Last week I had the pleasure to speak to Arnold Hamilton, who for years has written for the Oklahoma Observer. As friends tell me, the Oklahoma Observer is one of the last publications in Oklahoma that still practices real journalism and ceaselessly speaks truth to power. I can honestly say that the below article is one of the best articles ever written about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) that I’ve ever read since we were founded in 2005, hence my republication of it.

NOTE: I’ll be in Tulsa – a ‘Bible Belt’ stronghold – next Saturday, September 21, at an event that will be open to the public. If you’re in the region, be sure to come to the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance’s annual Russell Bennett Award presentation at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave. at 2:00 p.m.

GOD’S SQUAD: Military At Risk As Sooner Delegation Helps Tear Down Church-State Wall

BY ARNOLD HAMILTON

Mikey Weinstein lives a day’s drive west of Oklahoma in the mountainous, desert Southwest, but he knows all about the Sooner state.

He knows it has 77 counties, and every one of them voted Republican in the last two presidential elections.

He knows it is a hub of U.S. military operations, including three Air Force bases and Fort Sill.

And he knows it is home to a statistically small, yet rabid – and politically influential – slice of Christian fundamentalism that abhors religious pluralism and pursues a theocracy that mirrors an apocalyptic worldview.

All of which makes Oklahoma a near-perfect locale for Weinstein – founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation – to make his case first-hand that “fanatical religiosity” within America’s armed forces is threatening national security.

“Give me 300 seconds – one for each of the Spartans killed at the Battle of Thermopylae – and I don’t know how you can possibly be against what we’re talking about,” says Weinstein, an Air Force Academy honors graduate.

“We’re a very aggressive and militant organization, but our militancy and aggression is in support of the Constitution.”

Weinstein will be the featured speaker at the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance’s annual Russell Bennett Award presentation Sept. 21 at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave. at 2:00 p.m. – an appearance sure to stir up a religious right that reviles him as “Satan’s lawyer” and “Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan.”

The timing of his Tulsa visit is significant, given that members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation – particularly Tulsa Rep. Jim Bridenstine – are busy cultivating the canard that a War on Christianity threatens America as we know it and severely restricts the religious freedoms of America’s heroic warriors.

It’s a fantasy, of course, conceived by an unholy alliance of rightwing conservatives in pursuit of political power and so-called religious Dominionists whose agenda features doing whatever is necessary to speed us toward Armageddon.

But the illusion doesn’t keep wingnuts in Congress from introducing spurious legislation like Louisiana Rep. John Fleming’s so- called Religious Liberty Amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that supposedly would protect the First Amendment religious rights of those in uniform.

As the White House put it, Fleming’s proposal actually would limit “the discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units” and “have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.”

Of course, in zealot-land, the fact a Kenyan-born, Muslim, socialist president spoke against it is all the proof necessary that a War on Christianity exists.

As Weinstein notes, the opposite is true – particularly when it comes to the U.S. military. His group rep- resents nearly 35,000 active-duty service members who have been targeted by religious zealots – oft- times superior officers – demanding they embrace a specific strain of Christianity.

Ninety-six percent of the foundation’s clients are Protestant or Roman Catholic, including 21 varieties of Baptist alone. Only four percent of service members lodging complaints through Weinstein’s group are atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Wiccan, Native American Spiritualist or other.

More than 800 are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Having served 10 years in the military, Weinstein, himself agnostic says he knows how much pressure can be applied in a military setting to conform to a certain religious point of view.

He founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about a decade ago after his children, while Air Force Academy cadets, were browbeaten to attend Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

Weinstein says his group is working to rebuild the wall separating church and state that all too often has been knocked down in the U.S. military, effectively depriving many armed forces members freedom of – and from – religion.

It’s particularly worrisome, he says, that Dominionists are asserting their apocalyptic worldviews in settings where they can mix “a fanatical religiosity … with actual weapons of mass destruction.”

“It’s a tortured, poisoned view of patriotism,” says Weinstein. “It’s a metastasizing threat to this country.”

Not surprisingly, Weinstein’s support of religious freedom does not set well with the likes of Rep. Bridenstine, who in a May 2013 blog entry promoted the fact he “questioned the Department of Defense’s recent interactions with anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein.”

“As a Navy reservist with com- bat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bridenstine said, “I know firsthand the importance of faith to many of our men and women in uniform.

“I am growing increasingly concerned that well-established protections of conscience and religious expression are being slowly eroded. Right now, the military is preparing guidance on religious issues. During this process, it remains critical that senior JAG leaders understand the concerns of religious service members.”

What Bridenstine and his ilk clearly fail to appreciate is how they would like it if the shoe were on the other foot. They would be irate if other religious groups were given carte blanche to proselytize or – as seems likely in a military setting – the power to make one conform or face career-ending consequences. It’s as if they can’t come to grips with the uniquely American concept that it’s OK not to believe – or to believe differently than Bridenstine and Co.

For them “to say we, Christians, are the persecuted, it is not only disingenuous, it is a goddamn lie – and they know,” Weinstein says.

“This is like the playground bully – after he’s been pulled aside by every teacher or monitor on the playground for beating little Jim- my into the ground – showing his hand and saying, ‘Look what little Jimmy’s head did to my knuckles – they’re all bruised.’”

It speaks to the strange political times in which we live that Weinstein would be so despised by the religious right.

He’s a lifelong Republican who served as a White House legal counsel under their favorite president, Ronald Reagan, and as committee management officer of the Iran-Contra investigation. He also served as first general counsel to Texas billionaire and two-time presidential candidate H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems.

Of course, Weinstein also was named one of the 50 most influential Jews in America by the Jewish weekly Forward. He was tabbed one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense in 2012 by Gannett’s Defense News. And his organization has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace prize.

Weinstein clearly relishes his role as a provocateur, describing his foundation as the “demanders of the commanders” – more akin to the radical animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) than the more staid and traditional Humane Society of the U.S.

“I’m very happy coming in and speaking truth to power,” he says, reminding it was 19th Century African-American leader Frederick Douglass who said, “power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Weinstein says he is more than willing to be a “tarantula” on the fundamentalists’ “wedding cake”

– but also hopes those attending the Tulsa event will actively join his group in working to restore the wall separating church and state in America’s armed forces.

“We’re not supposed to work 20 years, get our retirement and spend the rest of our time trying to lower our handicap on the golf course,” he says. “We’re supposed to be helping each other. “It’s not good enough to agree with something … We’re on this planet to do something … If your thought, heart, brain, and passion supports what we’re doing then also have your arms and legs do it.

“Make it clear” that what the Dominionists are doing to America’s military “is not OK.”

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated  Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of  “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and  “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

A trivia question (that’s not so trivial): How many U.S. military senior ranking officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), thrilled to unbridled giddiness with the prospect of America’s “humanitarian” attack against Syria – on a basis of “Biblical” prophecies – does it take to make a national security crisis?

Answer: Only one. But we have well over 250 of them at least. Read the below and weep.

We’ve been down this gloomy road before, my friends. The United States military is once again on the brink of bathing an already war-torn region in the baptismal waters of “regime change.” Even the most casual observer knows that this action will set in motion a vast spectrum of “known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns” (to borrow former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s euphemism for “cluster-f***”). The world sits with bated breath anticipating the cataclysmic worst.

Politics make for exceedingly strange bedfellows, and the universally-known Carl von Clausewitz pronouncement that “war is the continuation of politics by other means” remains eternally valid. Thus, we see a bizarre mixture of George W. Bush-era neocons, “hope and change” Obama liberals, Israeli right-wingers, and Christian fundamentalists united behind an incredibly ill-conceived military intervention in Syria. However, this travesty isn’t the only bizarre phenomenon that’s been witnessed along the “Road to Damascus.” There’s also the eschatological aspect, the ebullient anticipations of blood-drenched apocalypse shared by U.S. military personnel and Islamic extremists alike. More on that shortly.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s claims notwithstanding, one of the major components of the Syrian rebel forces (the “good guys” who we’re backing) is an alliance of al-Qaeda style extremists. This sundry group includes such exemplary “democrats” as Jabhat al-Nusra, Ansar al-Islam, the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and non-Syrian mujahideen spanning the whole of Eurasia from Britain to Chechnya and Pakistan. A veritable rogues’ gallery of enemies of America if there ever was one.

It’s long been an openly acknowledged fact that this international group of supposed “freedom fighters” isn’t fighting the tyrannical Assad “regime” alone, but every supposed “infidel” it can get its bloody hands on. These miscreants aren’t the cartoon terrorists from such films as “The Delta Force,” “True Lies,” or “Behind Enemy Lines.” The targets of their murderous predations aren’t simply American and Israeli stereotypes played by typecast actors from  “The Brady Bunch” and ”The Partridge Family.” No, their hatred encompasses just about anyone and everyone who isn’t keen on rolling the clock of human civilization back to the violent conditions of Arabia during the times of the Prophet Muhammad. Their hit-list includes the ancient Aramaic-speaking Christian communities, Shi’ite Muslims, Sufis, and even one another.

For these nefarious extremists, their guiding motivation is a crude eschatology, an “End of Days” Islamic apocalypticism. This dreadful vision foresees the Return of Jesus Christ (an important prophet in the Muslim faith and the Messiah), who will lead the “godly forces” in a battle against the “forces of evil” (the Islamic Anti-Christ, or dajjal, and Satan).” Where will this battle take place? Damascus, Syria.

Thus, it was with severe worry that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the civil rights and constitutional defense foundation of which I’m Founder and President, received the shocking testimonials of over 250 armed servicemember clients regarding the obsessed anticipation of apocalypse emanating from their superiors among the ranks of officers both commissioned and non-commissioned, spanning all four service branches. The Book of Revelation is their blueprint for “success” and they are all too happy to trumpet this “Good News” to their helpless armed forces subordinates. You see, they interpret almost ANYthing that will further inflame the Middle East, and its nexus to bloodshed in Israel, as a divinely prophesied accelerant or lubricant to hasten the End of Days apocalypse wrought by their avenging warrior “flavor” of Jesus Christ. The proposed attack on Syria has these U.S. military superiors licking their chops in delicious delight as an absolutely necessary and foretold event to herald the advent of the Armageddon they pray for endlessly.

To be sure, our very own American Jihadists, the fundamentalist evangelical Christian Dominionists, are just as steeped in the horrendous expectation of “rapture” as our ostensible Islamist foes. How about a good example? Permit me to present to you one Rod Parsley, leader of the enormous World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, and one of the most influential leaders of the fundamentalist dominionist Christian movement in the USA. Parsley’s fire-and-brimstone tinged sermons regularly include promises of a 200-mile long river, four and a half feet deep, filled with nothing but the blood and gruesome remains of those slaughtered by his weaponized version of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Battle of Armageddon. After describing this unimaginable river of endless blood and death, Parsley delivers his rapturous denouement by raising his hands to the ceiling and exhorting his massive thousands of eager-beaver congregants to “Rejoice! Rejoice, for the worst is yet to come!”

