Barack Obama’s mention of the slaughters of the Christian Crusades was the opening of a can of worms that turned into snakes. The victims of the knights in shining armor were Jews and Muslims, but that was that time. The followers of the three desert deities, Jehovah, the Prophet and Jesus — have battled back and forth through history. But then each religion has devout peace activists, too. Zealots, zealots everywhere.  

In Occupy Wall Street and in the Black Lives Matter as well, there was a steady presence of ministers and rabbis — and I remember a Lakota wisdom leader at Zuccotti Park — even though clearly most of the movement-makers are secular. But we welcomed the aura of Dr.King and the Dalai Lama and Chief Joseph and Gandhi and Bishop Tutu and the movements that they represent. They both comforted and emboldened us, as we marched off to lock arms inthe doorway of Goldman Sachs or die dramatically across the floor of GrandCentral Station. 

The dismissal of religion by Marxists is discredited by present day radicals, but so are belief systems with patriarchal gods. And yet, religion never leaves. Leaders of change sometimes seem like saints, if theyare more humble in demeanor, like Joan Baez or Aung San Suu Kyi, or Yeb Sano,the Filipino climate diplomat. If they are brassier, like Vandana Shiva, or Jose Bove or Edward Snowden, then they are called messianic. 

I’m in the business of manipulating the memes of right-wing apocalyptic Christianity, with the Stop Shopping Choir. We study the presence of intolerant religion within Consumerism and Militarism; in banks that finance C02 emitting industries, like Chase andHSBC and UBS, and manufacturers of toxins like Monsanto and Bayer. We believe that the marketing departments of these industries are the new fundamentalist churches, with crusaders in the form of sexualized automobiles and product placement on celebrities’ bodies. 

Of course we rarely get anywhere near a financial or fossil fuel policy-maker. They surround us with police, who are kept in a state of angry fear. And time and time again our protests are like a clash of fundamentalist religions, the activism of two churches claiming the same God. In the conflict with banksand police, things are always very muscular, lots of finger-pointing, refusals,threats, stand-offs. We’re dealing with mutual, simultaneous damnation. You are my infidel. 

I was recently hand-cuffed while speaking in New York’s Grand Central Station with the group “We Will Not Be Silent.” Surrounded by placards featuring the names of those killed by deadly police force, and wearing my usual white polyester and priests collar, I was cuffed in mid-sentence. The metal went into the verb. So much for the 1st Amendment. The next day the policetold the Murdoch papers that I attacked a cop. 

Of course, I felt out-maneuvered by the flamboyant right wingers. But did I misguess the event? Did my analysis of power against power, protesters against institutions — pre-empt any connection with the possibly sympathetic people within Grand Central Station? Anything internal in those folks, anything deeper than theiranger, was unrevealed in the activist event. The cops feel like 9/11 is still happening. And I’m taking their Christian preacher and shouting about their blunders. We all get angry together. 

I find myself desperately wanting to talk to the employees of Grand Central Station about what happened. But these big structures, the courts, the press — all of that gets in the way. A quiet human conversation is no longer possible. A good pastor can engage in loving conversation in the middle of horror, like Bishop Tutu looking the apartheid leaders in the eye. Could I have somehow done that? I did return after I got out of jail to try to talk to the cop who man-handled me, but he wouldn’t shake my hand. 

Birth, and life, and death — no one knows what life is. Life is unexplained. Science doesn’t know and religion doesn’t either. Fundamentalists rush in with hard answers, to assuage our fear of death. Usually, the doctrine is encased in bigotry. Fundamentalist holy men arrange for us to fear the Other. And yet, again, religion cuts both ways. A “person of the cloth” carries the burden of these deeper questions, and so they can have the effect of slowing down violence. I remember clerics inserting themselves between the front lines in the Balkans. 

