Thursday, August 31, 2006

Air Force, Navy, Army Times: Christianity in Combat

Christianity in combat
Religious symbols have no place on troops’ uniforms

By Mikey Weinstein

For many of us, hearing the term "crusader" conjures up memories of grade-school history classes filled with long lectures about hordes of armored Christian soldiers hacking their way across Europe and the Middle East to recapture Jerusalem.

The crusaders were holy warriors fighting in the name of the Roman Catholic Church and Jesus. Their mission was no secret; they were embroiled in a sectarian religious war to militarily enforce adherence to their biblical worldview.

Their leaders pushed, coerced and pressured them to fight on religious grounds. Their battlegrounds were awash in blood.

As Americans, this should be something we never fear, as our founding fathers knew the critical importance of keeping religion and government separate. Most would find it unfathomable to think of modern-day crusaders existing within our armed forces - of our men and women wearing uniforms decorated with religious symbols.

However, as I recently discovered, crusaders do exist - and they’re serving in the 523rd Fighter Squadron of our Air Force. The airmen of 523rd Fighter Squadron, based at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., not only have invoked the term "Crusaders" to describe their unit, they use blatantly sectarian religious symbolism on the patches they affix to their uniforms and the official logo of their unit.

As we continue to engage in a war on terrorism against religious fundamentalists, we must take a moment to consider the sick irony of allowing Air Force combat personnel to dress in clothes displaying religious emblems. Our men and women are fighting ruthless terrorist organizations that exploit religion as a means to cause mass devastation and death. It is the job of our military to end this fundamentalism, remove the terrorists and bring safety, democracy and freedom to these areas - not to spread Christianity or represent America as a Christian nation.

Our military personnel are not crusaders. They are honorable and noble defenders of our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms. The "Crusaders" patch prominently features a large cross - an unmistakable emblem of Christianity - as well as other accouterments of the historically dressed crusaders: a broadsword and armored helmet.

There is no hidden meaning here, no effort to disguise the reference to Christian religion. This Air Force F-16 combat squadron has taken the horrifying step of disregarding the Constitution, which, as servicemen and women, they should proudly uphold under the oath they all took to do so.

Christian, Jew, Muslim, agnostic and atheist alike should agree: There is no place for this display of religiosity within our armed forces. The uniforms of our military personnel should not be showcases for religious imagery, particularly when that imagery directly boasts of one of the most devastating examples of human bloodshed in recorded history.

Take a look at the Air Force handbook - you can find it online at I assure you that nowhere in the Air Force mission statement does it say anything about fighting a crusade for religious freedom. What it does say is this: "The mission of the U.S. Air Force is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States and its global interests - to fly and fight in the air, space and cyberspace."

Even the ubiquitous and time-honored "Little Blue Book" of Air Force core values established in 1947 - and to which guiding principles on religion were specifically added in 1997 to stop "ethical corrosion" - clearly states: "Military professionals must remember that religious choice is a matter of individual conscience. Professionals, and especially commanders, must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates."

The men and women who choose to serve in our military should be able to do so without the fear of being pressured to lead a religious crusade, without fear of being coercively evangelized and without fear of having to wear the symbol of another’s faith.

Today’s U.S. military is the most technologically lethal organization ever created. We, as Americans, should never fear that religion will overtake this mighty military force.
There is no denying that religion is pouring into our government institutions - including our armed forces - at a rapid pace. It is our responsibility to stand up and raise our voices against these continued egregious violations of our Constitution.

Our Constitution guarantees us the right to pray freely and also prevents our government from imposing religion upon us. We must express our outrage to military and government leadership, and we must fight to protect the rights, including the right to worship - or not - our God, in whatever manner we choose.

The writer, an Air Force Academy graduate and former White House counsel under President Reagan, is president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

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.”

Friday, August 04, 2006


This is a much-owed posting, as one did not immediately follow our first board meeting. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for us to sit down and discuss MRFF's future. We have done good work so far. We know that we have made a name for ourselves and for our cause. This is only the start.

We all want the organization to keep growing, expanding, educating.

All of us are hard at work. Please keep your eyes and ears open as we continue to evolve.