According to this past couple of weeks’ batch of new MRFF clients, “Rejoice, rejoice!” is precisely the sentiment of their military superiors, the highest ranking of whom is a 1-star Brigadier General, senior commander. These avid anticipators of “Rapture” are anxiously awaiting the battle of their lives, the battle to end all battles. In their sick minds the fighter jets and bombers of the United States Air Force and the vessels of the United States Navy are simply Jesus’ means for raining fire and brimstone down from heaven.

Yet another Rod Parsley quote, delivered on the National Mall in Washington is most apropos: “Shout overthrow . . . we’ve come to overthrow the forces of darkness.  To overthrow the Bible-deniers, the God-haters, and those that desire to get us out of the public square …  We’re a force to be reckoned with!”

Indeed, in the warped minds of the hordes of Dominionist Christians in the United States military, up is now down, black is now white and rainy day is now sunny day.

Besides their crisp uniforms, regalia, and clean-cut appearances, how are these seditious Dominionist officers, NCOs, and top brass in our armed forces any different from the psychotic Muslim extremists who spread unspeakable death and destruction among civilian centers in their own cities, towns, and villages? Both are united behind the unholy maxim: “Kill them all, God recognizes his own.”

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is often completely unjustly accused of being anti-Christian. Paradoxically, many of these accusers now advocate a major American role in support of those who are waging an actual brick-and-mortar, blood-and-sinew genocidal onslaught on the Christians of the Middle East. The supreme irony of this development would be laughable if the real-world implications weren’t so nauseatingly ominous and saturated with the immeasurable gore of shed innocent blood.

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated  Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of  "With God On Our Side" (2006, St. Martin's Press) and  "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Ready for a good news story? As this letter of gratitude from the Office of the Superintendent shows, an incredibly improbable meeting between formerly bitter enemies was held 3 days ago on the banks of the Hudson River at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. How do I know? Because I was one of those formerly bitter enemies, and I was there.

But first, a little backstory to this miracle meeting.

Let it never be said that there’s such a thing as a “lost cause.” Likewise, let us be on guard at all times against those who seek to reduce the world to hurtful stereotypes alone. As the founder and president of the 5-time, Nobel Peace Prize-nominated civil rights advocacy organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), I’m often on the receiving end of such vile mischaracterizations, ranging from the silly (“Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan”) and the vile (“Jewish lawyer Whine-stein”) to the, well, unprintable. We at MRFF would certainly be doing no good service to anyone if we slipped into such erroneous means of judging the broad range of honorable people who comprise our armed forces. However, we never hesitate from calling it exactly as we see it, as is certainly the case when we denounce the vile monsters who comprise the militant evangelical, fundamentalist Christian, Dominionist bigots both in and out of military uniform. These religious extremist predators are rabidly foaming at their mouths to reduce our cherished Constitutional protections to rack and ruin.

Likewise, we don’t shirk our responsibility to offer justifiable commendations to those who deserve it. Such merit is rare making it all the more critical to recognize it.

Case in point: U.S. Army Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., the brand new Superintendent/Commanding General of the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point.

Lt. Gen. Caslen takes two things very seriously: his commission as a flag (General) officer within the U.S. Army, and his religion as a devout evangelical Christian. This choice is his to make. Caslen, like the rest of us, is Constitutionally allowed to practice his faith however he sees fit, provided that he doesn’t step beyond the bright boundaries of the laws of the land in America. However, when you don the uniform of a United States servicemember, the only faith you should proselytize is that of American patriotism and unyielding fealty towards the Constitutional values contained therein. Your paramount duty is to support and defend that Constitution and adhere to all of the Department of Defense’s directives, instructions, and regulations. One may practice their faith, or practice absolutely no faith at all, however they choose to do so, without compromising their religious principles, provided they practice in the proper time, place, and manner.

So, to make MRFF’s stance exceedingly clear, the Christian faith and the Christian faithful are no issue for us, none whatsoever, regardless of what the “American Taliban” and its legion of gutter publications and conspiratorial, rumor-packed telecasts, radio programs and scurrilous blogs claim. Our MRFF client base of over 34,000 servicemembers, DoD civilian personnel, and armed services veterans is 96% Christian (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) in composition. We by no means seek to witch-hunt every Christian in the armed forces (as our defaming detractors incessantly suggest) – to attempt to do so would be unspeakably reprehensible, not to mention foolish beyond words. However, whenever proselytizing occurs in uniform, in the military workplace (which could be a tank, Humvee, foxhole, or cockpit), during the duty day (which for many servicemembers can be a 24/7 ordeal), and/or from superior to subordinate, you’d better damn well expect MRFF to come out swinging for those oppressed.

Caslen got a taste of MRFF’s passion in 2006, when he appeared to place his oath of commission beneath his personal prerogative to spread his beloved Christian faith through the means at his disposal, which in this case was his rank as a commanding officer with the rank of Brigadier General. Caslen, in his U.S. Army uniform, prominently appeared in a video on behalf of a surpassingly sectarian Christian proselytizing entity known as Christian Embassy. On camera in this video promo for the Christian Embassy, he referred to himself and his fellow Pentagon Generals as comprising the “aroma of Jesus Christ” (go to minute 4 of this video to view Caslen’s bizarre performance). It is important to make clear that Christian Embassy is a militant evangelizing outfit that tasks itself with providing “safe places and practical resources to help… leaders working in D.C…. to integrate their faith and their work.” The actual Christian Embassy video itself boldly made the following shocking claim:

“There are over 25,000 Department of Defense leaders working in the rings and corridors of the Pentagon. Through Bible studies, discipleship, prayer breakfasts, and outreach events, Christian Embassy is mustering these men and women into an intentional relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Need I say more? MRFF lost no time in exposing and denouncing this blatant sedition at a much publicized press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. in early December of 2006. Our Constitutional advocacy compelled the then DoD Secretary, Robert Gates, to order the United States Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD/IG) to aggressively investigate and release a report that blasted the rank misconduct on the part of the multiple, high-ranking Pentagon officials featured in the video. The DoD/IG report also concluded that then-Brigadier General Robert Caslen, as well as his fellows, “improperly endorsed and participated with a non-Federal entity while in uniform.” For many Americans, the “Christian Embassy” video was their first introduction to MRFF, not to mention our raison d’être: the protection and re-establishment of the Constitutionally mandated wall separating church and state within the United States military.

At the time, Caslen’s unfortunate participation in the video cast him as a deservedly wretched Constitutional scofflaw in our eyes. Here was a man who committed a grave offense not just against his fellow soldiers, but also violated of his solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and resultantly, all citizens of our nation. But did he mean well? It didn’t matter. Our mantra remains, “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.” If a surgeon responsible for a mastectomy removes the left breast of a cancer patient when the right breast should have been removed, the damage is done. In such cases, ignorance is anything but an adequate excuse.

Caslen, however, has remarkably proven himself to be a very special soldier of an entirely different breed. Imagine the beautiful and awesome sense of irony I felt as I sat with him in his well-appointed office, along with his key senior staffers, just 72 hours ago at West Point as his invited guest. I was honored to be accompanied by my trusted friend, USAF Academy Class of 1977 classmate and longtime, loyal MRFF ally, recently retired United States Air Force Lt. Gen. William T. Lord. We were there to discuss serious religious respect problems and a myriad of related Constitutional religious issues at West Point where MRFF currently has 177 clients amongst the Academy’s cadets, faculty and staff (137 of them practicing Christians, I might add). Eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart, MRFF’s one-time enemy #1 (and former President of one of MRFF’s most profound enemy organizations, the uber-fundamentalist Officers Christian Fellowship) proved to be just as pious as I expected. But not only in terms of his religiosity but also in terms of his learned and professional loyalty to his mission in the U.S. military. Our one hour and forty-five minute meeting was both fruitful and significantly encouraging.

Here is truly an extraordinary specimen among the top brass, a commanding general officer of true dignity and worth who talks the talk and walks the walk with honesty, confidence, and diligence. Every single one of the many MRFF clients and supporters who have worked closely with Lt. Gen. Caslen in the “post-Christian Embassy” period have testified personally to me of Caslen’s impeccable moral fiber. Caslen’s profound appreciation of diversity and plurality and his intense suspicion of the lunacies of religious supremacy were doubtlessly tempered by the sweltering heat of his dangerous deployment to an Iraq torn by searing sectarian, ethnic, and tribal strife. It was there that Caslen played THE strategic role mediating the blood-hatred borne from centuries of vicious fighting between the Kurdish people, Sunni Arabs, and the Shiite-majority led central government in Baghdad. His totally unforeseen transformation from a militant, dogmatic evangelical Christian fundamentalist into an exemplary illustration of professionalism tempered by Constitutional compliance was surely an organic and painful process, one borne of excruciating, gut-wrenching introspection, self-examination, and auto-criticism.

To be clear, Caslen has NOT had to compromise his Christian faith in ANY way whatsoever to accomplish this magnificent metamorphosis.

To be sure, the United States Military Academy at West Point, one of the foremost and illustriously storied institutions in the entire world for the doctrinal instruction and professional development of officers in the profession of arms, requires such leadership. Only such sterling leadership is capable of resolving the astounding offenses against religious liberty and pluralism which allowed for the red carpet to be rolled out to case-hardened, inveterate bigots such as retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, the current executive Vice President of the SPLC-designated anti-gay hate group, the Family Research Council (FRC). While the vigilance of MRFF and our valued allies from the Constitutional and interfaith communities squelched the opportunity extended to this vile Islamophobe to speak at West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast, such a public outcry should not have been necessary in the first place. Egregious offenses to the U.S. Constitution in our nation’s armed forces should not be taking place in any way, shape, or form whatsoever, least of all at USMA.

When former bitter enemies can unite on a solid base of non-partisan, patriotic interest and loyalty to the democratic values embodied by our nation’s founding document, the Christian theocrats and extremists have profound reason to shudder in trepidation. Likewise, advocates and supporters of the continued separation of church and state within the armed forces should have a firm reason for optimism. Simply put, the separation of church and state neither portends nor champions the elimination of either. Indeed, quite the contrary. As our founding fathers made crystal clear, both church and state flourish most optimally when rationally and reasonably separated from each other within common sense constraints as outlined by Constitutional bounds.

MRFF intends to remain vigilant – we don’t make the mistake of “burying hatchets” (historically, this has proven to be a poor strategic choice) – but in Caslen’s case, we’re placing our hatchets in our holsters and effusively outstretching our arms for a firm handshake and following embrace with Lt. Gen. Caslen. The time has come for hand-in-hand collaboration, when people of good worth, dignity and good faith can unite in defense of our nation’s welfare and the protection of our national security interests.

