Evangelicals blast US military for stance on evangelism in the ranks

(Military Religious Freedom Foundation)Michael "Mikey" Weinstein receives the Person of the Year Award in 2011 from Americans United Against for Separation of Church and State. Weinstein has fought strongly against proselytizing in the military. The Pentagon has brought him in as an adviser to help them develop a policy on religious tolerance. This has brought a strong reaction from evangelicals.

The U.S. military is once again in hot water with evangelical Christians after seeking policy advice from an avowed opponent of proselytizing in the armed services and then issuing a statement which they say supports his views.

The Pentagon met with Michael "Mikey" Weinstein and other members of his organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) on April 23.

The topic of discussion concerned an air force regulation which prohibits military leaders from promoting their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates, Fox News reported.

Afterwards, according to Fox News reporter Todd Starnes, the Pentagon released a written statement to the network which said that 'religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense."

The statement also said that "court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases".

The news of Weinstein's meeting with the Pentagon and the statement that followed elicited a strong response from evangelical leaders.

Ken Klukowski, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council (FRC), said that Weinstein possessed "foaming-at-the-mouth-passionate hostility toward traditional Christians, including evangelicals and devout Catholics".

Klukowski wrote these remarks and quoted anti-Christian statements from Weinstein in his column in Breitbart.com, a conservative site for which he writes as a legal analyst.

Among the statements of Weinstein reported by Klukowski are those he made in a Huffington Post article in April.

In one of the statements Weinstein said, "Today we face well-funded gangs of Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation's armed forces."

Klukowski also said that Weinstein endorses the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a liberal organization that includes traditional Christian organizations among its list of "hate groups."

"Many media outlets are silent on this disturbing new alliance between fanatical secularists and leaders in the Pentagon appointed by President Barack Obama and [Defense] Secretary Hagel", he said.

However, the conservative media has not been quiet after news of Weinstein's meeting with the Pentagon was released.

For example, World News Net Daily said in a headline that the meeting and Pentagon statement signaled an effort to punish Christian evangelism in the military.

It also referred to previous strong statements made by Weinstein that proselytization should be punished.

Another conservative site, Newsmax.com, reported the remarks of Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the FRC. Boykin told Newsmax that Weinstein and the MRFF have substantial influence over the Pentagon.

Catholic sites also criticized the news of the military's meeting with Weintein.

Donald R. McClarey of The American-Catholic.com wrote, "In any sane administration this obvious Christian bigot would not have anything to do with setting official policy, but we are not governed by a sane administration."

Weinstein, in his Huffington Post article said that he was not looking to remove Evangelicals from the military.

"Neither MRFF or any other genuine religious freedom organization of any repute has ever championed--and never would champion--that evangelical Christians as a whole should be ousted from the military", he said.

Weinstein said that he was only demanding that people of all faiths follow their oath to obey the U.S. Constitution and military regulations.

"Now it is MRFF and its allies who, in the blighted and vacuous eyes of the hate mongers represented all too well by the AFA (American Family Association), FRC and Fox News are now the true religious 'persecutors'?"he asked in his post.

The biography of Weinstein on the MRFF website notes that he is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former attorney in the military. He is also a former legal counsel in the White House during the Ronald Reagan era.

It also notes that he is "reviled by the radical, fundamentalist Christian-far right."

He was voted as one of the 50 most influential Jews in America by the Forward, a Jewish publication.

The U.S. military has come under fire recently from traditional Christians.

There was an uproar among Evangelicals and Catholics when a briefing given to reserve military personnel listed them as extremists.

The trainer giving the presentation claimed that she got the material from a briefing which contained material from the Southern Poverty Law Center.


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