“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

- J.K. Rowling

In what’s become an increasingly mundane and predictable ritual as of late, the fundamentalist Christian Religious Right is up in arms over the latest “outrage” emanating from the White House. President Obama’s ‘sin’? A salient commentary delivered at the annual Presidential National Prayer Breakfast on the nature of religious wars. I have not always applauded the actions of our President but I believe I DO know courage when I see it, and our President exhibited unadulterated courage a few days ago when he bravely swung a verbal two-by-four upside the head of Christian supremacists at their annual "Jesus-Fest Tribute” in our nation’s capitol. His comments were made in light of the current campaign against ISIS, and they were absolutely right on the money. However, our fellow American citizens on the theocratic right have never been known to let facts get in the way of a damn good tantrum. Indeed, the hysteria and downright perfidy of the indecorous response to the president’s speech just shows the pathetic depths to which reasonable and rational political discourse in the United States has plummeted.

However, my friends, one such response towered above others in its grotesque hideousness: the response from Adjutant Rich Sestili of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 6 in Marrieta, Georgia. Sestili’s message was specifically designed to incite irrational rage and fury against our president: “Never in the history of the United States has any other president ever made a negative comment about Christ.”

Huh? When did President Obama, a lifelong Christian, ever make a negative comment about Jesus Christ? All things considered, the president’s “criticism” was pretty tepid, as well as most justified and germane, to the proceedings of this National Prayer Breakfast. This event is almost always an unapologetic and garish spectacle of exclusivist American Christian supremacy and primacy no matter HOW hard those who produce it try to disingenuously include token and minute, atomic particles of secularism, respect and acceptance for those who are not "the right type of Christian." Obama’s courageous comments were clearly aimed at those who cynically manipulate and pervert religion for the purpose of harming others. And apparently he struck a nerve.

This is what the president actually said:  

"Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."

Simple enough, yet in the leaden-eyed views of the ignorant, these comments are an indicator that our president “is a one-man sleeper cell” who seeks to “advance in America what Islam is advancing worldwide.” Obama even received criticism from his supporters on the liberal left for his supposedly “patronizing tone.”

However, what the president dutifully noted was simply the tip of the iceberg – let’s not forget the even more recent history of unbridled violence committed in the name of Christianity.

Take the post-9/11 era. Have Americans already forgotten the fact that our last president "christened" the struggle against al-Qaeda and similar groups as “this crusade, this war on terrorism”? Our Islamist foes certainly haven’t forgotten this gaffe-cum-Presidential fatwa.

Take “Jesus Rifles”, for instance – rifle scopes engraved with various New Testament biblical inscriptions which were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Likewise, we’d be remiss in failing to mention the official “Jesus Loves Nukes” instructional unit that was a part of the U.S. Air Force’s mandatory ‘ethics’ training for its nuclear missile launch officers. And then there are the incidents of forced attendance of Christian rock concerts, “Spiritual Fitness Tests,” violent hazing on religious grounds, as well as the shattered careers of hundreds if not thousands of enlistees, officers, and civilian personnel who’ve challenged the fundamentalist evangelical Christian domination of the U.S. Armed Forces. In fact, just last month the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF, the civil rights organization that I head) discovered a bit of “Christian Jihadi” training being carried out near the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix, AZ, where Army recruiters saw fit to recruit folks interested in going “On A Mission For Both God And Country.”

Even the most casual observer can see that the Muslim world hardly has a monopoly on religious violence, but don’t tell this to bona-fide Christofascist Chaplain Robert Doll of the Disabled Veterans of America. According to Doll, “the only known instance of Christians murdering unbelievers was Spanish conquistadors murdering natives in the New World” (emphasis added), a practice Doll shockingly muses – with all too obvious racist bigotry – that the Spaniards perhaps learned from the Muslim caliphs who previously ruled Spain. 

Wait! What the HELL did that Islamophobic idiot just assert? Well, “Chaplain” Doll conveniently attempts to airbrush from history the entire centuries-old experience of American slavery, that “institution of God”, punctuated with the burning crosses of the Ku Klux Klan as well as the dozens of Native American tribes who were mercilessly annihilated during the “Manifest Destiny” expansion of the United States, to cite a couple of the most obvious examples. Likewise, let’s not forget the thousands of pogroms committed against the Jews of Eastern Europe, the murderous campaigns undertaken by ultra-Christian fascists throughout the Twentieth Century, the ethnic cleansings carried out by the Maronite Phalange in Lebanon, the Orthodox Chetniks of Serbia, and the Christian militias of the Central African Republic, or the terrorist attacks by such “lone-wolf” crusaders as Timothy McVeigh and Anders Bering Breivik. In many cases, murderous religious hatred was mixed with ethnic nationalism, racism, and simple greed, so sure – one can convincingly argue that the perpetrators of these crimes weren’t necessarily “true Christians.”  However, if you’re willing to make that concession then why cast any aspersions on the nuances of Obama’s powerful and wholly truthful remarks? Similarly, if those who have killed and continue to kill in the name of Christ aren’t truly Christian, then why should we ignore the anguished pleas from a Muslim world numbering 1.6 billion people who continuously state that the atrocities carried out by ISIS jihadis in the name of Islam, including anti-Christian pogroms, are contrary to basic Islamic standards?

The answers to these questions are quite simple. What we have on our hands, from Marietta to Mosul, are filthy, cowardly bigots who are utterly crazed and have surpassed all established boundaries when it comes to utter hypocrisy, mendacity, irrationality, unspeakable violence and unscrupulousness. Some are Muslims, some are Christians, yet all are driven by hatred and all are bringing shame and infamy to their respective religious faiths. As Americans of all religious preferences (or none whatsoever), we gain nothing and rush pell-mell to bloody extinction by refusing to learn from the barbarous and savage history of sectarian religious violence practiced by Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, and Hindu alike.

No one sect has a monopoly on murderous misanthropy. As this article goes to press, horrifying details are emerging of the tragic mass-murder of young Muslim-American students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Indeed, initial reports about the shooter indicate that even atheists, of course, are capable of the foulest sorts of bigotry and hatred. When we acquiesce to or normalize a situation where entire populations are subject to wholescale denigration, distortion, and demonization, then one can be assured that rivers and rivers of blood will spill.

Education is the quintessential key. I’ve quoted H.G. Wells before, I’ll quote him again right now and I’ll keep on quoting him forever; to wit, “Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe."

At this sorry historical moment of rampant fundamentalist religiosity, racialized xenophobia, and purely irrational bigotry, catastrophe is on a precipitously dangerous winning streak.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. "€œMikey"€ Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the 7-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the "Iran-Contra"€ Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of "With God On Our Side"€ (2006, St. Martin'€™s Press) and "€œNo Snowflake in an Avalanche"€ (2012, Vireo).

"That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time."

(2nd paragraph, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, composed by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, enacted into Virginia law on January 16, 1786)

Image Copyright 2015, Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
All Rights Reserved

“Get this U.S. Army and get it well: The United States armed forces may surely fight and kill "for Country” and our legitimate national security interests. But our troops do NOT fight and kill for ANYONE’S “God” or related supernatural deity. In the preparation of this Op Ed, I exposed a number of senior active duty U.S. military leaders to the photo of this poster, including several active duty chaplains. To a man and woman, they were collectively ALL aghast that it was actually real and being used to lure young Americans into the Army’s special forces.”

C’mon, seriously? That freaking picture just says it ALL.

What an abysmal affront to “National Religious Freedom Day” which is to be celebrated tomorrow, January 16, 2015.

Having headed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) for nearly a decade, we’ve been exposed to all sorts of unholy, unconstitutional cocktails inextricably mixing the intoxicating aroma of fundamentalist religion (almost always a wretched thing called “Dominion Christianity”) with the dense and deep-pocketed foundations of the State. However, even WE at MRFF were hardly prepared for the stunning, unconstitutional disgrace we confirmed from client reports as recently as yesterday.