More of our activism needs a spiritual basis, and that doesn’t only mean the absence of mindless confrontation. Spirit is laughter, shape-shifting and music. We felt the impact of Erica Warner dying-in on the Staten Island sidewalk where her father was murdered, a mysterious and beautiful act. And we remember Wangari Maathi planting trees in the Nairobi park, in the face of the brutal dictator, and Chelsea Manning opening the door of secrets. 

I should go back to Grand Central Station and talk to those people. At least I should be able to talk to mothers, because they have the endless questions of children ringing inside them, even if those moms are cops. That is the antidote to fundamentalism. All those questions. If I talked with a hundred mothers, wouldn’t that be a better kind of activism than shouting in the echoey station and getting hauled off? Here’s the question I want to ask: “How do we end this violence?”

 Watch Reverend Billy's Freakstorm: Radical Forgiveness in Grand Slander Station. 

 
  

At first glance, one can be forgiven for thinking that a floral arrangement for a gay wedding doesn’t carry much significance for the essential national security of the United States of America. With perilously increasing military tensions spanning the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, one can be absolved for making such an assumption. However, the military implications of this week’s historic decision in Washington State by Benton County Superior Court Judge Ekstrom simply canNOT be understated.

Ekstrom’s watershed decision came about when a case was brought before the Benton County Superior Court when the ownership of a small flower shop, Arlene’s Flowers, refused to provide services on the professed basis of their Southern Baptist, Christian fundamentalist zeal to a frequent customer who sought arrangements for his same-sex wedding ceremony. Judge Ekstrom struck down this reprehensibly unlawful and unconstitutional behavior when he stated, "While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren't necessarily protected." Indeed, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is NOT a license for private business owners to sanctimoniously bully, marginalize, and violate civil rights as they see fit because of their alleged “relationship with Jesus Christ” (or Allah, Jehovah, Yaweh, Odin, Shiva, Spiderman etc.). Indeed, just as it isn’t a license for anyone else to engage in whatever extremist, unlawful practice they might imagine their chosen deity to prefer.

For those of us who have been leading the civil rights fight of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the only organization devoted solely to fighting the scourge of extremist Christianity within the U.S. Armed Forces, the story is a common one. Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), we saw that various Dominionist bigots within the military were pathetically prostituting the flimsy gauze of “free speech” as a means towards turning back this historic victory for sex & gender minorities (and by implication, all Americans) within the U.S. armed forces. Squealing like stuck pigs, disingenuously, that DADT’s repeal represented a grave offense against their so-called “religious liberty”, these reprehensibly homophobic Christian extremist predators created a virtual media cyclone of misinformation, disinformation, and bald-faced lies. As they say, “haters gonna hate.” 

However, when the Religious Right echo chambers are filled with hot air, fire, and brimstone concerning some fictitious and utterly specious “War on Christianity,” monsters tend to proliferate, and sometimes we even find them in the hallowed halls of Congress. The Constitutionally-derelict Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) is one especially odious fundamentalist Christian monstrosity. Fleming, and other members of Congressman Randy Forbes’ (R-VA) “Congressional Prayer Caucus”, have repeatedly attempted to warp the meaning of “freedom to worship” via their grossly misnamed “Religious Liberty Amendments” to the recent years’ drafts of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) commonly referred to as “The Pentagon Funding Bill.” Fleming & Co.’s “Religious Bigotry Amendments” would have torn asunder the unit cohesion, military readiness, morale, good order, and discipline of U.S. servicemembers, adding ANY type of “actions and speech” (including anti-gay, theologically racist, or sectarian hate speech) to the roster of protected religious freedoms of American service members. Further still, it would offer essentially an invulnerable shield of protection for anyone who seeks to use such actions or speech to “actually harm” (i.e. grievously injure) the aforementioned compelling governmental interest of insuring maximum military unit cohesion, good order and discipline et al. At this very same time, we at MRFF stated that if these amendments were allowed to go forward, they would result in a “thoroughly dreadful nightmare of civil rights desecration wrought by a tsunami of unabated fundamentalist Christian supremacy, exceptionalism, and tyranny.”