Lt. General Bob Caslen is such a person of this rarified valor. If we all work hard enough at it, we all can be.

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated  Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of  "With God On Our Side" (2006, St. Martin's Press) and  "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Ready for a good news story? As this letter of gratitude from the Office of the Superintendent shows, an incredibly improbable meeting between formerly bitter enemies was held 3 days ago on the banks of the Hudson River at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. How do I know? Because I was one of those formerly bitter enemies, and I was there.

But first, a little backstory to this miracle meeting.

Let it never be said that there’s such a thing as a “lost cause.” Likewise, let us be on guard at all times against those who seek to reduce the world to hurtful stereotypes alone. As the founder and president of the 5-time, Nobel Peace Prize-nominated civil rights advocacy organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), I’m often on the receiving end of such vile mischaracterizations, ranging from the silly (“Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan”) and the vile (“Jewish lawyer Whine-stein”) to the, well, unprintable. We at MRFF would certainly be doing no good service to anyone if we slipped into such erroneous means of judging the broad range of honorable people who comprise our armed forces. However, we never hesitate from calling it exactly as we see it, as is certainly the case when we denounce the vile monsters who comprise the militant evangelical, fundamentalist Christian, Dominionist bigots both in and out of military uniform. These religious extremist predators are rabidly foaming at their mouths to reduce our cherished Constitutional protections to rack and ruin.

Likewise, we don’t shirk our responsibility to offer justifiable commendations to those who deserve it. Such merit is rare making it all the more critical to recognize it.

Case in point: U.S. Army Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., the brand new Superintendent/Commanding General of the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point.

Lt. Gen. Caslen takes two things very seriously: his commission as a flag (General) officer within the U.S. Army, and his religion as a devout evangelical Christian. This choice is his to make. Caslen, like the rest of us, is Constitutionally allowed to practice his faith however he sees fit, provided that he doesn’t step beyond the bright boundaries of the laws of the land in America. However, when you don the uniform of a United States servicemember, the only faith you should proselytize is that of American patriotism and unyielding fealty towards the Constitutional values contained therein. Your paramount duty is to support and defend that Constitution and adhere to all of the Department of Defense’s directives, instructions, and regulations. One may practice their faith, or practice absolutely no faith at all, however they choose to do so, without compromising their religious principles, provided they practice in the proper time, place, and manner.

So, to make MRFF’s stance exceedingly clear, the Christian faith and the Christian faithful are no issue for us, none whatsoever, regardless of what the “American Taliban” and its legion of gutter publications and conspiratorial, rumor-packed telecasts, radio programs and scurrilous blogs claim. Our MRFF client base of over 34,000 servicemembers, DoD civilian personnel, and armed services veterans is 96% Christian (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) in composition. We by no means seek to witch-hunt every Christian in the armed forces (as our defaming detractors incessantly suggest) – to attempt to do so would be unspeakably reprehensible, not to mention foolish beyond words. However, whenever proselytizing occurs in uniform, in the military workplace (which could be a tank, Humvee, foxhole, or cockpit), during the duty day (which for many servicemembers can be a 24/7 ordeal), and/or from superior to subordinate, you’d better damn well expect MRFF to come out swinging for those oppressed.

Caslen got a taste of MRFF’s passion in 2006, when he appeared to place his oath of commission beneath his personal prerogative to spread his beloved Christian faith through the means at his disposal, which in this case was his rank as a commanding officer with the rank of Brigadier General. Caslen, in his U.S. Army uniform, prominently appeared in a video on behalf of a surpassingly sectarian Christian proselytizing entity known as Christian Embassy. On camera in this video promo for the Christian Embassy, he referred to himself and his fellow Pentagon Generals as comprising the “aroma of Jesus Christ” (go to minute 4 of this video to view Caslen’s bizarre performance). It is important to make clear that Christian Embassy is a militant evangelizing outfit that tasks itself with providing “safe places and practical resources to help… leaders working in D.C…. to integrate their faith and their work.” The actual Christian Embassy video itself boldly made the following shocking claim:

“There are over 25,000 Department of Defense leaders working in the rings and corridors of the Pentagon. Through Bible studies, discipleship, prayer breakfasts, and outreach events, Christian Embassy is mustering these men and women into an intentional relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Need I say more? MRFF lost no time in exposing and denouncing this blatant sedition at a much publicized press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. in early December of 2006. Our Constitutional advocacy compelled the then DoD Secretary, Robert Gates, to order the United States Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD/IG) to aggressively investigate and release a report that blasted the rank misconduct on the part of the multiple, high-ranking Pentagon officials featured in the video. The DoD/IG report also concluded that then-Brigadier General Robert Caslen, as well as his fellows, “improperly endorsed and participated with a non-Federal entity while in uniform.” For many Americans, the “Christian Embassy” video was their first introduction to MRFF, not to mention our raison d’être: the protection and re-establishment of the Constitutionally mandated wall separating church and state within the United States military.

At the time, Caslen’s unfortunate participation in the video cast him as a deservedly wretched Constitutional scofflaw in our eyes. Here was a man who committed a grave offense not just against his fellow soldiers, but also violated of his solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and resultantly, all citizens of our nation. But did he mean well? It didn’t matter. Our mantra remains, “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.” If a surgeon responsible for a mastectomy removes the left breast of a cancer patient when the right breast should have been removed, the damage is done. In such cases, ignorance is anything but an adequate excuse.

Caslen, however, has remarkably proven himself to be a very special soldier of an entirely different breed. Imagine the beautiful and awesome sense of irony I felt as I sat with him in his well-appointed office, along with his key senior staffers, just 72 hours ago at West Point as his invited guest. I was honored to be accompanied by my trusted friend, USAF Academy Class of 1977 classmate and longtime, loyal MRFF ally, recently retired United States Air Force Lt. Gen. William T. Lord. We were there to discuss serious religious respect problems and a myriad of related Constitutional religious issues at West Point where MRFF currently has 177 clients amongst the Academy’s cadets, faculty and staff (137 of them practicing Christians, I might add). Eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart, MRFF’s one-time enemy #1 (and former President of one of MRFF’s most profound enemy organizations, the uber-fundamentalist Officers Christian Fellowship) proved to be just as pious as I expected. But not only in terms of his religiosity but also in terms of his learned and professional loyalty to his mission in the U.S. military. Our one hour and forty-five minute meeting was both fruitful and significantly encouraging.

Here is truly an extraordinary specimen among the top brass, a commanding general officer of true dignity and worth who talks the talk and walks the walk with honesty, confidence, and diligence. Every single one of the many MRFF clients and supporters who have worked closely with Lt. Gen. Caslen in the “post-Christian Embassy” period have testified personally to me of Caslen’s impeccable moral fiber. Caslen’s profound appreciation of diversity and plurality and his intense suspicion of the lunacies of religious supremacy were doubtlessly tempered by the sweltering heat of his dangerous deployment to an Iraq torn by searing sectarian, ethnic, and tribal strife. It was there that Caslen played THE strategic role mediating the blood-hatred borne from centuries of vicious fighting between the Kurdish people, Sunni Arabs, and the Shiite-majority led central government in Baghdad. His totally unforeseen transformation from a militant, dogmatic evangelical Christian fundamentalist into an exemplary illustration of professionalism tempered by Constitutional compliance was surely an organic and painful process, one borne of excruciating, gut-wrenching introspection, self-examination, and auto-criticism.

To be clear, Caslen has NOT had to compromise his Christian faith in ANY way whatsoever to accomplish this magnificent metamorphosis.

To be sure, the United States Military Academy at West Point, one of the foremost and illustriously storied institutions in the entire world for the doctrinal instruction and professional development of officers in the profession of arms, requires such leadership. Only such sterling leadership is capable of resolving the astounding offenses against religious liberty and pluralism which allowed for the red carpet to be rolled out to case-hardened, inveterate bigots such as retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, the current executive Vice President of the SPLC-designated anti-gay hate group, the Family Research Council (FRC). While the vigilance of MRFF and our valued allies from the Constitutional and interfaith communities squelched the opportunity extended to this vile Islamophobe to speak at West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast, such a public outcry should not have been necessary in the first place. Egregious offenses to the U.S. Constitution in our nation’s armed forces should not be taking place in any way, shape, or form whatsoever, least of all at USMA.

When former bitter enemies can unite on a solid base of non-partisan, patriotic interest and loyalty to the democratic values embodied by our nation’s founding document, the Christian theocrats and extremists have profound reason to shudder in trepidation. Likewise, advocates and supporters of the continued separation of church and state within the armed forces should have a firm reason for optimism. Simply put, the separation of church and state neither portends nor champions the elimination of either. Indeed, quite the contrary. As our founding fathers made crystal clear, both church and state flourish most optimally when rationally and reasonably separated from each other within common sense constraints as outlined by Constitutional bounds.

MRFF intends to remain vigilant – we don’t make the mistake of “burying hatchets” (historically, this has proven to be a poor strategic choice) – but in Caslen’s case, we’re placing our hatchets in our holsters and effusively outstretching our arms for a firm handshake and following embrace with Lt. Gen. Caslen. The time has come for hand-in-hand collaboration, when people of good worth, dignity and good faith can unite in defense of our nation’s welfare and the protection of our national security interests.

Lt. General Bob Caslen is such a person of this rarified valor. If we all work hard enough at it, we all can be.

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated  Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of  "With God On Our Side" (2006, St. Martin's Press) and  "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”  - Albert Einstein

Following September 11, 2001, we found ourselves plunged in an open-ended conflict with a truly daunting “terror” of a bloodthirsty, sectarian, and medieval character. Not only has the United States become embroiled in rudderless military adventures of a wholly destructive nature (for unarmed civilians and armed servicemembers alike), but sections of the United States military are now held literally hostage by an American variant of the dreaded Taliban. Christian fundamentalist theocrats have embedded themselves deep within our armed forces as well as our legislatures, with severely grave repercussions on servicemember morale, good order, discipline, mental health, and consequently, American national security.

As the founder, president, and principal spokesperson of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), since 2005 I’ve witnessed over 34,000 servicemember, veteran, and civilian clients plead for relief from egregious actions and attempts at literal spiritual molestation. Whether we’re talking about the relentless whine of unconstitutional proselytization from superior officers and NCOs or the outrageous, coercive, and violent bigotry visited upon religious, irreligious, and gender and/or sexual minorities, meaningful resistance to superiors simply isn’t an option within the U.S. military.

In short, “Get the freakin’ hell out of my face, sir or ma’am” is not an option for military subordinates in the armed forces of the United States.

