By now it’s likely you’ve heard about the intense drama going down at the Navy Nuclear Nuclear Power Training Center involving Lt. Commander (Chaplain) Wesley Modder and his Commanding Officer, Navy Captain Jon Fahs. A quick summary is that Chaplain Modder has been accused of making inappropriate comments and of being intolerant, to wit: telling students that homosexuality is wrong; shaming and berating female students for having unmarried sex and becoming pregnant out of wedlock; asking a female staff member about her sexual activities; and discriminating against students of different faiths and backgrounds than his own. He is facing potentially career-ending administrative action from the United States Navy.  The Navy has also issued a “No Contact Order,” preventing Chaplain Modder from officiating at the funeral of a recently deceased sailor from a prior unit where the chaplain had served.

Chaplain Modder claims that it is he who is the REAL victim in this scenario, and that he has been, among other things, apparently set up by a junior officer who happens to be gay.

Oh, Chaplain Modder, I hardly find YOU to be the aggrieved party here, sir.

The usual extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian organizations like the Family “Research” Council (ever wonder what exactly it is that they ever “research”?) and the “Liberty” Institute (whose “liberty" you might fairly ask?) have made Chaplain Modder the current poster child of faux, pernicious Christian persecution in “Obama’s military,” and are fast closing in on 100,000 signatures on an e-petition of their religiously intolerant faithful to convince the Navy to back off of poor picked-on Chaplain Modder. Fortunately, it matters little if they eventually get even 100 MILLION signatures. As Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once so sagaciously opined, “In America, we don’t count heads before enforcing the First Amendment."

I have received many, many press inquiries about this matter. I even gave an interview to Voice of America the other day about it and they told me that the interview would be translated into Chinese and broadcast via shortwave radio all over Asia. Clearly, there is great interest in this “Matter of Modder.”

So, what’s the real bottom line here? Let me please lay it out as simply and briefly as possible. 

Essentially, Modder and his rapacious, fundamentalist Christian allies are basking in the selfishly manufactured glow of completely and deliberately imagined “persecution.” He (and they) disingenuously claim that Modder is being unjustly barbecued by the Navy because he has sincerely held religious beliefs about LGB folks, and women, and premarital sex, etc., which are also integrally part and parcel of the required dictates of his Chaplain endorsing agency, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, and are therefore sacrosanct and fully protected under Federal law. They claim he was merely calling on those beliefs whilst privately counseling needy subordinate sailors. He’s thus not being properly “accommodated” for his beliefs and is universally blameless, and the Navy is crucifying him (pun intended) for no reason other than his personal Christian beliefs about gay and women folk, etc.

And of course the Navy has a long and well-documented history of persecuting Christians, don’t ya know? Umm, actually, we DON’T know that at all.

Here’s why Modder and his swelling gang of Christian supremacist supporters are WRONG: it’s quite fine for Navy Chaplain Modder and any other member of the United States military to “believe” that no one is “born gay,” or that being gay is a “choice,” and a sinful choice, at that; it’s likewise fine for military members to “believe” that Jews, Hispanics and African American people are inferior, and that women have no place in the military. Indeed, “belief” is one thing, but “behavior” spawned from that belief is quite another. While prejudice is internal to its believer, bigotry is the BEHAVIOR of actually ACTING upon that internal prejudice, and it is THAT which is simply NOT allowed under Federal law. Modder is NOT being singled out or persecuted for his disgustingly homophobic and chauvinistic BELIEFS at all! He’s being justly punished by the Navy for ACTING on those Federally outlawed beliefs. The Navy is not required to, nor WILL it, “accommodate” such opprobrious and unlawful behavior from ANY of its personnel.

Now listen carefully to me please; Chaplain Modder has EVERY right under American law to hold those prejudiced beliefs, but he has ZERO rights to expect the American taxpayer to PAY him for exhibiting those bigoted behaviors which often go hand-in-hand with such horrid hatred, which all-too-frequently cannot be constrained and thus openly springs from those prejudiced beliefs.

Irrespective of the unbridled squeals and screams of bloody protest from the fundamentalist, religious-extremist, para-church syndicates mentioned above – and their millions of dull-minded Dominionist Christian followers, roadies and donors – the Navy is not, repeat NOT, coming down on Modder for his bare BELIEFS, but because of his ACTIONS concomitant with those beliefs. Do you see this difference, and do you understand how it matters enormously?