There it was; an in-your-face, proselytizing, U.S. Army officially-approved (goarmy.com) recruiting poster on prominent display at an Armed Forces Career Center in Phoenix, Arizona. That outrageously ghastly graphic encapsulates precisely that which we’ve been ceaselessly calling the attention of the American people to for all this time. The poster astoundingly displays the shoulder tabs of the U.S. Special Forces (i.e. Green Berets), Rangers and Airborne troopers accompanied by the seethingly sectarian slogan “ON A MISSION FOR BOTH GOD AND COUNTRY.”

(Wait a damn minute. Phoenix? Arizona? Army Special Forces? “Mission For…...God”? My first thoughts were of Pat Tillman.)

Excuse me? “GOD and country?” Ahem, well, just WHOSE “god” might that be, U.S. Army?

Let me fairly go out on a limb here and gamble that it is neither the god of Islam nor the god(s) of Hinduism? No way it’s Buddhist, Sikh, Shinto, Native American Spiritualist or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. I believe it’s a very safe bet to presume that the Army is pretending to refer to the “Judeo-Christian” god, and by THAT worn out and duplicitously deceptive label, of course, I really mean what the Army REALLY means; only the “Christian” god, Jesus. Unfortunately, as the experts will tell you, there are literally multiple tens of thousands of distinctly separate denominations of Christianity in existence. So, once again, the question is begged as to exactly WHICH “God” the U.S. Army Special Forces are boldly, publicly and eagerly recruiting for?

The military chaplaincy’s motto is “Pro Deo et Patria” (Latin, meaning “For God and Country”) but, hey, that’s for noncombatant chaplains. THIS revolting Army recruiting poster is VERY specifically designed for the elite Special Forces universe of Green Berets, Rangers, Delta Force, Airborne etc. These recruiting targets populate the far, far end of the Army universe, indeed light years away, from the recruitment of non-weapons carrying chaplains.

It has consistently been MRFF’s experience through the many years that there is always a greater population of Constitution-breaching, fundamentalist/Dominionist Christians in the special forces of the DoD; Navy SEALs, Air Force PJs, USMC Force Recon and the Army’s designated recruiting targets of this very poster. (Remember the international controversy about those VERY same words being spoken by the Navy SEAL who shot Bin Laden in conjunction with “Geronimo, Geronimo”?)

Even the Pope himself has decried on multiple occasions the reprehensible, medieval idea that one can kill in God’s name – even going so far as to say that the concept, “simply, is blasphemy”.  Yet here we have the most lethal killing machine devised in the history of humankind proudly extolling the virtue of what can only be described as "Holy Wars."

This unconstitutional catastrophe comes at a time, no less, when world leaders as diverse as Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu are marching together, arm in arm, in Paris and uniting behind the values of secular respect, religious tolerance, freedom of the press and all related basic civil rights. However, this incomprehensibly STUPID, and brazenly sectarian poster of American religious dominance at Marine Corps Recruiting Substation Paradise Valley universally destroys any credibility that the United States government is wholly devoted to these very basic democratic and human values.

Get this U.S. Army and get it well: The United States armed forces may surely fight and kill "for Country” and our legitimate national security interests. But our troops do NOT fight and kill for ANYONE’S “God” or related supernatural deity. In the preparation of this Op Ed, I exposed a number of senior active duty U.S. military leaders to the photo of this poster, including several active duty chaplains. To a man and woman, they were collectively ALL aghast that it was actually real and being used to lure young Americans into the Army’s special forces.

In fact, this Poster of Shame lends incredible and irrefutable credence to what MRFF has been insisting from our very inception, which is that there exists a brutal, sectarian, Christian fundamentalist reign exercised within the United States Armed Forces, constituting a de facto Dominionist fifth column. In fact, it’s often so brazen that it’s not even very “fifth columny” anymore. Facts have borne out this assertion, in absolute spades. For example, we’ve seen the distribution of millenarian Left Behind video games to active-duty troops serving in Iraq. We’ve heard the anguished cries of servicemembers forced to attend hokey “Christian Rock” concerts on pain of “lockdown” and other forms of military retribution.  We’ve seen the so-called “Jesus Rifles” which MRFF blew the whistle on, where Trijicon riflescopes were inscribed with specific New Testament Bible references engraved into the metal casings on nearly a million high-powered rifle sights. Oh, and if “Jesus Rifles” isn’t enough of a bafflingly bizarre and contemptible example, there was the “Jesus Loves Nukes” mandatory indoctrination course that was used to train USAF nuclear missile launch officers at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Time and time again, we’ve been forced to go toe-to-toe with the United States Air Force Academy administration over its practically countless, savage offenses against the United States Constitution. Likewise, a recurring battle of ours has been one waged against the persistent usage of “Crusader” symbolism, evoking the brutal Western Christian colonization and merciless subjugation of Muslim nations during the Middle Ages. Our foundation submitted a very comprehensive accompanying document when I testified before the House Armed Services Committee in the United States Congress this past November. Our MRFF testimony unequivocally shows that all of the unconstitutional wickedness above is just a mere taste, indeed only the nuanced tip of a very large and exceedingly precarious iceberg of colossal, national security dangers. 

Does our aggressive fight against fundamentalist Christian extremism, triumphalism and supremacy in our nation’s armed forces, as so vividly displayed in this official Army recruiting poster, infuriate those who promote such bloody rancor and discord? Always and of course. Comes with the territory. You can decide whether it’s worth it because we at MRFF already have decided that it most assuredly IS.

Yet here we find ourselves, ignominiously once again, faced with a disgracefully sectarian message of religious exceptionalism bearing the official U.S. Army stamp of approval. This painfully pathetic poster will no doubt serve, generally, as a red flag of limitless propaganda and, more specifically, as a recruiting bonanza of unbridled proportions for precisely those villains whom the world has united against in Paris, i.e. the Salafi-Jihadists such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian PeninsulaIslamic State, and myriad other backwards fundamentalists. As if immeasurably emboldening our Islamic enemies wasn’t bad enough, this deplorable poster will enrage our Islamic allies and eviscerate our own service members’ unit cohesion, good order, morale, discipline and military readiness.

Long story short, the poster at the Phoenix armed forces recruitment hub is an absolutely abominable slap in the face of everyone who’s ever taken the time to digest, understand, and swear the servicemembers’ sacred oath to protect and defend the United States Constitution, let alone those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the values, rights, and protections contained therein.

And speaking of “ultimate sacrifice,” I wonder what Pat Tillman would have said about that stinking poster of unconstitutional malfeasance in his beloved city and state of Phoenix, Arizona? Somehow, I don’t think he’d agree that he was on a “Mission For God” when he courageously gave his life for his country in combat as a proud member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

Unfortunately, on the other hand, what might another Arizonan do about this; Senator John McCain, the brand new Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee? Don’t hold your breath for him to lift a finger of even tepid protest against this recruiting poster. If anything, he’d likely applaud.

The world trembles in shock over the horrific crimes of murderous, fundamentalist, Islamic religiosity in one part of the globe. What of our own House here in America? Here in the States, we should spare no effort to aggressively investigate and ferociously uproot the vast legions of fundamentalist (Dominionist), Christian extremists who seek to smother our OWN secular, constitutional, American republic in the blood-drenched, theocratic “Crusader” memes of a once dark and distant era.

Sadly today, given our enormous arsenal of WMDs, even darker. And not so “distant” anymore.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.
Michael L. "€œMikey"€ Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the 7-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the "Iran-Contra"€ Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of "With God On Our Side"€ (2006, St. Martin'€™s Press) and "€œNo Snowflake in an Avalanche"€ (2012, Vireo).