Thankfully, the law remains the law (oh, and take a good look at the confirming, 1974 Supreme Court case of Parker vs. Levy) and the Fleming thugs’ Amendments failed, just like the attempts in court by Arlene’s Flowers to justify their hideously bigoted treatment of LGBTQ customers. Individuals’ religious beliefs may be protected by the First Amendment; however, those same individual’s ACTIONS, based upon those very same religious beliefs, are not necessarily likewise protected. Discerning Americans can see clearly that the actual goal of these fundamentalist Christian jackals isn’t at ALL the protection of their twisted "right to worship”. Quite on the contrary, their real intention is to furiously cast stones upon the “apostates”, the “disbelievers”, and those “aberrant” elements who diverge from the “flock” being shepherded by such vile “Good News Gospel” scoundrels as the Rev. Pat Robertson, Rev. Franklin Graham, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Boykin, Tony Perkins, and the rest of the Dominionist rogues’ gallery.

The allowance of such limitless religious oppression and villainy inside the U.S. military would be a national security threat of unparalleled dimension and magnitude.

However, the courageous decision by Washington state Judge Ekstrom was a decisive deathblow to the dastardly designs and craven mendacity of the embittered Religious Right. Perhaps it would be appropriate to send a floral arrangement to these barbaric wretches as a gesture of our sincerest condolences?

Hey, I like it: Perhaps a dozen black roses to celebrate the demise of their dreams of fundamentalist religious domination of our United States Constitution?

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

 

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

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

- J.K. Rowling

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

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

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

This is what the president actually said:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Certain religious groups and political leaders would like women to think that their disrespect and disdain for the choices women make is because those pretty little things just don’t understand the awesome power they were imbued with by their creator.

Didn’t “The Almighty” mess that one up?

Letting those dunderheaded women hold the keys to reproduction even though their ditzy decision-making capabilities – or incapabilities, rather – would lead them and all of humankind to disaster.

Forgive me if you’re one of those people who prefers to use mankind as a noun to describe our species ­– not too surprisingly – we’re not much alike on politically correct terminology. Yeah, I’m the kind of person who wishes folks a happy holiday as well.

Anyway, think about it: the creators loaded women with the offspring bearing payload mechanisms and then allowed them to think for themselves.  God was clearly off his rocker when he thought up that scheme. Ever since creation, the men that the Lord created have been trying to think for the women he or she created as well. Could God really have been that stupid? Seems as though man’s deity and man himself have a communication breakdown.

Well, this past week, during the latest episode in staged congressional politics, certain republican members of congress really stepped in it by trying to limit a woman’s right to choose. And by choose, I don’t mean choose what she orders for dinner, I mean choose what she does with the baby chamber the heavenly father entrusted to her care.

Yeah turns out the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” couldn’t get the support of – you guessed it – republican women. And why should it. The bill essentially says that women will knowingly terminate babies as a form of sadistic murder. Wow, certainly not something the creator would have had in mind. In the Old Testament men inflict painful death well after the baby’s born. Read the book people, God knows how this is done.

Anyway, I’m not talking about all that. I’m not talking about some man-created higher power giving women a uterus all the while completely forgetting to give her the wisdom to know what is her best decision when it comes to that uterus. No, I’m talking about a completely different female body part.

I’m talking about her head.

Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me what I thought about Mrs. Obama’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia. Rose Marie wanted to know what I thought about the fact that the United States’ First Lady didn’t cover her head.

Like a fool, I blurted out my first reaction. I said, “Well, it’s her head, isn’t it?”

Rose Marie agreed. But it seems many others, many men, do not.

Are you kidding me? The people having a problem here are the exact same people who were angry at the President for bowing when he met Japanese dignitaries. But that sort of hypocrisy means nothing to me.

What does mean something to me is the fact that Michelle Obama – arguably the most powerful woman in the world – doesn’t have the right to say what she does with her own head.