Enter the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. We follow Einstein’s homily about the need to fight evil as our cherished mantra and Prime Directive. We are ever mindful that confronting this vicious hatred can be done in more than one way. Indeed, while the heroic Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. espoused “We shall overcome” as his mantra, it was Malcolm X who claimed “No, we shall come OVER” as his modus operandi. We are the sole civil rights organization representing the myriad browbeaten and oppressed sailors, soldiers, marines, airmen, cadets, midshipmen, and armed forces veterans, of a literal rainbow of faiths and no faith, who’ve had no recourse but to reach out to us when faced with the sick-minded, fundamentalist religious zeal that possesses many high-ranking military authorities. It is precisely this irrational proselytizing lust that clearly supersedes the perpetrators’ fealty to the oaths they swore to defend and protect the Constitution.

However, I’m frequently criticized – to put it mildly – for being “impolite,” “intemperate,” “abrasive,” and “uncivil.” Similar to the yellow bellied would-be allies of the civil rights movement who saw fit to referee the “divisive rhetoric” of the most outspoken fighters, in private these fair-weather friends have had no choice but to admit that “Mikey Weinstein and MRFF are right!”

History has its own criteria, and has long passed judgment on those heroes who bore the real sacrifice in the civil rights fight of the 60′s. Was it the militants who fought hard and aroused their communities to struggle, or the chattering heads from among the political classes? Was it those who opined and philosophized in the comfort of their own homes, offices, and lecterns, or those who exposed themselves to constant enemy fire?

Will a gentle, refined tap on the shoulder and whisper in the ear suffice for the Training and Education Command of the United States Marine Corps when they deride our valiant atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist, and freethinking members of the Corps as potential suicide liabilities?

Will polite reminders that racism and discrimination are unacceptable halt the sort of blindly stupefying Islamophobic and anti-Arab bigotry that courageous Sgt. 1st Class Naida Christian Nova, a faithful Catholic, faced when she deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan?

Who can possibly believe that the grave and macabre distortions of the Christian faith contained in the “Christian Just War Theory” course taught to countless Vandenberg Air Force Base nuclear missile launch officers (for a quarter of a century) could possibly be corrected through a card dropped in a suggestion box?

Seriously, now, can anyone in their right minds doubt that a friendly chat over a cup of coffee is far from enough to stop pathologically bigoted extremists such as the retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin from spreading their vitriolic, twisted, anti-Muslim poison to members of our military on the taxpayer’s dime?

Likewise, what sane person can doubt that anything less than a tooth-and-nail, eye-gouging fight will protect the American people from those both in uniform and seated on the daises of the House and Senate who seek to plunge the United States into an end-times war of apocalyptic proportions? Such a worldwide conflagration of combat is precisely what fundamentalist Christian Dominionists see as necessary for ushering in the Second Coming of the Christ, or “Rapture.” They ruthlessly lust for their promised worldwide bloodbath as per their fetid interpretations of their weaponized version of the gospel.

Will passive online petitions and carefully measured conversations over dinner and wine alone stop the Constitutionally-derelict Congressmen Huelskamp (R-KS) and Fleming (R-LA), among a plethora of other religious extremists, from ceaselessly pushing so-called “Religious Liberty” amendments to the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)? It bears reminding that if their constitutionally-tortured NDAA amendments are passed, it will most assuredly flood the U.S. Military in a tidal wave of zealous, DoD-funded, Christian missionary activities which are wholly unconstitutional. Such activities include, but are hardly limited to, anti-constitutional “Spiritual Fitness Tests” and programs, Christian Rock Concerts, anti-gay disturbances, and other endless examples of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, exceptionalism, and triumphalism.

(Sarcasm Spoiler Alert!) “Oh, but cover your ears, folks! That Mikey Weinstein guy is at it again! Mikey’s using impolite, foul, and vicious rhetoric! Never mind the yearned-for nuclear mushroom clouds tearing through the civilian populations of the Muslim world, in line with the ‘Total War’ strategy laid out by former Joint Forces Staff College faculty member Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley… What, the unprovoked nuking of millions of innocent Muslim noncombatants simply living out their lives in their homelands somehow offends you? What? Are you some kind of Christian-hating Islam lover?”

Duplicitous detractors who chide us for being “impolitic” and “uncivil” might as well be scolding us for not merely “praying” that these clear and present dangers simply disappear!

Admittedly, MRFF and I are “militant” and “aggressive.” But our militancy and aggression are always legal, ethical, moral, and solely in support of the United States Constitution. It takes nothing less than militant words and militant deeds to arrest the sociopathic supremacy and warped, domineering, fundamentalist Christian militarism of the sort that’s infiltrated the highest echelons of military leadership. We at MRFF would absolutely prefer that it wasn’t so. We sincerely do wish that we weren’t slandered and libeled daily as extremist “atheists” (not that I have a problem with atheists but I, personally, am a Jewish agnostic). Our stomachs turn when our bigoted opponents regularly level the disingenuous and completely false charge of being “anti-Christian” against us. Indeed, 96% of our tens of thousands of military clients are practicing Christians, as are about 75% of our national paid and volunteer staff of approximately 150.

However, we DO fight fire with fire, hence the “inflammatory rhetoric.” Regardless, it’s the sticks and stones that break bones that are really cause for worry. Those “sticks and stones” are, of course, the aircraft carriers, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Peacekeeper Missiles, bunker-busters, nuclear ICBMs, and 2.35 million active duty and reserve personnel that comprise the jewel in the crown that the “Christian Taliban” aims to seize at any and all cost. MRFF and many others in this courageous fight work tirelessly to dismantle their unconstitutional fundamentalist Christian “privilege.” Consequently, the concocted cacophony of their phony and counterfactual cries of Christian “victimization” are to be expected and dismissed immediately as Dead On Arrival.

In the face of blood-thirsty agitation for the destruction of the wall separating church and state and the paving of the road to theocratic, fundamentalist/dominionist Christian fascism, it falls on each and every one of us to stand up and resist loudly, tenaciously, and forcefully. We need to formidably resist, not only as Americans with Constitutional protections, but also as human beings worthy of basic human rights. It is precisely this sacrosanct right – the right of human beings to live free and in a dignified manner of worth and respect – that refuses to be compromised or tempered for the mere sake of offending overly-sensitive ears.

Listen up now, my dear friends. And especially pay attention, my despised enemies. Here’s the bottom line: true, genuine, and effective civil rights activism is NOT like riding a unicorn through a cotton candy forest handing out lollipops to little animals who are singing in unison. It is blood sport, pure and simple. Thus, the kid gloves and knee pads must yield and give way to the hammer and tongs.

There is no net under the trapeze of civil rights fighting.

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

 

From its inception, our American republic has been a melting pot among nations. Citizens originating from every region of the world, from every religious background and no religious background, and from every ethnicity have sought to make a living for themselves and their families within our borders. This cultural and ethnic alloy has only been made possible by the foundational protections established within our Constitution, its construing federal and state case law, and the subordinate laws serving to uphold it. Recently, a perversion of the sacrosanct principle of freedom of religion enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution has found its way to Congress through the evil bigotry of a repugnant Christian fundamentalist carpetbagger and Congressman by the name of John Fleming (R-LA 4th).

The Constitutionally-derelict Rep. Fleming believes that any way to abridge the ability of servicemembers to express their deeply-held religious convictions somehow constitutes a conspiratorial "threat" to their rights of free speech. At first glance, his Religious Liberty Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 would seem innocuous enough. In actual practice, however, the bill would give carte blanche to those who would wreak havoc on the morale, good order, and discipline of U.S. servicemembers who faithfully serve in the United States armed forces. What Fleming's amendment would do is add any type of "actions and speech" to the protected religious freedoms of servicemembers, thus rendering commanders all but helpless to stop potential problems until such actions or speech reach the point that they "actually harm" (a euphemistic phrase for “irreparably damage”) good order and discipline.

As the Obama White House rightly stated in its objection to the amendment:

"By limiting the discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units, this provision would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment."

We at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) know all too well what the true consequences stemming from the signing of this "Christian Talibanistic" amendment would be. It would generate a thoroughly dreadful nightmare of civil rights desecration wrought by a tsunami of unabated fundamentalist Christian supremacy, exceptionalism, and tyranny.

Within the last 72 hours, we received yet another signal, among thousands, of exactly what our military would look like if Fleming's despicable amendment is signed into law. In a fit of philosophical dissonance that I like to call “G.I. Jesus Tourette’s Syndrome,” Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Zach Frith of the USAF's 187th Fighter Wing took it upon himself to steer his fellow airmen away from what he believes to be the “wrong religion” through a literally shocking and shameful email addressed to the entirety of the 187th:

Dear friends of the 187th,
Due to the influential power that a chaplain might have over the life of a military member, I'm strongly compelled to inform you of what is True in regard to how one may come before or come to know God. That truth is in the word of God and that truths' name is Jesus Christ.
(JOHN 14:6) Jesus said to him (Thomas, the doubter), "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father(God) but through Me".
And I understand that this e-mail might have consequences or ridicule to follow but I'd rather suffer that than have those around me be lied to about something that could have a detrimental impact on their soul.
Sincerely, SSgt Zach Frith

SSgt Frith was prompted to inform his peers, superiors, and subordinates that his personal religion of choice is superior to all others after a military chaplain had merely shared an informative interview that described the traditions surrounding Ramadan.  In doing so, this fundamentalist Christian religious predator committed egregious violations of the United States Constitution, DoD directives, regulations, and instructions, as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The mere offering by an armed forces chaplain of even the slightest scintilla of perspective and information about religious traditions that “deviate” from his favorite flavor of fundamentalist Christian tradition was seen as a dastardly threat to SSgt Frith's beliefs granting him “just cause” to degrade, denigrate, and belittle those who don’t subscribe to his wretchedly parochial conception of his chosen faith. Fleming's despicable amendment, if signed into law, would revoke any meaningful authority that military commanders have to prevent and punish utterly reprehensible behavior like that of the ignoble SSgt Frith.

To his credit, COL Black, the Air Force's Commander of the 187th, was quick to notify his Wing of exactly why SSgt Frith's "actions and speech" in sending his email were wrong:

In light of today's mass email, I would like to re-emphasize the role of chaplains in our wing....It is no surprise some folks have very strong religious views and are not hesitant to share them; however, using a DoD system to express your personal viewpoint is inappropriate and will be addressed....We may not always agree with others' viewpoints regardless of the subject matter, but we need to be respectful of everyone's right to hold their beliefs.

Had the Fleming amendment been in effect, however, COL Black would not have been able to address the self-serving statements of vicious religious bigotry in SSgt Frith's email. Instead, Frith's "actions and speech" would have been protected under the guise of Rep. Fleming's insidious mockery of religious freedom.