The U.S. Senate has courageously just stood up to the Christian-supremacist bullies in the House of Representatives. Oh yes, the Senate has just completely ripped away from their religiously bigoted, House counterparts a would-be treasured bible-thumping bonanza of immeasurable, unconstitutional proselytization.  This erstwhile prize of legislative plunder had been specifically designed by these Congressmen and Congresswomen from the House, in nefarious collaboration with their legions of fundamentalist Christian parachurch allies, to be embedded deep within the confines of the 2015 Pentagon authorization/funding act.

Fortunately, the plan by these Christian crusader Members of the House failed. Please let me briefly explain, my friends.

For nearly a decade we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) have fought night and day against the noxious trespasses of the Religious Right upon the rights of the brave men and women in our United States armed services. It’s been a bruising fight, no doubt, one filled with angry words, violent threats, as well as lies, damned lies, and hideous distortions lifted straight from the era of McCarthyism. Many of the vicious battles MRFF has engaged in have involved commanding officers, senior NCOs and chaplains operating on the assumption that it is their uncontestable and absolute right, if not their divine duty pursuant to The Great Commission (see Mark 16:15 or Matthew 28:19), to relentlessly proselytize the un-churched (or those who aren’t “the right type of Christian) and use their superior military rank as a bully pulpit from which to hammer in the "Good News". As if the unique set of pressures our servicemembers undergo isn’t enough, these fundamentalist Christian monsters have piled insult upon injury, mercilessly forcing their weaponized version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon their helpless military subordinates while hypocritically claiming to do so under the banner of “religious freedom.” However, those of us who’ve been fiercely combating this ongoing war of attrition waged by Christian extremists and triumphalists against the U.S. Constitution have received a truly surprising holiday gift of sorts. 

It turns out that sometimes miracles DO happen, and not just on 34th Street but on Capitol Hill, too.

In what we can only describe as an amazing early holiday present for servicemembers, Constitutional loyalists, and those who value the separation of Church and State, an obscure, but extremely detrimental amendment to the House-passed H.R. 4435 version of the bill “miraculously” disappeared from the final version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (FY2015 NDAA). If the House had its way, next year’s Federal roadmap for America's armed forces would have included the following painfully ugly provision designated as "Section 525” in the Hoped-for House version:
 

“…if called upon to lead a prayer outside of a religious service, a military chaplain may close the prayer according to the traditions, expressions and religious exercises of the endorsing faith group.”

One needn’t rack one’s brains to read between the lines and see where such a course may lead. For those of you imagining a chaplain shouting “Takbir!” with Quran in hand followed by nervous soldiers chanting “Allah Akbar,” think again. No doubt about it, Section 525 would have amounted to a precious, blank check for every wannabe missionary comprising the sectarian Dominionist/fundamentalist Christian fifth column in the U.S. military. Hordes of these religious predators unfortunately can be found lurking throughout the ranks of the military chaplaincy. In fact, it’s an open secret that the military chaplaincy hardly matches the diverse cross-section of faith (and non-faith) groups represented in our armed forces. Instead the chaplaincy has been transformed largely into a clearing-house for evangelizing zealous zombies. For these chaplains, the military isn’t a place for Constitutionally mandated pluralism, religious respect and mutual tolerance. On the contrary, these missionizing maniacs see their government-paid chaplaincies as an inexhaustibly fruitful proselytizing venue and unlimited, open season “mission field”. Thus, a chaplain would be permitted to end all MANDATORY military gatherings with such standard patriarchal, monotheistic benedictions as “Thank you Father God for your blessings upon us in Jesus’ name, amen.” Or any other seething sectarian permutations of the same such as “I pray that our troops assembled here today come to understand that they must utterly surrender themselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ before they die or ELSE.” Cue the “burning in hell for all eternity” music.

As I have said many times in many places for many years, in the U.S. armed forces you may have mandatory formations and you may have religious formations but you CANNOT have mandatory, religious formations.

Luckily for us, the United States Senate took the side of the U.S. Constitution, its construing Federal and state case law in conjunction with DoD directives, instructions and regulations. Further, the Senate obviously and carefully considered U.S. national security as well as the compelling governmental interest in optimizing the unit cohesion, mission readiness, good order, morale, and discipline of our valued armed forces members. 

In the end, it turned out that not only could the Lame Duck Senate fly, but upon taking wing it was able – just barely – to avoid the evangelical, fundamentalist Christian buckshot being fired in its direction. 

And for that proud and rare occasion, we should all be truly thankful.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. "€œMikey"€ Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the 7-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the "Iran-Contra"€ Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of "With God On Our Side"€ (2006, St. Martin'€™s Press) and "€œNo Snowflake in an Avalanche"€ (2012, Vireo).

I’ve never thought of myself as much of a performer, but this week I responded to an invitation to take part in a circus. While the clowns did their routine in formal business attire and the "big top" was an imposing construction of marble, granite, concrete, and steel, I can still only describe the spectacle I participated in as a circus... a sad and pitiful circus, controlled and manipulated by fundamentalist Christian monsters, which calls itself the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee in the United States Congress.

Let me explain.

As the President and Founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), for nearly eleven years I’ve devoted my life to fortifying the once sturdy (now rapidly disintegrating) wall separating church and state in the U.S. armed forces. As such, I’ve been privy to the ordeals of nearly 40,000 servicemember victims (about 96% of them Christians themselves) of unconstitutional religious tyranny and oppression: the hazing, bullying, and proselytizing, the mandatory sectarian Christian prayer services, the subtly (and not-so-subtly) embedded religious references in training material, the massive imbalance and evangelical overrepresentation in the denominational breakdown of the chaplaincy, et al. While we at MRFF have spared no effort trying to rally the American people around the noble cause of safeguarding the religious liberty rights of the servicemembers who defend our nation, we’ve faced bitter opposition from the entrenched, extremist Christian Religious Right. Indeed, far, far more than merely just a few elected officials have ceaselessly covered the flanks of those bestial Christian fundamentalist forces that are actively commandeering our U.S. military.

Thus, it was with cautious enthusiasm and guarded optimism that I accepted a formal invitation from the House Armed Services Committee to testify live before a Congressional hearing on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 (rescheduled from an original date in September).

"Finally!" I thought. "Perhaps I may be able to shine a heretofore-unseen light on this seething national security crisis of divisive religiosity and sectarian proselytizing that’s tearing asunder military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, morale and discipline within the ranks of the armed forces." Yes, I’m well aware of the dismally derelict culture of Christian Talibanesque "lawmakers" such as Congressmen John Fleming (R-LA), Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Walter Jones (R-NC), to name just a few, in regards to Constitutional, church-state separation matters of dire import. Nonetheless, I was trying mightily to remain somewhat hopeful as I headed into the largest hearing room of the Rayburn House Office Building, not realizing the abhorrent faux-legislative mummery that was in store not only for me, but also for every American who cherishes their freedom of (or from) religion. The seating gallery was standing room only and the press bay was flush with electronic and print reporters and journalists abuzz with expectations of what might transpire. 

In my introduction, I was blunt. I noted the abject fecklessness and Christian supremacy and exceptionalism of the present regime of religious oppression in the armed forces. I highlighted the one, and only one, U.S. Supreme Court case, Parker vs. Levy, which is directly dispositive of the spectrum of Constitutional legalities being questioned at the hearing and my trademark phrase "tsunami of confusion" resonated in the headlines of both Military.com and The Christian Post’s coverage of the hearing. That phrase isn’t hyperbole. As I stated to the assembled Congressional representatives, the supposed ‘confusion’ of the legions of fundamentalist Christian predators in our military’s chains of command is wickedly willful, purposeful and quite intentional. Indeed, it is the product of a carefully cultivated pretense of a plea of feigned ignorance disingenuously designed to circumvent long-standing Department of Defense directives, instructions, and regulations. However, one doesn’t need to be a lawyer to understand that ignorance, especially "pretend" ignorance, is no defense.