The message here for ordinary powerless women, you ain’t got a prayer of governing your own uterus.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fire chief of Atlanta, GA, Kelvin Cochran, was just dismissed because of a self-published book he wrote which was viewed as homophobic. According to Think Progress:
 

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) announced Tuesday that he has fired Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who had previously been suspended for publishing and distributing a book condemning homosexuality..

  . . . Since Cochran’s suspension last month, he has become a bit of a martyr for conservatives, who believe he has been persecuted for his religious beliefs. J. Edgar White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, suggested that Cochran was among those “who are punished or marginalized for their faith” and called on Christians to purchase his book and support him.
 Reed was adamant during Tuesday’s press conference that Cochran’s religious beliefs were not the reason he was fired. His book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?, was published in violation of Atlanta’s Standards of Conduct, which requires approval from the Ethics Officer and the Board of Ethics. According to Reed, Cochran’s “actions and decision-making undermine his ability to manage our fire department” because employees need to feel that they are “a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment.


That's the story before conservatives and the religious right will attempt to make Cochran the newest martyr of the concept of  'religious liberty.'   'Religious liberty' is a phrase these individuals have coined to claim that those who practice their version Christian faith in America are supposedly being persecuted because of their objections to homosexuality and marriage equality. To them, "persecution" is a wide and loaded term which includes being forced to serve gay customers or, as we see with the above situation with Cochran, not being allowed to "voice objections" to homosexuality in places where such objections aren't exactly conducive or appropriate to the environment.

It is a concept which is gaining speed now that marriage equality is becoming more accepted and swiftly the law throughout the country.  'Religious liberty' has gained support from the "fire and brimestone" sect, who see persecution behind every bush, to the concern trolls who clamor that since gays are gaining the right to marry, we should "be nice and respectful" to those who oppose our general equality.

In other words, "religious liberty" is a load of nonsense.  It's equivalent to a good paint job a bad car salesman puts on an busted up clunker in a sad attempt to cover that it's stinker.

First of all gays were not given the right to marry. It was a right which should have been ours from the start and one which we earned by slowly slogging through the trenches and terrain of this ridiculous so-called culture war.

Then there is the second point. At what point are rights given in "tit-for-tat" compromises? Just where is it said that since gays are winning the right to marry, we have to forfeit our dignity, respect, and rights as taxpayers?  Since when is there a right for businesses treat gays like second-class citizens even though our tax dollars help to keep these businesses safe? Since when is there a right to   minimize our lives to a concept or a "lifestyle" so one can pretend that he or she is not denigrating human beings, even if that denigration is done on the job and, in the case of Cochran, by our bosses?

And why do gays have to deal with such treatment under the guise of "religious liberty" when no other group of Americans have to? Cochran's book also denigrated women and people of the Jewish faith. If there were no words about gays in his book, would there be any controversy regarding "religious liberty" with regards to his firing?

You can call it "religious liberty" all you want. I call it homophobia and it's worst kind, too. It's practiced by folks who are too self-righteous to step down from that nonexistent stairway to Heaven they think they are building for themselves.

America just celebrated the season of giving with Hanukkah and Christmas presents, year-end charity donations and soup kitchen volunteering. It is a time when Americans demonstrate the generosity, caring and kindness that define them as a people.

Now, however, Americans may suffer the season of GOP taking. Republicans already insisted on taking away a key protection in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Now they’re intent on taking health insurance from millions of Americans who got it under the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a manifestation of Americans’ concern for each other’s welfare. Americans felt it was intolerable for so many of their friends, neighbors and relatives to be uninsured in the richest country in the world, to be bankrupted by medical bills, to die for lack of medical care. So they found a way to do something about it. That is the ACA. Among other benefits, it extends Medicaid and provides subsidies enabling the working poor to afford insurance. But the GOP is all against it. Republicans tried to repeal the law, appealed to courts to overturn it and refused its expansion of Medicaid. As they become the majority party in both houses of Congress this month, Republicans will intensify their campaign to take health insurance from millions who got it through the ACA.