Modder and his supporters claim (and are desperate for the world to believe) that he is being denied his Constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and freedom of religion under the First Amendment. After all, EVERYone who is an American citizen gets those precious rights, no?

“NO,” in direct point of fact, IS the correct answer here, folks. Look, when you put on the uniform of a Sailor, Soldier, Marine or Airman and join the armed forces of the United States of America you are, 1) doing an incredibly sacrificial and honorable deed and, 2) just as importantly, voluntarily giving up MANY of the Constitutional rights of your civilian peers. What? Come again? Why is that the case?

The United States military is an almost indescribably specialized world within a world. As our Federal courts have long opined, the American military is hyper-tribal, adversarial, communal and ritualistic. It has its own criminal justice system, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It even has its own list of felonies under that special UCMJ code. For instance, adultery – that’s right, ADULTERY – can be (and often is) considered tantamount to a felony-level offense under the UCMJ. So are a literal plethora of other offenses that would never even get a wrist slap in the civilian world. Why is that? The answer is simple and logical. Our military members willingly forfeit many of their Constitutional rights to enable the maximization of that which it needs and craves most to optimally protect the full panoply of Constitutional rights for the rest of us and the national security interests of the United States; namely, mission readiness, unit cohesion, good order, morale and discipline.

Our Federal laws proclaim – and our U.S. Supreme Court has consistently so construed – those laws to hold that America’s “compelling governmental interest” in how the military manages itself is ALL about one thing: the provision of the highest magnitude of the aforementioned good order, morale and discipline. Forty-one years ago, way back in 1974, noted über-conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist penned the majority opinion (6 to 2) in the ONE case SO on-point in the "Modder Matter" that you will NEVER see him, or his despotically fundamentalist Christian lunatic backers, EVER be able to refute it: Parker vs. Levy (417 U.S. 733). Just take a quick look at what Rehnquist said in his ruling, which is still the unchallenged law of the land on these matters to this very day:

"This Court has long recognized that the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society. We have also recognized that the military has, again by necessity, developed laws and traditions of its own during its long history. The differences between the military and civilian communities result from the fact that ‘it is the primary business of armies and navies to fight or be ready to fight wars should the occasion arise.’ ... An army is not a deliberative body. It is the executive arm. Its law is that of obedience. No question can be left open as to the right to command in the officer or the duty of obedience in the soldier. ... While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it. ... In the armed forces, some restrictions exist for reasons that have no counterpart in the civilian community. Disrespectful and contemptuous speech, even advocacy of violent change, is tolerable in the civilian community, for it does not directly affect the capacity of the Government to discharge its responsibilities unless it both is directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to produce such action. In military life, however, other considerations must be weighed. The armed forces depend on a command structure that, at times must commit men to combat, not only hazarding their lives but also ultimately involving the security of the Nation itself. Speech that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command. If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected.”

Thus, what does all of this have to do with Modder? Well, it means he sucks. He’s a destroyer of the very bones, blood, sinew and muscle that the Navy needs to effectively function. The United States Navy has officially investigated and determined that he is nothing more than a common bigot and that his bigoted BEHAVIOR is clearly deleterious to the most basic and essential military necessity of ensuring optimal unit cohesion, good order, morale, discipline and mission readiness. Thus, Navy Chaplain Modder’s ACTIONS of hatred, and NOT his mere internal and otherwise Constitutionally-protected prejudiced “beliefs” of same, provide the pristine justification for the punishment meted out to him by the United States Navy.

Modder’s commander, Capt. Jon Fahs, has shown all-too-rare courage and integrity in carrying out this disgraceful officer's behavioral sanctions. In fact, I believe Capt. Fahs has displayed formidable restraint in not yet forcing Modder to defend himself against criminal charges in a well-deserved General Court-Martial.

So, then, in the end, what IS the “Matter With Modder?” 

The answer is, “nothing.”

Nothing the United States Navy can’t handle by providing visible and public punishment to a hate-spewing bigot who has intentionally savaged the cherished unit cohesion, good order, morale and discipline of his fellow sailors.

Good riddance, Chaplain Hater.