Rather than concerning themselves with the voluminous data, servicemember testimonials, and compelling Constitutional arguments that I provided, what I was treated to instead was patently ridiculous and transparent McCarthy-esque questioning by Rep. Randy Forbes about whether public statements I made on the record were, in fact, made by me.  In the deliberately delimited amount of time that I was provided, I proudly acknowledged that I did in fact make these statements, and also decried his absurdly immaterial line of questioning. Prior to fielding Forbes’ idiotic queries, Rep. Walter Jones asked me for a one word answer of either "fair or unfair’ to yet another interrogatory of inept ignorance prefaced on the stupefyingly bizarre statement that "the end of the world” is a possible result of the upholding of Constitutional protections from undue sectarian proselytizing. As Jones tried to talk over me (he failed), I forcefully reminded him and his fellow Christian triumphalist outlaws sitting in front of, next to and behind me in the enormous and elaborate hearing chamber that, in the United States military, there can be both mandatory formations and religious formations but NOT "mandatory religious formations." After getting my answer, Jones shot up out of his chair and abruptly departed, seemingly in a fit of spite and huff prior to the called recess by Chairman Joe Wilson (R-SC).

However, when it was the turn of the representatives of the evangelical, fundamentalist Christian organizations to speak, the tone from the assembled subcommittee quickly became stunningly deferential, if not nauseatingly fawning. By the end of the hearing it became exceedingly clear that the entire spectacle was inconsequential, and the lawmakers' heads remained firmly lodged deep in the sands of injustice and unconstitutional infamy (if not likewise lodged in some dark crevice of their respective anatomies).

Yes, I took part in a circus. The impresarios of this revolting and shameful spectacle were having a joke at America’s expense, sure, but I find it hard to believe that anyone was laughing. I also can’t think of a clearer sign that the wall separating church and state in America’s armed forces has long since collapsed into a pile of dust and rubble. Lady Liberty is weeping inconsolably over the pitiful and dangerous state of religious affairs in the U.S. military. 

However, it’s not too late to rebuild the wall barring unlawful religious extremism in our armed forces. The only caveat? It won’t be easy. Defeating monsters of this magnitude of influence never is a walk in the park.

Nor is it, my friends, a day at the circus.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.
Michael L. "€œMikey"€ Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the 7-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the "Iran-Contra"€ Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of "With God On Our Side"€ (2006, St. Martin'€™s Press) and "€œNo Snowflake in an Avalanche"€ (2012, Vireo).

Asinine anti-Semitic comments aside – the man has on numerous occasions voiced openly racist, bigoted sentiments – the record clearly shows that Robertson has no right to speak of toughness in the armed forces.

Indeed, voluminous allegations corroborate a scenario showing that Robertson deserves an honorary medal for being a Class A Coward of the highest rank...

Pat Robertson doesn’t seem to like me very much. Normally, none of us with more brains than a toothbrush should give a damn as to why that’s the case, but times are hardly normal these days. Therefore it does matter, so please let me fill you in. First, a little backstory here:

One would think that as Americans, most of us can agree on certain core foundational values that have made our nation great; freedom of speech and the freedom to worship (or not) as we see fit stand out as two shining examples. However, the enjoyment of these freedoms means that we must also witness the heinous words and deeds of those who don Ku Klux Klan hoods, wear swastika armbands, and call for modern-day inquisitions against perceived “enemies of the faith.” Indeed, some have amassed fortunes and built veritable “evil empires” by peddling twisted, violent ideologies like fundamentalist Christianity, to cite one example. Foremost among these evil opportunists and parasitic jackasses is the Reverend Pat Robertson.

Robertson recently flew off the handle when the U.S. Air Force (USAF) was forced to make the Constitutionally correct decision to end the mandatory requirement that USAF airmen recite “So Help Me God” in their official reenlistment and commissioning oaths. This blatantly unconstitutional religious test came to the world’s attention after an airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada learned that unless he performed the sectarian oath, his days as an airman would be through. Shamefully reprehensible, isn’t it?
Eventually, the Air Force and the Pentagon “saw the light” of Constitutional fidelity, with no small amount of pressure from organizations like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF, the organization I head), the American Humanist Association, and other valiant allies. It was, after all, a no-brainer from a legal perspective. As I said in my last Op-Ed, “The case law is so universally settled in this precise area that even actors who play lawyers on TV or in the movies could win this one in court. 

Well, no sooner was the law upheld before the bitter juice from sour grapes began flowing in rivers from the pulpits of arch-hypocrites like Robertson and his wretched ilk, who condemned the decision as “crazy.” Continuing, Robertson took specific aim at yours truly, stating:

“There’s a left-wing radical named Mikey Weinstein, who has got a group about people against religion or whatever he calls it, and he has just terrorized the armed forces… You think you’re supposed to be tough, you’re supposed to defend us, and you got one little Jewish radical who is scaring the pants off of you… You want these guys flying the airplanes to defend us when you got one little guy terrorizing them? ... That’s what it amounts to. … How can [USAF] fly the bombers to defend us if they cave to one little guy?”

“Little Jewish radical,” eh? Got anti-Semitism, Pat? Perhaps Robertson forgets that he apparently claims to worship another "little Jewish radical” who is said to have “terrorized” the authorities of his day? Anyway, his asinine anti-Semitic comments aside – the man has on numerous occasions voiced openly racist, bigoted sentiments – the record clearly shows that Robertson has no right to speak of toughness in the armed forces.
Indeed, voluminous allegations corroborate a scenario showing that Robertson deserves an honorary medal for being a Class A Coward of the highest rank. This vile specimen is to human dignity and sanity and integrity and character what dog shit is on the menu of a fine French restaurant.

Let me explain. In his 1972 autobiography, Shout it From the Housetops, Robertson boasted about his outstanding service as a “Marine combat officer in Korea.” The only problem with the claim is that many of his former comrades allege that never once did he ever see battle. Robertson filed a libel suit against McCloskey, only to be unceremoniously dropped later on. Contradicting Robertson’s claims, war hero and former seven-term Congressman Paul “Pete” McCloskey alleged that the “Marine combat officer” may have used his privileged family ties as the son of a Virginia Senator to pull the strings and skirt his combat duties. Apparently, the order from General Lemuel Shepherd was to "Take good care of him; his Daddy is Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Appropriations Committee." 

Therefore, the future televangelist (and saber-rattling warmonger) was reassigned from combat duty to the far less heroic undertaking of keeping the barracks watering hole stocked with liquor. As numerous fellow marines claimed, throughout the Korean War the “Marine combat officer” was known as the Masan Liquor Officer. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a ‘liquor officer.’ However, speaking as a former Air Force officer and Air Force Academy honor graduate, whose two sons, daughter-in-law, and son-in-law are all, likewise, Air Force Academy graduates as well as either current or former proud members of the U.S. Air Force, I am positively pissed that such a putrid example of cowardly cretinism in the ignoble person of Pat Robertson would have the gall to question the bravery of our USAF airmen. Every American, every service member, should know well to ignore the attention-hungry ravings of this false prophet and posturing poseur of the first order.

