Ex-Soldier Keeps Fighting for Freedom
By Jim Belshaw
I hadn't talked to Mikey Weinstein in a while. Then Sunday, there he was in the Washington Post, the centerpiece of a 2,600-word story.
He talked about "laying down a withering field of fire and leaving sucking chest wounds." He reflected on Christian megachurches that had given him a label: "Field General of the Armies of Satan."
Never a dull day in Mikey's life.
It has been two years since he started doing battle with the Air Force Academy and now the Air Force itself.It began when one of his sons, the second to attend the academy, just as Mikey had done, told his father that he was tired of being accused of having "killed Jesus Christ."
Mikey Weinstein is Jewish, a former Air Force officer, an attorney in the Reagan White House, a corporate attorney with Ross Perot and a member of a family with a long history at military academies.
He said it's painful to be at war with such institutions.
He has formed a non-profit- the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, its board laden with generals and admirals and combat veterans.
"I designed this foundation for two things- litigation and agitation," he said.
He has sued in federal court in Albuquerque for a permanent injunction barring the Air Force from allowing superiors to proselytize or evangelize lower-ranking service members while on duty.
He says such behavior is pervasive in the Air Force.
"You know, people say there are bad apples in the crate," he said when we spoke on Monday. "But that's not the problem. The problem is the crate is bad."
He succeeded in bringing about new guidelines at the academy, but then found the new rules no better than the old.
He ratcheted up the fight, making formidable enemies along the way- The National Association of Evangelicals, the Alliance
Defense Fund, Focus on the Family.
He said he's had feces and beer bottles thrown at his Albuquerque home; he said tires have been slashed and "I can't go nine days without getting some kind of threat."
But there will be no toning it down, no easing off.
"For the first year I was in this thing, I quote-unquote dialed it back," he said.
He is routinely depicted as anti-Christian, a charge he categorically rejects.
"I'd be happy to go to (National Association of Evangelicals leader) Ted Haggard's church and tell the 15,000 people in that church what I'm all about," he said. "I'll be the first one to grab an American flag and lead an army against anyone who tries to prevent you from having your religious belief. But not when the government says what that religious belief should be."
His wife, Bonnie, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and recently with a painful jaw disorder, says there will be no stepping back from the fight.
"The problem was that at no point was there a stopping point, unless you just drop it and run," she said. "But it's not the quality of person I am, nor is it the quality of person my husband is. Stopping wasn't anything we could consider."
He's written a book, filed the lawsuit, travels to fundraisers around the country. In Washington, he found allies in Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent outed by columnist Robert Novak.
The day we spoke, he said he'd just had a lunch with an old friend, a devout Christian and conservative Republican."He's always understood," he said. "He's always gotten it. He knows the people who try to paint me as a Christian basher are completely wrong."
The fight goes on. There will be no dialing it back.