Just as the employer mandate requiring large businesses to offer health insurance finally goes into effect, Republicans will try to eliminate insurance for those newly-covered workers.

They’ve promised to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act – again. None of their previous 50 votes to do that succeeded. Failure is likely again, too, since they won’t get 60 ayes in the Senate and President Obama won’t sign a repeal. So they’ve said they’ll next try killing the law piece by piece.

Unlike their congressional votes, Republicans have been tragically successful with lawsuits in denying Americans health insurance. The first of those suits that went to the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t kill the law outright but empowered Republican governors to prevent poor constituents from getting health insurance through the law’s Medicaid expansion. Millions are suffering as a result.

New statistics show that if the Supreme Court had not made expansion of Medicaid optional,   more than 3 million people would have gained health insurance in the 24 states where Republicans refused the program. These 3 million are working Americans struggling on the financial edge, people whose income is less than $16,105 a year.

A new Republican-pushed lawsuit could take insurance from 5 million more. These are residents of states that decided to use the federal health insurance exchange instead of creating marketplaces of their own. People who now buy insurance on an exchange, state or federal, may receive subsidies to help them afford it if their income is up to four times the federal poverty level.

In the lawsuit, King v. Burwell, Republicans argue that language in the Affordable Care Act means that only people who buy their insurance on a state-run exchange qualify for the subsidies. The GOP wants to discriminate against people who get their insurance through the federal marketplace. They want to deny the ACA’s financial help to the working poor in 36 states without their own exchanges.

New federal information shows that 87 percent of those who buy their insurance on the exchanges receive subsidies. And a review by the private consulting firm Avalere Health showed that, on average, the subsidies paid for three-quarters of the purchaser’s insurance premium.

If the Supreme Court hands Republicans a win in this case, millions will lose their insurance because they can no longer afford it. These are people who got insured with the help of the ACA, and who will lose it on the demand of the GOP.

In another lawsuit, 36 Republicans in Arizona are trying to take Medicaid away from poor residents who got coverage in the expansion pushed through by Gov. Jan Brewer – yes, a Republican. Like several other Republican governors who accepted the expansion, Brewer was swayed by doctors and hospitals that prefer to treat insured patients rather than deny care or provide it for free.

But the three dozen Arizona Republicans, represented by the conservative Goldwater Institute, contend the expansion is illegal because it will be partially paid for by a levy on hospitals. Last week, the state Supreme Court said the case could proceed. If the GOP wins, it will take insurance from a quarter million Arizonians.

Maine is just the opposite. There, low income people never benefitted from Medicaid expansion because Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed it. Five times.

The most recent Congressional session was the second least productive in the modern era—exceeding the previous poor record by one piece of legislation. Now, however, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, a new low is promised.

Instead of passing positive or helpful or useful legislation, the GOP has pledged to take from the American people. It vows to take away a basic necessity – health care, to ensure the uninsured suffer.

That’s a promise that Americans must ensure is broken. For their own health. For their neighbors’ well-being. And for preservation of Americans’ self-image as caring and kind people. 

 

 

 

1. We will stop referring to ourselves as a "civil rights" organization that defends "human rights." It is a sacrilege to people actually killed or harmed by civil and human rights abuses.

 

2. We will stop pointing at Chicago and saying gun laws don't work. We will admit the majority of Chicago crime guns are trafficked from states and counties with loose laws.

 

3. We will stop saying "the government is going to take your guns" to block federal laws. The confiscation we announced 7 years ago never happened.

4. We will stop blaming "mental health" problems for U.S. gun violence. We admit every country in the world has mental health problems but they don't have Newtowns and Virginia Techs.

 

5. We admit fighting universal background checks arms criminals and that armed criminals sells more guns to "good guys." Ka-ching.

 

6. We acknowledge that "outlaws" don't have guns in the 28 EU countries, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and other countries with strict gun regulations. We also admit, grudgingly, they are not "tyrannies."

