Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wife of Academy's Critic Not Backing Down from Anyone

Wife of academy’s critic not backing down from anyone


Bonnie Weinstein is a hand talker, swishing the air like a karate expert to make a point. Maybe it’s the best way to get a word in edgewise with her motormouth husband, Mikey Weinstein.

You remember him — the guy who’s appeared on every major network and in newspapers and held court at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to advance his cause of stripping any hint of religious favoritism from the military.

It began when Weinstein, an Air Force Academy grad who is Jewish, learned his two sons were humiliated by religious slurs at the academy in 2004. So far, his wife has taken “high cover,”

like a fighter jet ready to “come down and do some strafing missions” if needed, she said. She hasn’t had to yet, but she’s fully prepared for it. She shares her husband’s view that the war is under way over the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and state clause.

In her first one-on-one interview without her husband, Bonnie Weinstein told The Gazette in her mom’s Colorado Springs living room that she’s Mikey Weinstein’s co-pilot in every sense of the word. Bonnie Weinstein, who has worked hard to remain fit and ambulatory after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is like her husband when it comes to mincing words. She doesn’t. “We’re asking for equality and religious tolerance, nothing more,” she said.

Like her husband, she was a military brat, moving to Colorado Springs with her family when she was a teen. Walking the halls of Mitchell High School, she recalls gossiping with friends about meeting cadets at academy mixers. She graduated from Mitchell in 1975 and attended the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs while waiting for Mikey Weinstein to finish at the academy.
She didn’t like Colorado Springs — too cold.

“I was all about getting my life started with Mikey,” she said, which she did on June 3, 1977, at the Academy Chapel two days after he became a second lieutenant. Raised a Protestant, she converted to Judaism a year later. While he studied law, she earned an interior design degree at California State University, Sacramento, and had two sons, Casey, a 2004 academy grad, and Curtis, an academy junior.

After Mikey Weinstein’s time as a White House lawyer in the 1980s, the couple settled in Albuquerque, where he’s become wealthy as a lawyer and from the information technology business. He also works for Ross Perot. Bonnie Weinstein spent the summer of 1998 in a wheelchair after becoming paralyzed with MS and struggled to walk again. She volunteers, works in the interior design business, gardens and cares for their two German shepherds at the couple’s spacious home, which has become a target for detractors.

Since filing the lawsuit, beer bottles have smashed their driveway, nasty phone calls have disrupted the night and a dead rabbit was left on their doorstep. That doesn’t intimidate Bonnie Weinstein. Neither do generals.

During a meeting in 2004 with then-Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, who said Jesus led him to the academy, she squirmed. “I was going to throw it back to him and say, ‘I thought it was the powers of the Pentagon that made those decisions,’” but her husband patted her knee to keep her quiet.

When the lawsuit was filed in October 2005, Bonnie Weinstein figured the case would last 10 days. Who could argue that people have the right not to be proselytized, she thought. The lawsuit’s still pending, and the kitchen is heating up. Her husband’s soon-to-be-released book, whose proceeds will go to his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, will launch a new series of media appearances and, perhaps, smashed beer bottles.

But it’s not in Bonnie Weinstein’s nature to back down. “I’m doing this with Mikey because it needs to be done,” she said. “The deeper we get into it, the more serious we realize it is.”


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