In short, Fleming wants to give free reign to every fundamentalist evangelical dominionist Christian in our military to be as hostile, tyrannical, and disrespectful to others as they want. This travesty of Old School fundamentalist Christian triumphalism is the true content of “religious liberty” as cooked up by Fleming and his dominionist ilk. Here we have a Staff Sergeant - a non-commissioned officer - publicly telling his USAF subordinates via unsolicited mass email that if they don't believe in his version of weaponized Jesus they're simply wrong and seriously endangering their eternal souls.  Arrogance, thy name indeed be Frith.

Meanwhile, a seditious alliance of representatives in Congress is feverishly laboring to make sure that these types of unconstitutional train wrecks happen at an even greater pace with absolutely no repercussions. It takes a twisted and tortured crusader mentality to think that encouraging this vulgar, seditious behavior will do anything but annihilate the good order, morale, and discipline of our valiant war fighters.

There is some remnant of comfort to be derived from the acknowledgement that the command does not approve of the unlawful use of government networks and military rank to hammer into the heads of our servicemembers the order that they have only one religion to choose from. The 15 MRFF client-whistleblowers (14 of whom are Protestant Christians) from the 187th who courageously reported this incident to MRFF are surely grateful. However, the glaring question still stands; what will be done? Will this rapaciously proselytizing, fundamentalist, USAF SSgt Christian bully simply be given a perfunctory tongue lashing and/or wrist slap and be sent happily on his way? Will there be any consequences of ANY significance whatsoever for so willfully, flagrantly, and blatantly violating his oath to the U.S. Constitution as well as DoD and Air Force policy? Or is this simply yet another pathetic example of our military shrinking in the face of the law, rendering it inapplicable and impotent when the name of Jesus is publicly invoked, especially to helpless subordinates?

It is the hope of all of us at MRFF that COL Black will have the intestinal fortitude to appropriately discipline SSgt Frith, however dubious the odds.  As St. Augustine said, "Punishment is justice for the unjust."

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of "With God On Our Side" (2006, St. Martin's Press) and "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AN AUDIO RECORDING OF THE INTERVIEW

"And so, organizations like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation become enormously significant, become hugely important in trying to dial back, not from a position of attack, but from a position of respect; to dial back the kind of religious extremism that fosters the violence, the instability, the iniquity of the world in which we live." - Reza Aslan, MRFF Advisory Board Member

Introduction by Mikey Weinstein

Within the too-often thinly populated landscape of American intellectualism and theological historiography, one extraordinarily talented author and great personal friend towers prodigiously above the rest: Dr. Reza Aslan. I’m also immensely proud to call Dr. Aslan a loyal and devoted comrade-in-arms who has fought alongside the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) as a crucial and active Advisory Board member of the Foundation for many years, through many battles to preserve the Constitutional separation of church and state in the United States armed forces. When he started with MRFF, we had a few hundred clients. We now have well over 34,000. And 96% of them are practicing, passionate and believing Christians. Five years ago, Reza and I broke the scandalous news that the Department of Defense, in close collaboration with private evangelical fundamentalist organizations, was sending so-called “freedom packages” to U.S. military personnel in Iraq. What did the packages contain? As we wrote in our joint article for the Los Angeles Times:

Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.
The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up, or OSU… OSU is an official member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program. The group has staged a number of Christian-themed shows at military bases, featuring athletes, strongmen and actor-turned-evangelist Stephen Baldwin. But thanks in part to the support of the Pentagon, Operation Straight Up has now begun focusing on Iraq, where, according to its website (on pages taken down last week), it planned an entertainment tour called the "Military Crusade."
Apparently the wonks at the Pentagon forgot that Muslims tend to bristle at the word "crusade" and thought that what the Iraq war lacked was a dose of end-times theology.

Reza understands exceptionally well the terrible dangers posed by the faux-Christian evangelical fundamentalist bigots and supremacists who seek to effect a theocratic coup within the United States of America. These "dominionist" religious predators aim to take possession of our republic’s key strategic asset: our military, which constitutes the deadliest armed apparatus ever devised in the history of humankind. The mentality of the fundamentalist Christian extremist “American Taliban” absolutely mirrors that of the Islamic fundamentalist, Salafi-Jihadist Al Qaeda. To understand and fully grasp the truly fanatical commitment of the evangelical Dominionist fundamentalists to this “Crusade,” I heartily recommend Reza’s 2009 book How to Win a Cosmic War (paperback title: Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age).

Reza’s latest amazing literary work is just now out and available. Titled Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth, it explodes the mythology of Jesus Christ that has been constructed by the latter-day imperial persecutors and would-be Pontius Pilates of our era. This stunning book reveals truths about Jesus Christ the man, not the cartoon character, and evaluates him within his proper historical context as a tenacious Jewish revolutionary fighting against the myriad complexities, iniquities, and brutal injustices of Roman-occupied Palestine. The below Question and Answer dialogue/interview between Reza and myself, based around a series of questions from MRFF servicemember clients stationed all over the world, will provide an enticing glimpse into the riveting subject matter of Dr. Reza Aslan’s invaluable new title.

Mikey Weinstein: Well, Reza, you've always been one of my heroes. We met each other a number of years ago; I think it was on the set of a shoot for Chris Mathews' "Hardball" and you helped connect me into the world of speech writing and giving speeches and eventually led to my first book which you were so kind to "blurb." You were one of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's first advisory board members. You've been through thick and thin with us, running through hell in a gasoline suit. This time with your incredible new book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” you are really in dangerous territory. I mean, you've pushed the envelope before with some of your other wonderful books. But this one...frankly, you're daring to tell the truth which is always a dangerous thing to do and you know, with our Foundation, when we started, when you first came on board, we could count the number of our clients in hundreds. Well, now, we have over 34,000 [clients, and] staff, full time and volunteers of 150. Our folks are all over the world, so we have a big audience for this. In the short time I had to prepare for the interview, I reached out to a number of them, asking if they had any suggestions for questions regarding the new book. So, our audience here is particularly, you know us well, you're one of our earliest advisory board members. So could you talk a little bit about two things that I'm getting a lot of support from to ask you from our sailors, soldiers, Marines, and airmen, cadets and midshipmen. What caused you to want to write the book and can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Reza Aslan: Let me start with what caused me to write it. When I was 15 years old, I heard the Gospel message for the very first time and it had a profound effect on me. I immediately converted to Evangelical Christianity and began traveling the country missionizing, preaching the gospel as I had heard it. And then when I went to college and began studying the New Testament from an academic perspective, I discovered this great chasm between the Jesus of history, this illiterate Jewish peasant who walked the hills of Galilee 2000 years ago, who took on the greatest empire the world had ever known on behalf of the poor and the weak, the dispossessed and the outcast and who was ultimately arrested, tortured and executed as a criminal of the state...that person became so much more real and interesting to me than the, sort of, celestial spirit that I had been taught about in church and ironically, I abandoned the Christian faith that I had been taught., When I was a teenager, I became an even more devout follower of the historical Jesus and what I wanted to do with this book was to preach the gospel of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I used to preach the gospel of Jesus the Christ.

MW: Well, that is, as I said before, always dangerous territory to talk about the truth and no one can do it better than you can. You have the ability to write so beautifully where you don't talk down to people; you don't appear to be pejorative or pedantic. I'm sure if I take you back about 5 and a half years ago, you remember a very raucous day when you and former ambassador, Joe Wilson and I, went to my alma mater, the Air Force Academy, to try to bring truth there with regard to religious respect and tolerance. I think you were the first to speak and you greatly admonished an audience that I felt was quite rude with regard to a subject that is extremely controversial. When I reached out to a fairly senior member of the U.S. military who supports this but is...I would describe him as an Evangelical Christian and not a Fundamentalist, meaning that the spreading of the gospel from his perspective must always be done in a time, place and manner that comports with our laws and our Constitution. He was concerned that you were trying to take away all of the magic...you were trying de-deify Christ. On one hand, I talked to another senior officer who's an avowed Atheist, saying "well, even if Mr. Aslan talks about the historical Christ, there is such a small amount of extra biblical references or authorities with regard to the existence of Jesus. How does he handle that dichotomy and you realize, of course, that in speaking to our audience, and you've been with us much longer than many of our clients have been, we're dealing with Dominion or Fundamentalist Christianity, which is very literalist at its base.

RA: Well, let me respond to the Evangelical Christian first. I want to be clear: this book is not an attack on Christianity. My mother is a Christian, my wife is a Christian, [and] my brother-in-law is an Evangelical pastor. I have no interest in bashing Christianity in the slightest. In fact, to be perfectly frank, this book is not even about Christianity; it's about Judaism, because Jesus was a Jew. But even if you believe that Jesus was God incarnate, God-made flesh, you still believe that Jesus was also a man. That's the core of orthodox Christianity; that he was fully God and fully man. Well, if you believe that, then as a man, Jesus lived in a specific time and place. He confronted a specific set of social ills and his teaching, his work, his actions, must be understood in the context of that world in which he lived. So if you truly call yourself a follower of Jesus, then shouldn't you know something about the world in which the man that you follow, lived in? Because that world, it turns out, was enormously influential in shaping who he was and the teaching that he espoused. To answer the atheist, if it's true, outside of the New Testament, there is very little trace of the historical Jesus. Essentially we are relying upon a throw-away line in a first century Jewish historian's work called the Antiquity. The historian who was named Flavius Josephus, who, while talking about far more significant historical figures, the Roman governor Albinus and the Jewish high priest Ananias, mentions how this Jewish peasant by the name of James, whose brother was Jesus, the one they call messiah, was unjustly put to death by the high priest in the year 62 CE. That’s it. That little tiny phrase, that clause, James, the brother of Jesus, the one they call messiah...the only evidence that we have outside of the gospel that Jesus actually existed. My argument is that it's enough because if all we know about Jesus is that he was a Jew who lived in first century Palestine, that he started a Jewish movement, the purpose of which was to establish the kingdom of god on earth, and that as a result of that movement, he was arrested, tortured and executed by Rome as a state criminal. This is what I would say the vast consensus of scholars would agree upon...those three things. If that's all we know about this person, the argument of the book is that it's enough. That is, you take those three things and label that person's friend, call him Joe, you don’t have to call him Jesus, and put that person in first century Palestine, you would know everything you need to know about who this person was and what his life meant because while we know almost nothing about Jesus, we know almost everything about the world in which he lived. So all you have to do is look at that world to take the claims of the gospel about Jesus and to analyze them according to the world in which he lived to find out who this person really was.

MW: Reza, do you have any personal concerns; you know, at some of the interviews you’ve seen...I won't say the names of some of the people I've seen already interview you for this spectacular book on TV, who want to nail you down initially with regard to what do you believe and are you trying to say that this stuff is, I think one commentator used the term "fiction", you came back saying "no, there's a difference between fiction and mythology". Is that parsing too closely or could you tell our military audience what you mean by that particular dichotomy.