But don’t take it from me; take it from the late Corporal U.S.M.C. Leo T. Cronin, who participated in the first-wave amphibious assault by Marines who fought tooth and nail in the Battle of Inchon, Korea. Commenting in a Letter to the Editor penned amidst Robertson’s failed Presidential run in 1988, Cronin didn’t mince any words:

There is a person who calls himself a combat Marine. He is not. His name is Pat Robertson. I saw him often in the division headquarters where he was clean-shaven and clothed and showered. He was in charge of making sure that the officers' booze ration was handed out and re-supplied. He was a lieutenant. He was in my battalion. The line company marines I saw smelled badly, looked poorly. For months at a time they were cold, eating C-rations. Trying to stay warm and dry was a constant battle. These line-company men were the combat Marines of the First Marine Division. Neither Pat Robertson nor I could carry their gear. He is trying to get elected by standing on those frozen bodies I saw, by putting himself in the company of those seven Marines who repulsed the enemy. Imagine a person who aspires to be President being so loose with the truth, so lacking in grace and so dishonorable. He says God talks to him. I'd like to hear what God says to him about this.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org. Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

This guest post is a slightly altered version of an e-mail that was sent to several specific Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) clients by my fantastic Special Assistant and Director of West Point Affairs, Blake Page. The original intention was not to publish it, but after reading this amazing message I knew that it had to be shared (albeit in a form meant for a broader audience, with sensitive personal details removed to protect anonymity). Fortunately for our intense civil rights mission, Blake has been on board with MRFF for the better part of two years as of today. In that time he has repeatedly proven himself to be an incredibly resourceful, responsible, and strong-willed fighter for MRFF who has made numerous sacrifices for this vital cause, sparing no effort to perform the needed tasks I've asked of him, even while fighting his own personal battles. Please note that the opinions expressed below are the personal views of Blake, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of MRFF.

- Mikey

Ladies and Gents,

I'd like to expound a bit on the topics of civic duty, patriotism, and courage. Each of those venerable qualities exists on a spectrum. Someone can claim to have fulfilled their civic duties by voting every now and then and paying taxes, while another exercises their civic duties by thrusting themselves into the fray of politics head-first. Someone can show their patriotism with a bumper sticker, while others show it by defending the constitution with their actions. Many people claim to be courageous for doing difficult things with the full support of those around them and our culture at large, while others show courage by doing what they know in their heart and mind is right without consideration of what might be thought of, said of, or done to them. Of course, most people find themselves at the center of a normal distribution in each of those spectra. What would a hero be if everyone could be brave?

We frequently hear from our clients that they cannot have their names known by their chain of command for fear of retribution. Mikey will assure each of you that he will gladly find himself in prison before violating your confidentiality (and I would gladly follow). Here is where he and I disagree though: I do not believe that fear of retribution is a reason to remain silent. From where I sit, it's the only reason to speak up and be counted. If you are afraid your chain of command will punish you for rejecting theocracy, ask yourself what the punishment will be? Will they slow your career progression, give you an undesirable assignment, or publicly chastise you? Or are you afraid of what your peers will do? Perhaps they will sabotage your work or vandalize your property. If these people are so bold today, imagine how much bolder they will grow if things continue unimpeded. By soliciting our help from a safe distance you are moving in the right direction, but that move will be meaningless if you fail to follow through when needed. Inaction, in this case, is not a neutral position. Inaction in an environment that is hostile to the rights of non-Christians is an endorsement of Christian Supremacy.

Several years ago it was said that we should only fear fear itself. I'm not playing devil's advocate when I say I disagree. If you show me someone who is afraid of fear, you show me someone who is afraid to step outside of their comfort zone. You show me someone who is afraid of fear and you show me someone willing to go prone and be trampled. You show me someone who is afraid of fear and you show me a human being unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps to fight for their rights and more importantly the rights of those that will follow them because it's just too hard. Ladies and gentlemen, history is not written by historians, it is written by you and me in every decision we make, every day of our lives. Will you let history show that our generation was the pusillanimous mat that allowed a regression into theocracy, or will you show the courage to defend your children and your country?

So what will it take for you to stand up? Will it be the day that you are told by your command that Jesus is the solution to your battles with addiction? Will you be content to have your military sponsor the evangelism of one religion above all others? Neither of those things cause you any real harm, but here is what they actually do: they empower Dominionists. They show Christian Supremacists that YES America is a Christian Nation! Look anywhere and you can see our government supports the spread of Christianity! Of course we should consult the Bible before passing a bill into law. Of course it's okay to berate a non-Christian subordinate! It shows them that we've lost, they've won, and our country has been conquered under the sign of the cross.  It shows leaders in our military and government that it is absolutely acceptable to disregard any non-Christian perspective because non-Christians don't defend themselves often enough. It shows them that today it is satisfactory to have our compatriots discharged from the military for refusing to recognize someone else's god and that tomorrow our marching orders might be convert or kill.

We are not so far removed from our past that a theocratic United States is an unfeasible future. The Constitution is just a set of ideas (poorly enforced and often disregarded) with no authority whatsoever if nobody stands to defend it. At the outset of this country, Americans committed a genocide against the Native American population. The United States supported slavery. It denied women suffrage. It put Japanese Americans in internment camps. There is one thing that each of these events have in common. Each of them was legal under the laws of our government. If those things typify what is possible under our Constitution, I have to ask if you feel that our future is secure. Each year, millions of dollars are spent in campaigns with millions of supporters to push this country towards theocracy. How far will it have to go to push you over the edge into action? Fortunately, for the time being, we are relatively safe. I've spoken out more times than I can count and haven't had the slightest physical injury from it. I've been degraded and disrespected, lost friends, and been threatened, sure, but how much longer will that be the only cost of stepping up? It might seem like the smallest thing in the world right now, but if nobody stands up, everyone is run over together. I'm encouraging you to exercise your civic duties, demonstrate your patriotism, and prove your courage.

By asking you to follow through on seeing these issues resolved, I'm not asking you to do anything you haven't already sworn an oath to do. I'm certainly not asking you to do anything I haven't done a dozen times myself and wouldn't do a thousand times again if given the opportunity. I'm asking you to use the system of redress already in place to see these issues resolved. If you need assistance in filing an EO or IG complaint, I'm more than willing to walk with you into that office as I've done before alone and with other MRFF clients. We can't fight this in the courts until you dig deep and decide you care more about the liberty of your posterity than your temporary comfort. Feel free to give me a call or e-mail me at any time. Contact info is below.

Sincerely,

Blake A. Page
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Special Assistant to the President
Director of West Point Affairs

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

Let's perform a quick exercise here. Imagine that you're just walking into work on a Monday morning and your manager wants to talk to you. Thanking you for the fine work you've been doing up until this point, your manager informs you that your reliability is in question – along with your continued success, and very future, at the company. In fact, you learn, management suspects that you're a vain, wishy-washy, and rather empty-headed member of the team who's undeserving of trust. Bewildered at the sudden questioning of your integrity, your boss tells you that you can turn it all around, regain trust, and continue your workday after placing your hand on a leather-bound religious book and stating a simple oath along the lines of "There is no god but Allah," or "I Accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior."

Surely this nightmare is the product of some far-flung, back-water and oppressed land, right? ISIS territory, perhaps? That could never happen in the United States, the beacon of religious freedom and human rights. . . or could it?

Regrettably, this truly horrific scenario is indeed the case within the United States Air Force (USAF). Just the other day, the USAF public affairs office at the Pentagon informed the world that "Reciting 'So help me God' in its official reenlistment and commissioning oaths is a statutory requirement under 10 U.S.C. §502". In short, you had better repent and swear your oath to "God" or be gone. Interestingly, that just cited U.S. Code provision (which the Air Force is pathetically using to support its "sorry, our hands are tied" position of abject cowardice here) also makes it clear that armed forces members may "affirm", in lieu of swearing, this enlistment or commissioning oath. When one "affirms" such an oath of office, there is NO need to "swear" to "God" to do so. Such is the very distinction between "swearing and affirming." 10 U.S.C. §502 allows either to be done by the enlisting or commissioning Air Force member. The USAF's transparent duplicity and specious motivations for basing its new decision to force service members to swear to God are dangerous, disingenuous and despicable.

One airman based at Creech Air Force base in Nevada learned about this renewed religious requirement the hard way. He was informed that unless he speaks and signs the religious oath, his days as an airman are through. "So help me God" isn't optional anymore. It is now a basic condition of Air Force enlistment.

