FLORIDA, May 31, 2013 — Standing up for the separation between church and state has been Mikey Weinstein’s top priority at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Currently, how does he believe that the religious liberty of military members is being infringed upon?
Despite being an Air Force veteran and staff member during the Reagan Administration, Weinstein has become an intensely controversial figure as of late. Does he know of any specific reason for this? What is the primary motivation for him to continue on with his work at the MRFF?
In this second part of our discussion, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization devoted to securing the religious liberties of our nation’s armed forces personnel, answers these questions.
He also addresses some media criticism of his work.
Joseph F. Cotto: Standing up for the separation between church and state has been your top priority at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Currently, how do you believe that the religious liberty of military members is being infringed upon?
Mikey Weinstein: I think that whenever you tell someone — when a military superior tells a military subordinate that they lack integrity, character, dignity, worth, honor, honorability, intelligence, trustworthiness because of their chosen faith being wrong, or no faith, why there is no difference between that and telling someone they are stupid because of the color of their skin or because they were born a female.
Cotto: Despite being an Air Force veteran and staff member during the Reagan Administration, you have become an intensely controversial figure as of late. Do you know of any specific reason for this?
Weinstein: Well, my wife and kinds and my mom and dad seem to like me.
I guess what I would say is this: One of my favorite people to quote is — I think an American hero — Frederick Douglass. He’s one of the famous abolitionists who made the statement that “(p)ower concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” We can’t sit there very quietly and look at power and speak on behalf of our clients who are completely disenfranchised and whisper and beg nicely on our knees and drink tea with our little fingers out.
We have to militant and aggressive, but in support of the Constitution and in accordance with all ethics, morals, and laws. So, our job is to be the demanders of the commanders. Sometimes you can’t whisper in the ear of the charging elephant. You have to get out in the front with a gun and fire off a few rounds to stop — not shooting them, but to make them see what’s happening.
From our perspective, I don’t care what people think about me. I think about our over 33,000 members in the military.
Cotto: What is the primary motivation for you to continue on with your work at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation?
Weinstein: I’m not — the people; myself, my family, our staff and supporters, are not genetically wired to be able to look at people suffering — innocent people suffering — outrageous prejudice and bigotry, oppression and tyranny, without willing to stop it; reaching out and doing something to stop it.
Martin Luther King, Jr., another hero of mine, has the great quote that “(i)n the end, we remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” and there comes a time when silence becomes betrayal. We will not be silent in the face of this type of suffering, and when you realize that our U.S. military is, as I mentioned before, technologically the most lethal organization ever created by humankind….when you mix this type of weaponized Christianity, as opposed from the far larger aspect of peaceful Christianity, in with our weapons system, this becomes not a problem, issue, or a challenge, but in fact a national security threat.
So, I can’t walk away from this. My family can’t walk away from this. Our supporters and staff cannot walk away from it while people are suffering and the consequences are potentially nuclear war; an apocalypse, but not the biblical one. [Instead,] one [brought about] by this weaponized, twisted, poisonous version of Christianity — a horrible entity known as fundamentalist or dominion Christianity.
(Journalist’s note: Mr. Weinstein wanted to make a statement about some media coverage of his work. It can be read below.)
Weinstein: Oftentimes I’m asked by reporters in the electronic and print media, “Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself?” I say, “What do you mean?” They’re saying — this is from the conservative press — and let’s face it, The Washington Times is not a liberal entity, “Well, you’re criticizing and fighting our United States military at a time when we’re at war. Don’t you think you should be ashamed for how unpatriotic you, your family, your foundation, and your supporters are?”
My response is a very simple one to that common question, particularly from the conservative side of the press, and it was first [stated by] Howard Zinn, the reasonably late great civil rights leader and professor at Boston University and a hero of mine, and that is simply that “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”.
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto
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