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's difficult to decide who's happier with the latest The U.S. Air Force decision endorsing the "Have a Blessed Day" greeting by armed Air Force sentries at its gates at Robins AFB, Georgia.  The Dominionist Christians are giggling at their Wednesday evening bible studies thinking that they've finally nosed their camel under the tent and can use their Christian code to bless and evangelize the unwitting and the subordinate.  The Air Force leadership is basking in what they see as a procedurally defensible "victory" over me and the MRFF and our 13 USAF officer, NCO and civilian clients at Robins (9 of whom are fully practicing Christians). They are happily noting that there's no Air Force Instruction VIOLATED by the use of the phrase—so "WE WIN", gleefully squeals the Air Force and its fundamentalist Christian puppeteers!

However, the smoking lamp (or is it, the "BS lamp") has been lit on this stinking travesty and you don't need to be a Constitutional scholar (or rocket scientist) to see the Mach 3 hypocrisy here.  The Air Force is busy citing their "AFI" for not specifically forbidding the greeting.  (Note:  AFI stands for Air Force Instruction—we don't call them ‘regulations' any more in this kinder, gentler, more developmental time).  What they don't mention is that the AFI also doesn't specifically prohibit sentries from saying "Namaste", "Hail Satan", "Have a godless day" or "Allahu-Akbar" either. The AFI simply is not an ultimately dispositive or controlling authority to quote in opposition to armed, uniformed, USAF sentries offering "Have a blessed day" or any other non-mission-oriented statement. There still exists, however, remarkably compelling arguments that lead any reasonable and rational supporter and defender of the Constitution to wonder why the Air Force would allow, much less promulgate, the belief that such willful stupidity is the right thing to do. Let's look at the situation more closely.

Parker vs. Levy: Military Entry Gates are Not Free Speech Zones

For purposes of the following telling argument ONLY, let's momentarily stipulate that the First Amendment neither forbids (as violating freedom of religion) nor protects (as freedom of speech or religious expression) USAF gate sentries from saying, "Have a blessed day," to those requesting entry onto the installation. But, and this is a solar system-sized BUT, such high security entry gates at a U.S. military installation are NOT free speech zones where armed security forces may engage in unconstrained freedom of speech.  Everyone who has ever worn a uniform understands that commanders (at the Wing, Base, Group, Squadron, and even lower levels) are fully entitled to restrict speech by sentries and others, provided these directions are required to satisfy a legitimate military purpose. 

The seminal 1974 U.S. Supreme Court case of Parker vs. Levy is absolutely, unequivocally on point here. Justice William Rehnquist, noted uber-conservative, penned the majority opinion there to boot! Indeed, the compelling governmental interest for all matters of First Amendment and other Constitutional rights afforded to military members is NOT to ensure that their Constitutional rights are identical to their civilian counterparts. Quite on the contrary, the compelling governmental interest here is ONLY to maximize unit cohesion, military readiness, mission accomplishment, good order, moral and discipline. In other words, U.S. armed forces members will have MANY of their Constitutional rights severely curtailed due to the immediate foregoing need to further the military mission.

So, what is the military purpose for placing USAF Security Forces at installation gates?  Do they serve solely as sentries safeguarding base personnel and equipment?  No.  They also verify that those entering the base have a valid ID card and that the person(s) and vehicle do not represent a threat to the security of the installation.  After all, they're called USAF "Security Forces" for a reason. Their MILITARY mission is not to provide a pseudo, one-size-fits-all", faith blessing" to persons requesting to enter the base.  They return the ID card with a salute (for officers) or a thank you (for enlisted, civilians, contractors, and dependents) – both acts sufficient to satisfy their military duty.  After that, their SOLE attention should return to professionally surveilling for threats to the installation.  

Adding more to the entry process only detracts from the sentry's attention to their exclusive and solitary duty to watch for threats, but also suggests that the sentry's discipline is NOT singularly dedicated to the mission—he or she is instead distracted by the additional commission of providing "blessings".  Therefore, and this is the REALLY important part that should be obvious to commanders and sentries who offer the salutation, "Have a blessed day," conveys that they are NOT fully engaged performing their military duty.  They lack the individual, squadron, group and wing military discipline their solemn duty requires of them and, thus, put all at terrible risk.  How should a top military commander handle this situation?  Simple.  They should simply forbid any salutations or greetings beyond what objectively advances their critical mission of security enforcement.  If someone entering the base feels like they need a "blessing" to get through their day—and it MUST be delivered by a paid, ranked and uniformed member of the United States military, then they should go to the chaplains' offices.   