RA: How we define history, in the modern world, as a collection of observable and verifiable facts, is wholly a product of the modern age. That definition of history is a couple of hundred years old. It would make no sense at all to the gospel writers or frankly to the ancient mind, for whom history was not about uncovering facts but about revealing truths. This is, admittedly, a very difficult concept for modern people, not just Christians, but just modern people to understand that what they call history didn't exist 300 years ago and so when I question some of the "historical claims of the gospel," I think that people think that what I'm saying is that this is a lie. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is the gospel writers understood that what they were writing was not factually correct. They wouldn't even know what we talk about when we say factually incorrect. They were interested in writing mythologies about Jesus, the purpose of which was to reveal the truth of who he was, not the facts of what he did. Again, I recognize how hard it is for the modern mind to wrap its head around this complex idea but it is the foundation for understanding how to read the Scriptures.

MW: I think that is incredibly profound. A question from a senior enlisted Marine with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan was that he is dealing with what he views as a Fundamentalist Christian or Dominionist Christian company commander. He asks, "If I give this book as a gift to my commander, trying to get him to understand that he is currently in violation of his oath to the Constitution, how do you think he'll respond?" He wanted me to ask that of you and I said, "Well, I think I can probably answer that but I will go ahead and ask that to my good friend, Reza and so, back to you Reza."

RA: Look, there are going to be some Christians who, because they believe that Jesus is God, also believe that the context of the world in which he lived is irrelevant. In other words, if Jesus is God, then who cares the time and place in which he lived? Who cares about the social milieu out of which he arose. His words are eternal, his actions are eternal and frankly there's very little that you can say to someone who believes that, though I will say that it's actually in contradiction to traditional Christian orthodoxy which believes that Jesus was not just God but also a man. And I think that a lot of Christians who believe that, forget the second part, that the ‘Jesus is God’ part tends to subsume the ‘Jesus is man’ part.

MW: Of course, the concept that...you've seen this phrase before, there are many bumper stickers, they've been on billboards, "The bible says that I believe it and that ends it." That the concept of literalism is just impossible to try to fight; it's very difficult...

RA: By the way, let me just say something about that for a second if I may. I know that there are many, many Christians out there who call themselves literalists; they're lying. There is no such thing as a biblical literalist. Those people who claim that they believe every word of the bible is literal and don't actually believe that. I'll give you a perfect example of this. I mentioned in a discussion with a Christian who believes that Jesus was an inveterate pacifist that Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew that "I have not come to bring peace on earth but the sword." His response to me was "Oh, Jesus means the metaphorical sword. The figurative sword." Do you see what I mean, Mikey?

MW: Yes, yes I do. If we look at Luke 19:27, the Parable of the Pounds, Jesus is telling a parable about a king who basically says “go out among my people and bring back before me, all those that will not bow to me and accept me as their king and slaughter them.” There are many folks in Christianity, in the fringes that we fight in the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, that believe that Jesus is speaking about himself. The problem is that you back to parsing words again. I know we have limited time which is why I think this book is just so fetching and so fantastic. I have a question from a flag officer, meaning an admiral or a general, wanting to thank you for your long association with the Foundation and ask you why you've stuck with this for so long.

RA: Well, look, even though I spend a lot of my time talking about historical issues, the rise of religions, origins of religious experience, prophetic figures who lived thousands of years ago, I understand that these theories that I espouse are lived in the real world. That they have serious consequences to the world in which we live and, for those of us who want to live in a world of pluralism, and tolerance and respect; a world in which violence and extremism in the name of religion is overcome by those who espouse a moderate pluralistic vision of their religious faith, we have to be engrossed in the, as Jesus put it, the things of this world and, for me, we are at a time, right now, of course, where religion and militarism on all sides of the aisle, whether you're a Jew in Israel or a Christian in the United States or a Muslim in Afghanistan have become perhaps the greatest threat to the safety and security of the world. And so, organizations like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation become enormously significant, become hugely important in trying to dial back, not from a position of attack, but from a position of respect; to dial back the kind of religious extremism that fosters the violence, the instability, the iniquity of the world in which we live.

MW: Well, that is great, Reza, I very much appreciate the homage to our folks that are fighting to secure our ability to have a discussion like this and to be able to have the peace of mind to know that we can live in a wonderful nation where we can look at different views and look at the truth itself, and so obviously our foundation is going to be pushing "Zealot" as much as we can and we wish you all the best; I know you're on a book tour that's probably got a breakneck speed. We have probably another one of these well over 400 cities in 40 minutes. We wish you the best and we are so honored that you've been with us for so long and supported us and we'll look forward to seeing the movie in a couple of years.

RA: Awesome...I can't wait.

MW: All right, brother, thank you very much. Be well!

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of "With God On Our Side" (2006, St. Martin's Press) and "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).

Let freedom ring! It rang so loudly and clearly on June 26, 2013 at this nation's Supreme Court. It sounded a death knell for blatant oppressors. But it must also serve as a clarion warning of the duplicity and treachery of those who will most assuredly try to undermine its effectiveness and significance, especially in our Department of Defense's (DoD's) Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

Unfortunately, we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) have long been used to seeing the Constitution trampled upon by the arrogant and ignorant theocratic opponents of religious freedom within the U.S. Military. However, the Supreme Court's watershed June 26 decision striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a resounding victory for the nation, the armed forces, and the United States Constitution itself. DOMA's repeal, effective immediately, lifts the once-ironclad, draconian denial of marriage benefits for the partners of servicemembers and veterans. Via the flushing down the toilet of this egregiously anti-gay law that defined marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman, the Supreme Court has sent a crystal clear message that the U.S. Military is open to all motivated and capable Americans willing to serve their country. No one need ever again "live a lie," as a matter of law, as to their sexuality and/or gender preference in our country's military services. This decision also comes as a firm and severe rebuff to the fundamentalist Christian bigots who have rabidly subjected the civil rights of the LGBT community to a severe and interminable assault.

MRFF has long worked closely with our lesbian, gay, and bisexual allies in uniform. 801 of our over 33,600 clients are from the LGB community alone. Each of these clients has recounted to us in vivid detail their own personal trials and tribulations, depicting a hideous and tragic panorama of collective suffering that has savagely afflicted a grievously oppressed community within the armed forces.

Under the perniciously cruel "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) regime of enforced "closeting" (read: lying), LGB servicemembers were forced to live a mandated "dual existence," separating their military careers from a Pentagon-mandated, fictitious personal life of lies. The already Promethean challenges of military life were exponentially compounded by the profound anxieties borne of constantly dwelling in the trembling shadows of innocent and undeserved shame. Uncle Sam literally pointed a big, condemnatory finger at some of our bravest and most valiant men and women in uniform and told them that, despite sacrificing far, far more than the amount of fortitude expected of their fellow servicemembers, they'd still better "shut the hell up" or they'd be ignominiously and summarily booted out of the U.S. armed forces. This dreadful nightmare of civil rights desecration was made all the worse by the officially-sanctioned bigotry emanating from the legion of Christian fundamentalists who are inextricably intertwined in the vast and byzantine DoD bureaucracy. These religious predators oppressively operate and boldly bully quite openly in the armed forces, a phenomenon about which MRFF has long sounded wailing sirens of primal, screaming rage.

Following the recent repeal of DADT, it was no longer the case that servicemembers would be forced to attend the funerals of their comrades-in-arms alone, foregoing the considerable comfort of standing with their partners by their side for fear of being "outed."

The proverbial (pun intended) writing was on the wall. The cultural shifts of equal protection and respect in the U.S. had rendered the embittered adherents of Jerry Falwell's hyper-hypocritical "Moral Majority" into dinosaurs - barely living fossils. And such was no less the case in the U.S. military.

However, the Chaplain Corps of the armed forces' respective service branches have long been a stronghold of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, inveterate conservatism, and essentially universal anti-gay bigotry. Indeed, enormous swaths of the United States military chaplaincy have been allowed to abuse their purely secular role as commissioned military officers. Instead of ensuring the free expression of religion within the military and serving the needs of all faiths, denominations, and persuasions, these chaplains have aimed to transform their commission into a nefarious, sectarian enterprise. In fact, they see fellow servicemembers as a fetching, fertile and fecund "mission field" for coerced conversion. They spurn the "religious pluralism" they're sworn to uphold per their sacrosanct oaths to the Constitution. They have instead seen fit to devote their duties towards converting the chaplaincy into a launch pad from which to fire an endless onslaught of "Crusader" salvoes for the specific purpose of winning the hearts, minds, and souls of their subordinate targets of proselytization. And who are these "targets"? They are the American servicemembers perceived to be religiously derelict, and accordingly, branded as "unchurched." That branding, in turn, labels them as stupid, unworthy and fatally lacking in integrity, character, morals, trustworthiness, courage and honor.   These predatory religious rogues do not see their chapels as Department of Defense entities owned by the American people. On the contrary, they see them as personal and private ministry buildings where they hold exclusive sway to propagate whatever unbridled bigotry and poison they see fit to espouse. These cowardly military clerics hide under the "free exercise" skirts of the Constitution they so despise, of course. Consequently, these chapels have become hotbeds of anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and anti-female prejudice as well as boundless Christian fundamentalist extremism.

Arch-hypocritical fundamentalist Christian extremists such as Col. Ron Crews (USAR-Ret.), executive director for the wretchedly-named Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL), have been at the vanguard of defending the unchecked "privileges" of these tyrannical chaplains. Their main complaints are disingenuous in extremis. Try not to burst out laughing now. They scream like stuck pigs that their "religious liberty" is under attack. Naturally, what they deliberately fail to mention is that their erstwhile illicit license to illegally proselytize and persecute is FINALLY being held in check by DoD regulations, the Supreme Court and the United States Constitution itself.

A perfect example of the hijack-and-subvert tactics undertaken by fundamentalist Christian chaplains comes in the form of the U.S. Army's "Strong Bonds" program. Strong Bonds, a program of weekend retreats for "individual resiliency" and "strengthening the Army Family," is not supposed to be a religious program, although it is wholly (holy?) run by the Chaplain Corps. However, loopholes within the program have allowed reprobate chaplains to commandeer it, regularly turning this so-called "non-religious" program's weekend events into carefully crafted and choreographed evangelical retreats of Christian supremacy, triumphalism, and exceptionalism. Totally unsuspecting and ill-prepared military family participants are liberally inundated with stacks of evangelical Christian books and literature the very minute they arrive. Further, the "entertainment" is usually provided by evangelical Christian performers/profiteers cum carpetbaggers and the retreat sites are often clearly sectarian Christian campgrounds or resorts.

The celebrated French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac once said, "A flow of words is a sure sign of duplicity."