 

7. We will stop our insulting comparison of guns to knives, hammers, cars and swimming pools--none of which kill when used as directed. On the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre, 20 Chinese school children were attacked with a knife and none died.

 

8. We accept responsibility for the armed vigilante movement popularized by George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn. We admit "concealed carry" laws are the biggest revenue infusion since "Obama is going to take your guns."

 

9. We will stop defending sales to civilians of non-defensive weapons like TrackingPoint's "can’t miss" sniper rifle. We admit they are ready-made for insurrectionists, terrorists and hate groups.

 

9. We regret our work to help suspected domestic abusers keep their guns while under orders of protection. We admit this costs many women's lives and that our sleazy sales pitch to tell women to arm themselves too just makes things worse.

 

HYPERLINK "http://gunvictimsaction.org/"

National Gun Victims Actions Council is the U.S.' largest gun victims groups. Join our HYPERLINK "http://www.operationsideline.org/"effort to get corporate America to take a stand against gun violence. When corporations want sane gun laws, we will have sane gun laws. @GunVictimsAct

 

homeless_baby_girl
Homeless people have shelters to go to, a common belief comforting those who don’t know better. 

Having just come from the community-based shelter where my friend and colleague Pat LaMarche works, having run shelters for 15 years myself, having seen shelters across the country for the past 9 years of my HEAR US traveling, I find myself seething at the perverted reality of what our shelter “system” is in this affluent country.

Pat’s shelter is probably average (no offense!). It’s in a middle-income borough in sort of central PA. Hundreds of similar communities dot the Keystone State. This community is quite unusual, with 3 shelters—one in a fixed site, this one which rotates to different places of worship—and a Salvation Army shelter for families. Shari Bellish, Carlisle Cares founder, fights hard to keep this meager operation going, knowing that 55 people a night will have a safe place to sleep. 

I listened as Pat answered one of many phone calls she and other staff get during the day. “I’m sorry, we’re full,” was the gist of it. The caller, a woman staying in her car. It’s below freezing tonight. Pat referred her to a neighboring community’s rotating site “shelter” program. At least she has a car, and gas is cheaper. Maybe she’ll get a spot to sleep.

Many shelters operate on paltry budgets, forcing them to creatively get around the lack of space and staff by setting hours that minimize the operations’ expenses. Pat’s shelter busses people to the night site which opens at 9:30 p.m. Everyone has to be out by 7 a.m., bussed back to this modest base so everyone can go on their way.

Imagine life for school kids—to bed by 10 if they’re lucky, up at 6:30, on a bus at 7 to go back to shelter headquarters to wash up and grab breakfast before heading out to school. Not a lot of quality time for homework, much less sleep and normalcy. The pads on the floor squeezed together don’t allow for privacy, or sleep. 

Volunteers and a skeleton staff make this emergency arrangement possible. And it’s much better than everyone cuddling up on the street. In Phoenix, the county is contemplating shutting down their overflow shelter—a bleak warehouse that offers nothing but a place on the floor for hundreds of desperate men.

Reading Bill Moyer’s post on homelessness, I found myself torn. His valid perspective is tainted by the use of wildly-delusional statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD’s official report to Congress, which determines funding for homelessness programs, was that 578,424 people were homeless last year.  

This extremely narrow enumeration hardly counts homelessness at all. It’s a one-night point-in-time count that, despite sincerely stalwart efforts by professionals and volunteers, documents a mere drop in the vast sea of people—adults and kids, oldsters and babies and those in between—with no place to go.

Case in point, the U.S. Department of Education reported that almost 1.3 million students without homes were identified in the 2013 school year, a staggering 72% increase since 2006. T America’s Youngest Outcasts reports over 2.5 million CHILDREN are homeless, not including parents or single adults. So, HUD’s report…just a tad under-representing the crisis.