USAF is Not a Retail Merchant

Remember, the U.S. Air Force is NOT Wal-Mart.  Sure, they both wear mostly blue.  But, if Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby or Chic-Fil-A may find it acceptable or beneficial for their employees to wish departing customers, "A blessed day," let's recall that Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby or Chic-Fil-A cashiers have NOT sworn an oath to the U.S. Constitution and are not equipped with lethal side arms, military uniforms and automatic weapons (in most States, that is).  They are not in the business of training combat ready forces and defending America's national security both domestically and abroad.  However, the Air Force IS dedicated to that mission, as are the Army, Navy, and the Marine Corps.  

Gate sentries and other combatants, as a matter of military doctrine state, "We train as we fight."   Sentries in combat theaters such as Afghanistan (e,g., Bagram Air Base) or at nuclear launch and/or storage areas do not offer "Have a blessed day" to persons entering the installation or the weapons storage area. Neither should they do so at any other installations in the United States unless they are addressing commanders that ordered them to use such greetings. I'm certain—based upon my extensive experience and that of dozens of senior, active duty officers who have contacted me on this very same subject—that sentries do not greet commanders and other senior officers with "Have a blessed day" as they enter the base because they know that the commander would question the propriety and focus of the sentry doing so. Therefore why should the same sentries be authorized, encouraged, and NOT forbidden from offering the very same "faith blessing" to lesser ranked military members and civilians?

The contrary argument is where this issue really becomes illuminating—and where the AFIs (specifically AFI 1-1) become applicable.  Dominionist Christians claim that it is unlawful to restrict a sentry's right to say "Have a Blessed Day" on the basis of this being a protected religious freedom.  They really can't have it both ways, though.  If it's religious speech, then they've stepped over the line and violated the AFI, inserting religious fervor and its inherent bias and propensity for division into their role as assurers for base security.  Presuming that not ALL that enter a military base are necessarily Christians who feel the need to be blessed or evangelized by a uniformed someone with a loaded weapon asking for two forms of ID, they have just created the sense of exclusiveness that the Secretary of the Air Force, The Honorable Deborah Lee James, has stated she's furiously battling—just in the last two weeks issuing edicts and introducing programs aimed at increasing Air Force diversity and inclusion.

The Unconstitutional Influence of Fundamentalist Christian Extremists

I can't emphasize this point enough. We live in a hyper-dangerous world where there are daily threats to the security of our military personnel, our bases and posts, our people, and our nation.  Air Force leadership, as well as Congress (including the fundamentalist Christian Congressional Prayer Caucus, too) should be solely concerned about the military sentry's primary duty and should insist that her or his speech supports military necessity and absolutely NOTHING more.  Anything "more" detracts from the mission.  Period! Likewise, Air Force leadership should not be concerned about who (including Congress) might criticize their commanders for insisting on military discipline—those complaints ring hollow.  Let's not surrender the Air Force's prime directive to political and religious correctness in order to please (1) the religious extremists who pollute the Congressional Prayer Caucus; (2) outside non-military, fundamentalist Christian, parachurch organizations attempting to boost their influence within the military; or (3) misguided local and lower level commanders who illegally and irresponsibly and DANGEROUSLY place supposed obligation to their sectarian Christian church above their SWORN obligation to the Constitution.

When it comes down to what military sentries should be saying to those attempting entry to armed forces installations, the optimization of the security mission is ALL that matters and, truly, less said is more impactful to achieve that very mission.

Is this lesson so hard to understand? 

It sure wasn't to the Robins AFB Security Forces Squadron Commander who agreed in about 3 minutes with the demands I made directly to him on behalf of MRFF's 13 Air Force clients to have his gate guards cease and desist from saying "Have a blessed day". 

The cognizant USAF COMMANDER knew precisely what to do. His decision ought to be lauded and not denigrated by the forces of fundamentalist Christian tyranny both within and outside of the Department of Defense.

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).

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).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Mikey

Ladies and Gents,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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