOIA on the number of graduates from colleges like Wheaton College in Illinois who are currently serving as officers in the army reserve. From this you could dervive what commands have a high concentration of officers who have graduated from evangelical Christian colleges.
A network of these militant Christians exists within our military. As a citizen-soldier [withheld] my hands are tied. If I want to continue serving and retire as [withheld] I must be cautious in actions and words.
A fellow [withheld] advocate who also believes in a high wall of separation between church and state, expressed that when this adminstration is out office, these fundamentalist Christians will be disempowered. While I would like to believe this, my gut tells me they are too entrenched and it may be necessary for the executive along with congress to act.
Although I am in [withheld], I am not on orders today or in any pay status. This communication is in my capacity as a private citizen and as a centrist Christian.
Please continue to carry forth your message.
October 7, 2008
You chose one of the most critical issues at the most ideal time when threats against our constitution rights in the US military represents an extraordinary threat to not only to those within the military but to ALL of us in this nation.And by example other nations!
October 10, 2008
I was glad to see that you were involved in this case; it was the first thing I thought about when I read the story (Handman Case). Thank you for supporting this patriotic trainee who is serving our country.
I read your book “With God on Our Side” and it was very disturbing to find out how the religious right has attempted to colonize the US services for their own agenda.
I am a WASP but I clearly see the danger we face if our military is used for political i.e. religious ends.
Thanks again for your attention to this. Your work is very important.
Is there a "Shadow Government"
In The Pentagon?
Thriller Partially Based Upon MRFF-Discovered
Shocking Evidence Sheds Light on Secret
Religious Organization in the Military
Washington, D.C. –In The Apocalypse Directive [Dorchester Publishing], the new political thriller from Washington insider Douglas MacKinnon, the President of the United States is a devout Christian frustrated with what he sees as the downfall of mankind. With the help of like-minded individuals in the top echelons of the government, the president hatches a plan that is not only horrifying in scope, but entirely plausible.
Ian Campbell is a former Navy SEAL and currently the White House Deputy Chief of Staff. He is taken into the president’s inner circle—only to realize the president is about to bring about the end of the world because this Commander in Chief believes it is God’s will. With the assistance of covert organization of high-ranking military leaders and government officials, the plan is launched and appears headed for completion. While unsure of what is actually happening, the president raises the suspicion of the first female Vice President and another government sub-group determined to stop the president.
There is an important connection within this book to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The religious group in the novel, “The Christian Ambassadors,” is based on the real-life group “The Christian Embassy.” MRFF was the first entity to break the Christian Embassy story internationally in December 2006 (after a textual reference to same in a Harper's article by Jeff Sharlet, bestselling author of the recently released blockbuster "The Family") via a heavily attended press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. MRFF demanded a DoD Inspector General office investigation into the organization, which resulted in the official recommendation of "corrective action" for multiple high-ranking officers within the Pentagon. Powerful editorials in The Washington Post have criticized this group for filming a fundraising video at the Pentagon and interviewing high-ranking officers who were in uniform. A recent New York Times story revealed that U.S. Military Academy cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen routinely face intense religious proselytizing by this group. In addition, other portions of the book are directly based on and cite specific evidence which MRFF was the first entity to discover and make public.
Using a fast-paced narrative, and drawing on a background in military and White House affairs, MacKinnon brings the reader into the Oval Office, aboard Air Force One and into government meetings conducted at the highest levels. By shedding light on religious extremism, he raises pointed questions about the role of faith in military leadership and its place in the hierarchy of national defense issues.
Douglas MacKinnon was a senior advisor to former Sen. Bob Dole. He has served as a high-level Pentagon official with Top Secret clearance. Before the Pentagon he served at the White House as an aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is a nationally syndicated columnist and a frequently quoted political analyst. He is a native of Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Click Here to Order Book from Amazon.com
Read Douglas MacKinnon's article in The Huffington Post
Read Chris Rodda's Book Review from The Huffington Post
MRFF's Mikey Weinstein
portrayed in major theater production
at Kirk Douglas
in Los Angeles
September 21st - October 26th
MRFF President and Founder Mikey Weinstein's Federal lawsuit against the United States Air Force in October 2005 was an igniting spark to uncover the unconstitutional religious infiltration of fundamentalist evangelism in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. This play features Mikey’s struggle as part of the larger tapestry of events occurring in and around Colorado Springs.
A mesmerizing, fiercely intelligent portrait of Colorado Springs.
The Civilians, the OBIE-Award winning theatre company from New York City known for their boldly theatrical snapshots of the human psyche, brings its newest project to the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
In this new play with music, they tackle the fervor behind the Evangelical movement, the effect its growth had on its unofficial U.S. capital, Colorado Springs, and the confusion of a community in crisis following the scandalous fall of pastor Ted Haggard.
Created from interviews with actual persons and featuring music by the award-winning composer of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, This Beautiful City is a fiercely intelligent, explosive and ultimately sincere exploration of a uniquely American phenomenon and its passionate followers.
Co-produced with the Vineyard Theatre, New York.
Click on the image above to watch a 1 minute promotional video for
The Civilians' This Beautiful City performed at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays in March 2008.
Mikey Weinstein and his family are featured
in Oscar nominated director
Oren Jacoby's newest documentary.
DVD ON SALE NOW!
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