Now, please prepare yourselves for a healthy dose of such insipid duplicity. In an amicus legal brief / "flow of words" screed defending DOMA, Crews incontrovertibly concedes that Strong Bonds "is not a religious program." Yet, at the exact same time he holds this "non-religious" program up as one of his prime examples of a debilitating religious conflict for those poor, defenseless, anti-gay chaplains in a post-DOMA military. Crews whines and wails in CARL's legal brief that "chaplains and commanding officers from amici's faith groups who personally administer the programs would face a direct conflict with their faith." Again, please hold your laughs of incredulity. For as Crews bellows about his alleged beleaguered charges' "conflict," he utterly fails to acknowledge that it is a fully self-inflicted conflict. Now, about that dubious duplicity  These same chaplains who have fatally abused this taxpayer-funded program by turning it into a program of evangelical Christian retreats are now actually complaining that the program will cause a "religious conflict" for them because of their religious beliefs - beliefs which absolutely never should have been a part of the program to begin with!

Following the sounding of the death knell for DOMA, Crews complained, "Chaplains have been protected by DOMA as they minister to service members and their families in a manner consistent with those sincerely held beliefs. That freedom is now at significant risk." Oh my. There is a word for that: "chutzpah."

Crews topped his sour grapes, ridiculous, and baseless tantrum with an especially curdled bit of cream: an endorsement of a raft of faux "religious liberty" amendments to 2014's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), introduced by his fellow Constitutionally-irresponsible ilk who hold elected legislative office in Washington. These amendments are guaranteed to destroy good order, morale, and discipline within the armed forces. In point of fact, they create a virtual "license to kill" by allowing for and legally sanctioning the unrestricted ability of personnel (including chaplains) to persecute, harass, and discriminate against servicemembers on the grounds of religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

History ominously reminds and instructs us that Southern white supremacists were able to hang up their KKK regalia and go underground, become "respectable," and advance their racist agenda through legislative and other institutional means (see Jim Crow et al.). So, too, will the Christian fundamentalist extremists most assuredly use similarly devious methods to push their own horrendously bigoted docket. It's as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The NDAA "religious liberty" amendment campaign is but one among various mendacious methods by which these fundamentalist bullies will launch asymmetric countermeasures in their transparently desperate attempts to attack the precious freedoms borne from the repeals of DADT and DOMA.

Be diligent, my friends, in the face of this certain wrath from these fundamentalists. Expect this blowback and expect it to be ugly. These repugnant opportunists of religious sectarianism have, for far too long, been granted sole leeway to consecrate and define the institution of marriage within the armed forces. Thank you, Supreme Court of the United States, for your grace and mercy (if only by a 5-4 margin)!

Our incessant and unremitting diligence is, as ever, required to protect the equal rights of our LGB brothers and sisters in the armed forces. This requisite diligence is especially important for those in military uniform who have resolutely stepped forward. For it is they who are bravely prepared to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of protecting our own inalienable and bedrock human and civil rights.

Indeed, the personal Christian rights of military fundamentalists must NEVER be allowed to trump the Constitutional civil and human rights of their fellow American brothers and sisters-in arms.

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of "With God On Our Side"(2006, St. Martin's Press) and "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).

I've often wondered as to precisely how many of the scores upon scores of imbecilic, fundamentalist Christian members of the United States Congress have ever served even one nanosecond in the operational ranks of the United States armed forces, not counting service as a military chaplain or physician. The answer is very, very few. And oh how it shows. And oh how these fundamentalist Christian predators are trying mightily to rip asunder and destroy the most essential, bedrock foundation of how our military operates. How? They are crudely attempting to make the unbridled proselytizing of the weaponized version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ literally boundless and without sanction within our Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. 

How best to describe it? Tourette's Syndrome is a serious and tragic disease. It is terribly debilitating. Thus, metaphorically, let's call it the unconstitutional legalization of "G.I. Jesus Tourette's Syndrome."

Let us examine its catastrophic consequences.

My friends, it is bare knuckles good order, morale, and discipline which stirs the essential drink of our national defense. It forms the down and dirty muscle, sinew, and crucial tissue of all effective military organizations. In combat and in protracted military operations, this critical triumvirate is a make-or-break factor of absolute, sine qua non importance. It is incontrovertibly of a magnitude of necessity equal to that of combat weaponry and supplies. One needn’t recall the innumerable classic historical examples absolutely validating this principle of armed conflict such as the Battle of Thermopylae, the American War of Independence, or Dien Bien Phu. Indeed, the fierce resilience of our opponents in Afghanistan stands as an all too lucid testament to the importance of the seemingly immaterial within the all too physical battlefield.

However, the U.S. military is now deeply mired in a complex web of crises attacking its good order, morale, and discipline. Sexual assaults against our heroic women in uniform have reached pandemic proportions. Weeks ago, USAF Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of operations for the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, protested to his officers about the “rot” that permeates their ranks. In a shocking example of the extent of this rot, 17 nuclear missile launch officers were summarily removed from duty for incompetence.

As stomach-turning as these examples are, the fiercest danger for our servicemembers looms ahead. This danger is not a “jihad” of exotic, international origin. Quite on the contrary, it is a homegrown Holy War emanating from belligerent fundamentalist Christian bigots in government who delight in fancying themselves as the prodigiously proselytizing foot-soldiers of a modern-day “Crusade.”  The latest vicious whirlwind imperiling our servicemembers, and consequently our national security, comes in a two-pronged effort to implant “Religious Freedom” amendments in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Besides eviscerating good order, morale, and discipline among our own U.S. troops, it also enrages our Islamic allies and immeasurably emboldens our Islamic enemies, providing the latter with an undeserved and immense propaganda bonanza. Bottom line: these reckless and seditious actions of sectarian bigotry by fundamentalist Christian religious extremists in Congress will immeasurably enhance the likelihood of our troops being maimed and killed in combat in Southwest Asia and all over the world. If only any of these legislative "carpetbaggers for Christ" gave a damn.

One of these attempts is a laughably absurd and breathtakingly idiotic amendment by Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) which takes direct aim at and specifically attempts to “rebuke,” well, me. This world-class cretin in the U.S. House of Representatives has cobbled together a 25-point, bulleted list of wretchedly out-of-context quotes which pathetically attempts to “expose, and possibly deter, future meetings between Pentagon officials” and, ahem, myself. Seriously, Timmy boy, get a grip. I like to call this one the “We’re Scared of Mikey Weinstein Amendment” - and it was actually passed by voice vote by the entire U.S. House of Representatives late last Thursday, June 13, 2013. What a sad collection of pitiable clowns. I am reminded of that great quote from Albert Einstein: "Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the universe."

The other amendment, introduced and championed by yet another Constitutional derelict, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), is far more troubling. Section 530 of the NDAA promises to hand over a colossal government-issued blank check to those within the United States military who seek to exploit and misuse their rank and uniform for their own parochial and brazenly unconstitutional Christian supremacist purposes. Section 530 would allow every bigoted slimeball within the American armed forces – the homophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, misogynists, anti-Constitutionalists, fundamentalist/dominionist Christians, and/or all of the above – to be given absolute free rein to slither out of their stinking closets of putrid prejudice and spout their twisted, Christian-jihad poison. There would be one - and only one - genuine condition to this carte blanche feeding frenzy of "faith-based" racism, bigotry and prejudice. Ready to be shocked? That sole condition would be that justifications for this hatemongering exist on alleged theological or religious grounds of the one doing the abusing! There would be essentially NO time, place, or manner restrictions on military members proselytizing their subordinates for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thus, the aforementioned allusion to "G.I. Jesus Tourette's Syndrome." And thus, the roadmap to unspeakable chaos and bloodshed is assuredly writ large by the approving hand of the United States Congress. Spiritual rape run amok and unchecked by fundamentalist Christian legislative fiat? Once again I think of the Einstein quote.

Fleming, stating his support for this hideous amendment, said that “troubling reports indicate that the military may be focused only on protecting beliefs of service members and not the exercise or expression of those beliefs. My amendment is necessary to ensure that men and women of faith will not be discriminated against in the Armed Forces, and will be free to exercise their religious beliefs.”

Fleming himself is a proud and pedantic ignoramus who last year incurred a literal tsunami of well-deserved international mockery after expressing loud dismay about news of a supposed “$8 billion [Planned Parenthood] Abortionplex.” The source of this “big scoop”? Well-known satirical website, The Onion. Indeed, the “troubling reports” he refers to in his Section 530 press release are absolute malarkey that only a gullible dimwit like the brain-cell-challenged Fleming and his fellow House morons would believe: half-truths, untruths, lies, and distortions flowing steadily from the mendacious, fundamentalist Christian gutter press.

Singling me out on the floor of the Congress just last month in May (Click here to view the video), Fleming also stated: “Weinstein has spent nine years at war -- those are his words -- at war with evangelical Christians who he says are committing ‘spiritual rape’ against the U.S. military... Mr. Weinstein exploits freedom of speech to name call and to label Christians as the ‘Christian taliban’ and ‘al Qaeda,’ but he seeks to shut down the religious freedom of expression of service members in the process.”

Note Fleming’s tellingly disparaging phraseology regarding the “exploitation” of freedom of speech, that sacrosanct First Amendment right. As far as his bristling over “name-calling” is concerned, I can simply respond that “if the shoe fits, wear it!” Or, in the case of the plethora of the disgusting ilk of fundamentalist Christian Congressional legislators, "if the shoe factory fits, wear every shoe it produces." An old maxim asserts that "civilization is a constant race between education and catastrophe." Legislative nincompoops like Fleming, Huelskamp, and their fellow nauseating "Congressional Prayer Caucus" village idiots are ensuring that catastrophe will win that race.

Indeed, this latest fundamentalist Christian push has resulted directly from the ceaseless and aggressive defense of church-state separation that we, at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), have tenaciously waged for the better part of a decade now. These fundamentalist extremist theocrats have been whipping themselves up into an especially mouth-frothing, rabid state ever since the Washington Post reported that I, as Founder and President of MRFF, along with esteemed MRFF board member and former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, and equally esteemed MRFF advisory board member, retired Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, attended an important meeting at the Pentagon on April 23, 2013. This meeting focused on the imperative of visibly enforcing the hallowed Constitutional barrier separating church and state. Sworn oaths to the United States Constitution, DoD regulations, directives, and instructions -- which are observed more in their breach than in their compliance -- create a metastasizing cancer which is far worse than if those foundational laws had never been on the books in the first place.

As is typically the case for these surpassingly faux-pious cowards, their response was the predictable defensive feint - a transparently false, offensive assault disguised as a defensive maneuver. The ink had barely dried on the Washington Post report about the MRFF Pentagon meeting before the ignoble echo chamber of Christian fundamentalist extremism had reached a deafening state regarding the Obama Administration's alleged appointment of myself, Mikey Weinstein, as some sort of official “religious advisor to the Pentagon.” Breitbart.com’s Ken Klukowski, a supposed “religious liberty” expert for the vile, hate group-designated Family Research Council (FRC), and Todd Starnes of Fox News Radio, another pedestrian, Christian supremacist agitator, amplified this bald-faced, utterly absurd lie. MRFF Senior Research Director Chris Rodda explained this vast Christian Fundamentalist campaign well.

