Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Activist: Military full of evangelizing fundamentalists

Activist: Military full of evangelizing fundamentalists

By John Hanna - Associated Press Writer
Saturday, November 11, 2006

Topeka - Mikey Weinstein’s favorite nickname among the ones bestowed on him by his opponents is "field general of the godless armies of Satan." There’s also "Satan’s lawyer" and "Satan’s pet."

His fight, he says, is against a "virulent" strain of radically conservative Christianity, espoused by evangelizing, Apocalypse-minded fundamentalists and so narrow in its world view that even some evangelicals aren’t seen as saved. He contends military officers who hold such views routinely use command positions to push them on the soldiers under them.

On the eve of Veterans Day, Weinstein was in Topeka for events at a local synagogue and Washburn University. He said in an interview that problems of religious intolerance in the military have grown serious and that almost all the people who contact him now about it are Christians.

"It’s very much as much a national security threat as al-Qaida is," Weinstein said. "The people that have all the weapons and are supposed to support and defend our constitutional rights view us as Americans, those who are the saved Americans and those who are the lost Americans."
Weinstein, an Albuquerque, N.M., lawyer, founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation less than a year ago. Both he and his youngest son, Curtis, say they encountered anti-Semitism as Jewish cadets at the Air Force Academy, and he has written a book, "With God on Our Side," about the issue.

Last month, a federal judge in Colorado dismissed a lawsuit by Mikey Weinstein and four other Air Force Academy graduates, who argued that particular religious views were being pushed on cadets. Weinstein said future litigation is possible.

"We are way past the tipping point in what I refer to as the technologically most lethal organization ever created by humankind, which is the U.S. military," he said. "The wall that was intended to separate church and state in this country, in the armed forces is nothing but smoke and debris right now."

Last year, an Air Force task force concluded there was no overt religious discrimination at the school but that some cadets and staff were insensitive.

Ted Minnery, a vice president at the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., said Weinstein’s statements about what’s going on in the military aren’t accurate. He also said it’s "cruel" not to allow people who face death to "grapple with ultimate truth."

"What Mikey wants to do is wipe the military clean of any religious influence," he said. "This is America, and Americans are religious people, and the military reflects the country."
Weinstein said he’s not opposed to any religion, even the "virulent" fundamentalist Christianity he worries about. He said he simply wants to make sure that personnel aren’t being pressured to adopt certain beliefs by their superiors.

"If you’re junior to someone and a superior is proselytizing you or evangelizing you, which happens all the time, ‘Get out of my face, sir or ma’am’ is not an option for you," he said.
Furthermore, he said, it’s not Jews like himself or followers of non-Christian faiths who are complaining the most.

"I track it. Ninety-six percent of the people coming to me are Christians," he said. "Generally, a fourth will be Roman Catholic. The rest will all be Baptists, Assemblies of God, Lutheran, Presbyterian."

He said military officers often are afraid to have him share their stories even anonymously, fearing their careers will be damaged. And, he said, there’s an added dimension of fear, with commanders deciding who goes into combat.

"How do you think it feels to be told that, ‘We’re going to go take that hill; we’re going to go search this house or this road for IEDs. Now, Baker and Smith, you over here, if you get blown to bits, you’re going to be spending eternity in hell, burning eternally in hell’?" he asked.


Blogger Lauralew said...

How can I help you? I am a mainline Protestant who lives on a very large military base held hostage by those you describe. My husband is getting ready to retire after many years, deployments and separations; he was turned down for a group command. We have noted that fundamentalists in the pilot field (not ours, btw), are promoted way ahead of the mainline Protestant faithful. Of course, I have no way to discover why that is--it is hard to believe that only fundamentalists do their jobs well. My Presbyterian elder friend across the street and I are person non grata around this base. My friend mentioned above states that mainline Protestants are not allowed to have Bible studies in the base chapels. This is not good practice. What can I do to help you?

7:01 PM  

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