The oft-repeated and much vaunted core values of the U.S. Air Force are, ostensibly: (1) Integrity First; (2) Service Before Self; and, (3) Excellence in All We Do. One must ask – when airmen are asked to take an oath that's unambiguously untrue from their own perspective of personal belief, where's the "integrity"? Why should service members, who've already made the weighty decision to place their well-being, freedom, and safety on the line, also be coerced into religious submission and humiliation via the forced repetition of religious oaths that egregiously contradict their own core beliefs as individuals? Perhaps, for the sake of verity and consistency, the first core value of USAF should be altered to "Integrity Last."

Under such a tyrannical regime of theological oppression, even selfless heroes such as the late U.S. Army Corporal Pat Tillman, whose atheism was well know, would be deemed unfit for service in our nation's armed forces. Is the lunacy of this USAF stupidity really that hard to see? Will the USAF actually have to be dragged into federal court before it acknowledges its disgusting position of religious extremism here?

Whatever the USAF core values might be, such reprehensible examples of blatant religious coercion fly in the face of the Constitution of the United States of America and an enormous amount of related Constitutional case law stretching back at least 125 years. Indeed, the bulk of the First Amendment is devoted to our guaranteed freedom of religion (or freedom therefrom, if one so chooses). There is the Establishment Clause, which explicitly prohibits compulsory religious oaths, and then there is the Free Exercise Clause, which prevents a person from having to submit to coerced practices and affirmations of a scathingly sectarian nature. Let us neither forget the "No Religious Test" mandate of Clause 3, Article VI of the Constitution which, by itself, would be wholly dispositive here of the USAF's vile iniquity. Indeed, the issue of religious oaths has long been settled via bedrock legal precedents fortifying Constitutional equal protection which formidably underscores the already unequivocal guarantees laid out in our Constitution.

The case law is so universally settled in this precise area that even actors who play lawyers on TV or in the movies could win this one in court.

Of course, for some, that pesky document serving so ably as the inalienable foundation of the Law of the Land throughout the United States, merely comprises an obnoxious obstacle that stands in the way of the sectarian agendas of fundamentalist Christian exceptionalism and supremacy. This disingenuous evangelical, fundamentalist Fifth Column loves to hide behind phrases like "family," "Judeo-Christian," "values" and "tradition" to disguise their ignoble goal, which remains the absolute theological takeover of the Pentagon, White House, and Capitol Hill.

The civil rights foundation that I lead, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), has fought tooth-and-nail against these and similar manifestations of the theocratic, Christo-fascist tsunami within the U.S. Military. Over 38,200 service members, civilian personnel, and armed service veterans have reached out to us for help with grievances running the gamut from disrespectful spiritual denigration and marginalization to what can only be described as outright religious and/or spiritual rape. In fact, last year we refuted the lie that "So Help Me God" is some sacred legacy of the George Washington-era Officer's Oath, and our civil rights struggle successfully led the Air Force to state that the oath would be optional. Tragically, now the USAF has reversed its prior decision and reinstated the unconstitutional, mandatory oath.

"Freedom isn't free," or so we hear, and this maxim certainly is the case within the service branches of the U.S. Military. However, why should our brave service members be asked to sacrifice and destroy their pride, integrity, honor and character and waive their basic Constitutional freedom to choose their god or not?  Mandating that re-enlistment oaths must include "So Help Me God" merely institutionalizes religious exclusivism and brutally imposes severely deleterious repercussions on airman morale, good order, unit cohesion and discipline. Further it erects a de facto "Constitution-Free Zone" within the Air Force that nefariously nullifies the Constitution's First Amendment and Article VI. Less importantly, it also directly contradicts the prohibition of oaths mentioned in the New Testament. In Matthew 5:33-37, which is an important part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, it clearly states: "Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne. But let your communication be, Yea, Nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

I guess the Air Force would have rejected Jesus as well?

The United States Navy is equipped to take down any enemy around the globe and is, by far, the most formidable seaborne fighting force known in the history of humankind. It’s larger than the next 13 navies of other countries combined, and no credible military threat exists on the planet that’s capable of realistically surmounting the massive killing capacity of the American fleet. Why, then, does such a feared force slink away in abject cowardice when it comes to upholding the U.S. Uniformed Services sworn Constitutional oath which all officers and NCOs are bound to solemnly affirm? Aren’t all armed forces personnel bound by the once-sacrosanct commitment to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic? 

Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case. This truly pathetic state of affairs was illustrated just late yesterday (August 14, 2014) by the abrupt and exceedingly wretched capitulation by the U.S. Navy to the shadowy forces of domestic religious extremism. Indeed, the powerful Christian fundamentalist lobby has successfully fought to make Gideons Bibles a permanent, proselytizing fixture in the global network of U.S. Navy-administered, federally funded, military installation lodging facilities or hotels.

The drama played out earlier this week when a critically important directive from senior Navy leadership was initially made public. This new Navy order, announced by Naval Exchange Service Commander (NEXCOM) Rear Admiral Robert J. Bianchi, stipulated that Gideons Bibles would no longer be allowed in the rooms of the 34 Naval Lodges and 24,000 rooms at Navy Gateway Inns and Suites located throughout the entirety of the United States Navy. The removal came after a complaint was submitted by our allies at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) – NOT to be confused with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the civil rights organization that I lead. 

However, almost immediately after Admiral Bianchi’s Constitutionally laudable directive had been announced, the all too predictable and abominable refrain of a faux “war on Christianity” rang fully throughout the Dominionist Christian echo chamber. Quite expectedly, once the Navy’s senior leadership caught wind of the disingenuous cry that “Lord Jesus had a hard time getting a room at the inn, and now, His Holy Word will no longer be welcome either,” they "turned about” 180 degrees and took off like terrified terriers with their tails between their scrambling legs. The Navy suddenly reversed its merely 3-day-old prior decision and is now “temporarily” placing the Bibles back in the lodges while it takes a breather to figure out what the final "new policy" going forward will be. Uh huh. Yeah, let’s just call it what it is: C-O-W-A-R-D-I-C-E!

Sure, the re-placement of the Gideons Bibles is “temporary.” If you believe that, then I’ve got a beach bungalow in Mosul, Iraq to sell you.

As the frontline civil rights force ensuring Constitutional compliance within the byzantine, insular and xenophobic culture of the U.S. Military, MRFF has been fighting for the removal of the Gideons Bibles from all service branches' installation Lodges for the better part of the last decade. In 2012 MRFF succeeded in forcing the DoD to remove official U.S. Military emblems from the Holman Military Bibles being sold in military base exchanges worldwide. MRFF knows all too well the ultra-tribal, adversarial, communal and ritualistic nature of our nation’s military “ethnicity.” We’ve received literally hundreds of these specific complaints from MRFF clients every year about the unsolicited planting of these Gideons Bibles. MRFF's years of aggressive advocacy to remove these Gideons Bibles from armed forces base lodges likely aided nontrivially in the passage of the initial directive, which followed the formal complaint courageously submitted by the FRFF. Considering the foregoing, you can appreciate the absurd headline of one fundamentalist Christian article regarding the issue: “Mikey Weinstein Strikes Again!”

Of course, our problem isn’t with the New Testament Bible or any other revered text of faith or of even no faith. Indeed, our problem is with the purposeful and brutal destruction of the Constitutionally-mandated wall separating church and state in the technologically most lethal organization ever created; the United States armed forces. There should be absolutely no confusion between the right to freely exercise one’s religious faith and the right of powerful sectarian interest groups like the pernicious Family Research Council and the American Family Association (both officially designated as hate groups by the venerable Southern Poverty Law Center) to lobby for the official establishment of a "national religion”… and you guessed it right, that national religion would be fundamentalist (or dominionist) evangelical Christianity.