This cascading campaign of lies has led to the cartoonish vaudevillian construction of the living caricature known as “anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein.” That moniker is a reckless and blatant LIE given, among many other facts, that I and MRFF have the universal support of many well-known Christian persons of faith including, but not limited to, the prestigious Interfaith Alliance's leader, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. Further, our MRFF client base, currently fast approaching 33,500 U.S. marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, cadets, midshipmen, coastguardsmen, and veterans, is 96% Protestant and Roman Catholic. The vast majority of our staff, supporters, and donors are also practicing Christians. If Section 530 were to ever become law, our nation better get accustomed to the nightmarish prospect of a free-range, proselytizing “007 license to kill” being handed over to these same sickening religious bigots.

Indeed, some unlikely allies share this grim outlook; thankfully, the White House is rebutting Fleming’s false claims and has correctly threatened to veto the amended NDAA:

The Administration strongly objects to section 530, which would require the Armed Forces to accommodate, except in cases of military necessity, “actions and speech” reflecting the “conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member.” By limiting the discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units, this provision would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.

This bold statement of Constitutional support comes as a huge and welcome surprise to myself and fellow church-state separation advocates. We had heretofore long grown accustomed to disgraceful complacency from the Keystone Cops of Capitol Hill and the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But our work is not done. Far, far from it. Taking a page from Rahm Emanuel’s Machiavellian “never let a serious crisis go to waste” formulation, these profane, fundamentalist/dominionist Christian, die-hard enemies of the U.S. Constitution are also despicable political opportunists. They are clearly using the fast-developing NSA scandal to sneak exceptionally destructive amendments into the 2014 NDAA. They are arrogantly confident that their nefarious and wholly unconstitutional legislative legerdemain will escape the attention of the American people. And you know it's not a bad bet. Today, all too many Americans are ruthlessly docile and supine on matters of exceptionally vital magnitude that necessitate our intellectual engagement and ardent activism. Instead, our fellow citizens ravenously gorge themselves on a fatal diet of American Idol, Duck Dynasty, and NASCAR. Cry havoc! Whither are we bound as a nation, as a people, and as a republic?

There are two paramount fronts in this bloodbath of a battle royale to maintain the separation of church and state: within the United States armed forces and within civilian government. We at MRFF will continuously challenge those predatory fundamentalist Christian extremists ("dominionists" - please Google it) who seek to gain command and control of the most vital apparatus of our beloved secular democracy. I speak of this nation's military, an organization with unsurpassed lethality and, especially, its attendant and fearsome nuclear, conventional, laser-guided, and drone arsenal. The boding evil of fundamentalist Christian "Holy Warriors" in U.S. battle uniforms calls on every American citizen to wake the hell up! We have no choice but to respond with the utmost awareness, interminable vigilance, and maximum resistance to those rabid villains in our embattled Congress who comprise nothing less than the fundamentalist Christian version of the accursed Taliban

These repulsive legislative / religious predators mask blinding hatred and exclusivist Christian, religious supremacy and sectarianism in an odious subterfuge of tortured “religious freedom.” Hearken to the clarion call to fight this base and wicked tyranny. All Americans have a critical responsibility of citizenship to stand up now with boldness and alacrity against these Congressional insurrectionists who would otherwise merrily unleash the horrors of fundamentalist Christian predation and spiritual assault upon our honored military.

Help me try, my brothers and sisters. Help me and MRFF stop them dead in their legislative tracks of shame.

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 five-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation(MRFF). 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. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of  "With God On Our Side"(2006, St. Martin's Press) and "No Snowflake in an Avalanche"(2012, Vireo).

The following Op-Ed is by the valiant Blake Page, Director of Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) Affairs at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Blake also plays a pivotal role as Special Assistant to me, in my capacity as MRFF President. Blake’s revelatory visit to the hallowed grounds of West Point should serve as a stark reminder of the ongoing threat to the United States Constitution wrought by those who cloak their Christian fundamentalist agendas in the uniform of our nation's armed forces.

Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein

Founder and President,

Military Religious Freedom Foundation

"Truth is generally the best vindication against slander." - Abraham Lincoln

Since my resignation from West Point, one of the most frequently asked questions sent my way has been whether or not I have any regrets. Certainly, I have spent a few minutes contemplating the potential alternative timelines that could have come to be if I had stayed. But, no, I do not regret my decision. Countless events, observations and conversations since then have left me vindicated. Time and time again I have been shown that many in our military suffer from dangerous ideological pollution in the form of Christian supremacy, Dominionism or intolerance in general. Every day as the Special Assistant to the President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and Director of MRFF Affairs at West Point I see redundant and nauseating examples of the same old hat. Memorial Day weekend, MRFF sent me to West Point to see first hand how things have been developing since I left.

Friday evening, I was invited by a former classmate to meet his family at a pre-banquet reception that just happened to be going on around the same time I was visiting other cadets for other reasons. Understanding my reputation there, and not wanting to cause any disruptions, I was hesitant to accept his offer to go inside at first, but he persisted and ultimately I acquiesced.

After a round of introductions and few minutes of conversation, it was time for that friend to leave to attend the graduation banquet. We said our goodbyes, "nice to meet you"s, and then I left. While on my way out, I ran into two characters I had known since Plebe year: cadets (now lieutenants) Charlie Gerber and Oliver Flynn. They each looked quite nonplussed at my presence. We had a very short conversation, from which I gladly walked away once it became apparent that it would not be civil.

Gerber and Flynn followed a few paces behind me, but not so far that I could no longer hear what they were saying to one another. Flynn started an exchange by saying that upon seeing me he experienced a strong impulse to practice some punitive physical violence (although with a less palatable choice of words, imagine what you must). Charlie laughed, "Haha. I was thinking the exact same thing... " Finally they decided that they would not be following through with this fantasy beating because it would infringe their ability to graduate the next day.

Really gents? The only thing stopping you from resorting to violence against a non-violent civilian is  fear of punishment? How wonderful to know that America's alleged best and brightest, on the night before graduation, are still making ethical decisions based on reward/punishment as children do. By their own words, the only thing stopping them from assaulting me was not that it would be wrong, criminal, and unjustifiable, but that it might possibly cause them some hardship later on. And people wonder why there are problems with assault in the military...

Of course, I would hardly have been doing my job as the Director of MRFF Affairs at West Point if I were not attuned to the religious atmosphere of the academy. Since my departure, one very noticeable concession has been made at West Point. Now during prayers with compulsory attendance (such as at graduation), those reading them include the phrase "if you so choose" before giving the captive audience an "opportunity" to hear a prayer. How generous. Recent events in the Arizona senate demonstrate as clearly as ever that the practice of blessing state events is a perversion of religious freedom that does not truly accommodate the acceptance of all people equally. Would West Point allow a Humanist invocation at graduation? Polytheist? Muslim? With all the varieties of belief structures in existence, an invocation (even when delivered in their most watered down version) continues to be exclusionary. This is nothing less than ceremonial religious supremacy...if you so choose to be required by law as a member of the military to attend.

While my concerns with invocations and benedictions may appear abstract to those unsympathetic, there was an event of particular interest that is much more easily understood as a conflict with separation of religion and state. A friend of mine invited me to attend his commissioning ceremony in the garden of quarters 100 (the Superintendent's house). Originally, it was scheduled for 2:30 that afternoon, but his "spiritual commissioning ceremony" was taking longer than expected. A spiritual commissioning ceremony is an event hosted by the infamous Officers Christian Fellowship (OCF), in which cadets are reminded of the Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all men, and are also prayed over for safe and successful military careers. Strangely, there are no videos of this ceremony or transcripts of the spiritual commissioning oath publicly available. I am curious to know what these officers are swearing to uphold that takes precedence over their oath to defend the Constitution. Once he had finished that ceremony, I met my friend and his family in the garden to wait for Major Jeffrey Pickler to finish performing the commissioning ceremony for other new lieutenants.

Major Pickler is currently serving as the Aide-de-Camp to the Superintendent of West Point, Lieutenant General (LTG) Huntoon. He is also very involved in the OCF and was a mentor to my friend, whose ceremony he would be conducting that Saturday afternoon. Around 3:45 the ceremony began. It was going along wonderfully for a while. Then Major Pickler pontificated: "Mike is exactly the sort of junior officer I would want in my battalion!" Here he issued a long list of adjectives. Things like strong, intelligent, honorable, etc; all traits that are quite desirable in a good officer. After he appeared to be done with the list, he paused for a second and looked off into the sky before adding with emphasis, "Christian."

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is exactly the sort of officer Major Jeffrey Pickler would like in his battalion. A Christian. Not a Muslim, Jew, Wiccan, Mormon, Humanist, or atheist. He prefers his subordinates to be Christians, and was confident enough to say it loudly and proudly. As an officer in the Army of a pluralistic society, this way of thinking is a problem. There is no difference in kind between public expressions of Christian Supremacy and that of misogyny or homophobia. Imagine if MAJ Pickler had added Caucasian heterosexual male to his description of preferred junior officers. Would that be tolerable? By saying he prefers Christian subordinates, MAJ Pickler acknowledged that he would rather not have non-Christian subordinates.

When I resigned from West Point I gave credit to then-Commandant of Cadets Brigadier General Theodore Martin for his clearly heartfelt desire for equality in the ranks of the Academy. I also mentioned a gulf that exists between the intent of general level officers and the execution of their intent with good faith that at least the highest echelons our military's leadership would not tolerate such bigotry. In this case, it is very difficult for me to continue to maintain such faith because those clearly unlawful comments were delivered by LTG Huntoon's Aide-de-Camp in his presence, quite literally in the man's back yard! What clearer expression of complicity can there be?

No, I do not regret my resignation. I have been vindicated daily, in more ways than will ever be made public. I now have the opportunity to defend the Constitution of my country by working with Mikey Weinstein and the MRFF and several other organizations in ways I never would have been able to as a member of the military. If there ever were any doubt that what I'd seen in the past was anomalous, this weekend proved otherwise.

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.

Blake Page was born in 1988 in San Jose, California, then spent most of his childhood in Stockbridge, GA. Immediately after high school he enlisted in the Army where he experienced a great deal of success, which ultimately led to his Commander endorsing him to attend West Point and pursue a career as an officer. As a cadet he has met and overcome several considerable challenges, personally and professionally. His most passionate work as a cadet has been as the President of the West Point Secular Student Alliance and the first Director of Military Religious Freedom Foundation Affairs at West Point.