I left as Pat headed down the garbage bag-lined hallway, holiday clothing donations. Folks were quietly waiting at tables. If you’d could ask, you’d hear about boredom, frustration finding housing or jobs, regrets about burned bridges and family alienation, and gratitude that at least they have some place to turn to on this cold Pennsylvania night where they’ll be safe. 

It’s perverted that they should feel grateful. It’s perverted that many communities have no shelters. It’s perverted that HUD is pushing “Housing First” with inadequate resources to help those who need it, and we’ll see the perverted action of the 114th Congress, which doesn’t begin to have a clue as to the staggering scope homeless Americans, as they likely slash spending for human needs.


homeless_baby_girl
Homeless people have shelters to go to, a common belief comforting those who don’t know better. 

Having just come from the community-based shelter where my friend and colleague Pat LaMarche works, having run shelters for 15 years myself, having seen shelters across the country for the past 9 years of my HEAR US traveling, I find myself seething at the perverted reality of what our shelter “system” is in this affluent country.

Pat’s shelter is probably average (no offense!). It’s in a middle-income borough in sort of central PA. Hundreds of similar communities dot the Keystone State. This community is quite unusual, with 3 shelters—one in a fixed site, this one which rotates to different places of worship—and a Salvation Army shelter for families. Stephanie, the shelter founder, fights hard to keep this meager operation going, knowing that 55 people a night will have a safe place to sleep. 

I listened as Pat answered one of many phone calls she and other staff get during the day. “I’m sorry, we’re full,” was the gist of it. The caller, a woman staying in her car. It’s below freezing tonight. Pat referred her to a neighboring community’s rotating site “shelter” program. At least she has a car, and gas is cheaper. Maybe she’ll get a spot to sleep.

Many shelters operate on paltry budgets, forcing them to creatively get around the lack of space and staff by setting hours that minimize the operations’ expenses. Pat’s shelter busses people to the night site which opens at 9:30 p.m. Everyone has to be out by 7 a.m., bussed back to this modest base so everyone can go on their way.

Imagine life for school kids—to bed by 10 if they’re lucky, up at 6:30, on a bus at 7 to go back to shelter headquarters to wash up and grab breakfast before heading out to school. Not a lot of quality time for homework, much less sleep and normalcy. The pads on the floor squeezed together don’t allow for privacy, or sleep. 

Volunteers and a skeleton staff make this emergency arrangement possible. And it’s much better than everyone cuddling up on the street. In Phoenix, the county is contemplating shutting down their overflow shelter—a bleak warehouse that offers nothing but a place on the floor for hundreds of desperate men.

Reading Bill Moyer’s post on homelessness, I found myself torn. His valid perspective is tainted by the use of wildly-delusional statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD’s official report to Congress, which determines funding for homelessness programs, was that 578,424 people were homeless last year.  

This extremely narrow enumeration hardly counts homelessness at all. It’s a one-night point-in-time count that, despite sincerely stalwart efforts by professionals and volunteers, documents a mere drop in the vast sea of people—adults and kids, oldsters and babies and those in between—with no place to go.

Case in point, the U.S. Department of Education reported that almost 1.3 million students without homes were identified in the 2013 school year, a staggering 72% increase since 2006. T America’s Youngest Outcasts reports over 2.5 million CHILDREN are homeless, not including parents or single adults. So, HUD’s report…just a tad under-representing the crisis.

I left as Pat headed down the garbage bag-lined hallway, holiday clothing donations. Folks were quietly waiting at tables. If you’d could ask, you’d hear about boredom, frustration finding housing or jobs, regrets about burned bridges and family alienation, and gratitude that at least they have some place to turn to on this cold Pennsylvania night where they’ll be safe. 

It’s perverted that they should feel grateful. It’s perverted that many communities have no shelters. It’s perverted that HUD is pushing “Housing First” with inadequate resources to help those who need it, and we’ll see the perverted action of the 114th Congress, which doesn’t begin to have a clue as to the staggering scope homeless Americans, as they likely slash spending for human needs.