It is just incontestable that there exists an obvious, insuperable proselytizing advantage afforded this vicious and twisted perversion of an otherwise most noble faith by the omnipresence of the Gideons Bibles at TAXPAYER-FUNDED Navy Lodges. This illicit bonanza for fundamentalist Christianity is a literally crystal clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which is precisely why the original Naval directive to remove the Gideons Bibles was absolutely correct as a matter of law. MRFF, along with our client base of tens of thousands of United States military members and veterans, would have been similarly incensed if, rather than Gideons Bibles, the Navy-run lodges carried the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavad Gita, the Hebrew Scriptures, Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion, or similar material of an exclusivist religious, atheistic, or sectarian nature.

Additionally, by ONLY making available Gideons Bibles, the U.S. Navy was also brazenly violating two bedrock DoD regularity directives which (1) strictly prohibit the provision of a selective benefit to and/or (2) endorsing a non-Federal Entity, like Gideons International, which is singularly devoted to evangelizing the New Testament. This concept is simple. For example, DoD cannot endorse Burger King over McDonalds or Crest over Colgate. There is, however, no separation between "hamburger and state" nor "toothpaste and state" in our Constitution.

That said, how in the hell could DoD endorse one fundamentalist version of extremist Christianity over all other Christian denominational sects, not to mention non-Christian and non-faith communities? Easy answer; DoD cannot do such a thing. Yet it just did, and has been doing so for decades now!

Unfortunately, we’ve grown used to the weapons-grade Constitutional cowardice displayed by the Pentagon. DoD always ignobly runs for cover at light speed when Christian extremist “Chicken Littles” squawk about the “falling skies” of so-called religious repression due to alleged “Christian victimization". Listen up now; there IS no Christian victimization. There is only "Christian equalization”. Now, previously (unconstitutionally) privileged Christian fundamentalists have to share their toys with everyone else. And they sure don’t like it, do they? The usual rogues’ gallery of theocratic, fundamentalist Christian parachurch monstrosities, along with their bootlicker Congressional lapdogs, has a direct and unfettered line to the Pentagon. They possess an unmatched ability to frighten and cow the top DoD brass into a compliant, pathetically supine state of “Stepford Wife” blind obedience. Damn the torpedoes and Constitution, full proselytizing speed ahead!

This horrifying national security threat begs the question: what are Americans prepared to do about the surging evangelical fundamentalist Christian coup which threatens to subsume the United States military?

I will suggest this for an answer; fight back against these Christian fundamentalist terrorists with every fiber of our collective beings and to the full limits of our legal, ethical and moral ability to do so...as if our very lives depended upon it. 

Because they do.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of “With God On Our Side”(2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a civil rights organization founded in 2005 to combat unconstitutional proselytizing in the U.S. Armed Forces, I don’t shock easily. However, a recent, truly SHOCKING allegation and charge by the American Family Association’s "Director of Issues Analysis" Bryan Fischer has parachuted well beyond the realm of error, landing roughly along the porous frontier separating blithering idiocy from criminal insanity. This fundamentalist Christian monster is a liar and I will prove it.

Recently, devastating reports dating back to 2010 have shown that athletes at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) have participated in wild benders off campus involving binge drinking, drug use, sexual assaults, gang rapes and all manners of debauchery unbecoming of Academy cadets (indeed, unbecoming of human beings). Investigations at USAFA (which is my alma mater and the alma mater of four of my children) implicated 32 cadets, half of whom were football players and three of whom were later court-martialed and expelled. This news comes after the Academy was humiliated by a report released in January 2014 which showed that a massive 45 reports of sexual assaults came from USAFA in 2012-2013, compared to 15 at the U.S. Naval Academy and 10 at West Point.

Many of us can see that the problem is rooted in a breakdown in good order, morale, unit cohesion and discipline among the ranks of cadets, as well as a USAFA campus culture long permeated in blistering misogyny and poisonous religious fundamentalism. Bryan Fischer proposes a different "theory": the fault lies with yours truly, Mikey Weinstein.
In a recent article posted on Renew America, a so-called "grassroots" website founded by perennial electoral loser and Christian supremacist Alan Keyes, Fischer made the appallingly spurious claim that my constitutional advocacy is directly at fault for the oath-shattering epidemic of wild partying and sexual assault at the Academy.

Why is that?

Back in 2004, before MRFF even existed, ex-USAFA Football Coach Fisher DeBerry gleefully hung a banner in the locker room of USAFA’s football team, the Fighting Falcons. The banner bore a "motivational slogan" of a clearly sectarian nature, reading "I am a Christian first and last… I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." Seriously, folks, I can’t make this up.

Cadets, staff and faculty at USAFA were livid, and for good reason. For many, this represented the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back at a USAFA campus that had earned a deservedly deplorable reputation for being a hotbed of Christian fundamentalist dominance and fanatical religious bigotry. One year later, while we may have well made obvious note of DeBerry’s nefarious action of Christian crusading at taxpayer expense, it would have been merely one among many religious assaults on the USAFA campus, clearly denoted in a lawsuit we filed against the United States Air Force.

Fast-forward nearly a decade, and not only has the reprehensible Christian supremacy persisted at the Academy, but we at MRFF are dealing with a constant stream of death threats and related grotesquely lurid messages, imprecatory prayers, and spurious allegations emanating from brimstone-tinged, rabid hatemongers. Bryan Fischer’s words fall deeply and quite deliberately into this category:

When the light of the world is removed, the world — including the locker rooms of football teams — is plunged into moral and spiritual darkness.

Bottom line: there is a solution to the Air Force Academy’s problems. Remove the cause — Mikey Weinstein and his atheistic trouble-making — and find another coach like Fisher DeBerry and turn him loose to bring the spirit of Christ back to the Academy.

I can flat out guarantee you that rapes will diminish, drug use will diminish, and cheating on tests will diminish. And the Academy will regain some of its lost luster. Your move, Air Force.

What is this idiot Fischer saying here? Well, besides the dog-whistle call for my "removal," what we have is a claim that the glorious "Bryan Fischer-DeBerry Christian gospel" should be compulsorily forced on USAFA cadets. Otherwise, we can expect cadets to continue to rape, pillage, abuse drugs, and cheat on tests (and, according to Bryan Fischer, you can thank ME for it). These grossly base and vile lies from Bryan Fischer are akin to the claim that without racist white folks serving as a moral compass for people of color they won’t survive, or without heterosexuals leading gays, the LGBT community faces certain doom. Whether Fischer agrees with THOSE sentiments is a matter of speculation, but we wouldn’t be surprised if that turned out to be the case.

Let’s talk about timeline, shall we? I might add, at this point, that it is most critical to recall the initial USAFA rape and sexual assault scandal hit the national and international media like a cyclone and went viral way back in 2003, when the world learned that a mind-blowing 70% of female cadets reported sexual harassment and 12% were victims of rape. This was a YEAR BEFORE I began my active fight against the fundamentalist Christian tyranny at USAFA and essentially TWO years before MRFF was even founded. USAFA’s fundamentalist football coach, Mr. DeBerry, ignobly hung around for another FOUR years after that initial rape and sexual assault scandal! How do ANY of these actual, verifiable facts support the reckless lies and accusations of Bryan Fischer that I’m somehow to blame for USAFA’s ongoing rape and sexual assault disgrace?

This is far from the first time that Fischer has uttered such odious falsehoods and nonsense – it’s not without reason that his organization, the American Family Association, is listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s index of domestic hate groups alongside the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi organizations. Fischer has described gay sex as "domestic terrorism," he has bandied about the foul trope that homosexuality and pedophilia are directly linked, and he’s called for kidnapping the children of same-sex parents through an "Underground Railroad." Want more? Ok, in addition to calling for the removal of ALL American Muslims from the U.S. Armed Forces, last year Fischer ludicrously claimed that the U.S. military is preparing to wage war on evangelical Christians, who "may have to be neutralized by lethal force."

Fischer’s words may be outrageous, dangerous, and laced with reckless disregard of any veracity, but he is far from alone in his putrid Christian extremism – and many of his ilk enjoy privileged positions throughout the U.S. military, including at USAFA. In fact, central to the dominionist Christian strategy to affect a complete takeover of the U.S. Military has been the frenetic fundamentalism at USAFA. Our client base at USAFA alone currently consists of 387 cadet, faculty and staff MRFF clients, 312 of whom are practicing Protestants or Roman Catholics. As a result of MRFF’s steadfast efforts of civil rights activism, the USAFA campus has been the site of a raging battle between the forces of secular, Constitutional democracy and superstitious, theocratic Christian fundamentalist extremism.

We at MRFF are proud to have won many significant constitutional victories at USAFA and throughout the entirety of the Department of Defense (DoD). It seems that Bryan Fischer is not a fan of MRFF's ceaseless advocacy. His liar’s voice is one among many in a twisted choir of fear and visceral loathing summoned by our defense of the civil rights of our brave war-fighters, cadets, faculty, veterans, and DoD civilian personnel. More than a decade of experience in our bitter struggle against fundamentalist Christian fanatics and bullies in our nation’s armed forces has taught us all too well that the degree of our success can be measured by the preposterously false, over-the-top attacks publicly launched against us.

Let the record show that fundamentalist Christian monster Bryan Fischer is a liar, and I have now proven it.

 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

In times of grave and unprecedented national security crises, the United States Armed Forces demands strong, unyielding, and effective leadership. Nowhere is this more apparent than within the headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where sterling leadership qualities and impeccable strength of character are the foremost job requirements. Unfortunately, the United States Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III embodies a different principle altogether, namely an unwise ‘laissez-faire’ leadership approach that can be accurately summed up as follows: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” In more pedestrian terms: “gutless.”

How else to describe the fact that, despite the mountains of evidence regarding the slowly-simmering “frying pan” of searing religious repression frittering away at unit cohesion, morale, good order, and discipline within the Air Force, Welsh still seeks to find a “compromise” with the rabid dogs of fundamentalist Christian theocracy and extremist militancy regarding the watershed religious protections from chain-of-command proselytizing embodied by Air Force Instruction 1-1 (AFI 1-1)? Hello, Neville Chamberlain? By cowardly capitulating to the demands that the USAF amend AFI 1-1, Welsh will be opening the gates to the further degradation of the USAF’s collective integrity and character. As dangerously freighted as the Air Force already is with its universally tribal, adversarial, communal and ritualistic culture, the last thing it needs is to be yet further transformed into a stomping ground for free-range proselytizing, coercive religiosity, and fundamentalist Christian crusading.

The Air Force motto is “Aim High.” So, too, should the bar for exemplary leadership be set. Welsh’s refusal to apply any cognizable backbone to the defense of AFI 1-1 directly contradicts the subsequent Air Force Instruction 1-2 published on May 8, 2014, entitled “Commander’s Responsibilities” and signed by none other than Gen. Welsh himself. Among the various rules and regulations is item 3.2, which reads, in salient part: “A healthy climate ensures members are treated with dignity, respect, and inclusion, and does not tolerate harassment, assault, or unlawful discrimination of any kind.”

The bottom line of AFI 1-2 is that commanders have the responsibility to combat “unlawful discrimination” in all forms, clearly including religious discrimination. Commanders must foster inclusion, which includes religious diversity. Commanders must safeguard respect, foremost among which includes respect for religious beliefs and affiliations (or the lack thereof), religious and non-religious minorities, as well as sex & gender minorities. As was the case with the time, place and manner considerations of proselytizing as covered by AFI 1-1, AFI 1-2 should have decisively ended the “debate” about whether proselytizing and “witnessing” by commanders, supervisors, chaplains et al was allowed on USAF bases and installations.

Yet, seemingly, breath-taking negligence and ethical poverty still reign supreme among the Air Force top brass. Welsh appears impotently unwilling or unable to do anything to remediate it. Indeed, it is even alleged that Gen. Welsh’s own Number Two right hand, General Larry Spencer, the Vice Chief of Staff of the USAF, deliberately and defiantly keeps an oversized copy of the Christian Bible prominently displayed on his Pentagon office desk lest any of his hundreds of thousands of USAF subordinates doubt where his primary loyalty lies. Never mind that such an in-your-face, sectarian display violates the currently still-viable time, place and manner restrictions of AFI 1-1 concerning the promotion of one’s personal religious faith to those subordinate to them in rank. And the only person in the entire Air Force NOT subordinate in rank to Gen. Spencer is his boss, Gen. Welsh.

Witness further the narcissistic spectacle of Gen. Welsh patting himself on the back, crowing to the high heavens about how he’s “very happy with the ethical fabric of the United States Air Force.” This specious, self-congratulatory song and dance couldn’t be any more ill-timed, considering that under his watch numerous scandals have erupted, laying bare the internal decrepitude existing within the highest echelons of the Department of the Air Force.

“Do we have incidents? Absolutely,” Welsh coyly remarked about the appalling disgraces the world has witnessed under his watch. This past spring, 9 nuclear (yes, NUCLEAR) missile commanders were fired and dozens of officers were disciplined for cheating on a series of critical operational exams at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. This shameful scenario at Malmstrom AFB included failed drug tests, failed inspections, and the unauthorized passing of answers to exams regarding the execution of emergency war orders. While Air Force leaders like Welsh lined up to formulaically denounce these violations of “basic Air Force values,” the damage had already been well done. The root causes of these failings? Pathetically low morale and a fatal failure in management.

Another “incident” was the case of Major General Michael Carey, Commander of the 20th Air Force and direct overseer of the Air Force’s entire fleet of Inter-Continental Ballistic (again, NUCLEAR) Missiles. Tasked with representing America’s military at a nuclear security conference in Russia, Carey instead went on a drunken bender – to the bemused disgust and pity, no doubt, of his “colleagues” in the Russian Armed Forces. Hey, we all make mistakes, no? Even commanders involved in high-stakes international nuclear diplomacy who occasionally have their fingers on the triggers of all-out nuclear warfare are entitled to a free pass every so often, right?

Welsh, apparently, likes to draw the line between “bad behavior” on the one hand, and “bad ethics” on the other. To take a glaring example of this stupidity, look at the hugely expanding catastrophe of sexual assault and rape within the Air Force. In Welsh’s opaque, clouded mind, this epidemic is a mere “trend” in unlawful activity, yet it should still be somehow disingenuously distinguished from a precipitous and systemic degradation of ethics within USAF? Are you serious, Gen. Welsh? Is it any wonder why Welsh has been ignominiously lambasted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for ignoring the plight of the Air Force’s countless sexual assault victims?

“[It’s] deeply troubling that he’s ‘very happy’ with the ethical conduct of his force,” commented Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel. “You have to wonder when he will finally get it… I hope his cavalier attitude to this crisis is not reflective of his superiors’ position.”

As the saying goes, “a fish rots from the head down.” As we can plainly see there is indeed a severe crisis within the military, not from the bottom-up but from the top-down. Attempts to blame the lower-level officers and NCOs rather than to take bold and comprehensive ownership of the issue incontrovertibly establishes Welsh’s downright lack of professionalism and his universal complicity in the crisis. One can envision a parent blaming their out-of-control children for being uncontrollable, rather than pledging to improve their own poor parenting skills.

As I’ve grown fond of saying over the years especially in relation to the United States military’s leadership culture and doubly-so in relation to the commanders at the head of USAF, from the Air Force Academy to Headquarters USAF in the Pentagon: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is completely indistinguishable from malice.”

Enough is enough.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).