July 22, 2010

This is a stunning example of why you want separation of church and state, no matter how silly it may seem at times. Because once you let that line blur, you eventually end up with people who want to make the military into a "weapon for Christ." Mikey Weinstein is the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and is fighting against the insidious religious pressure placed on our troops:

Mikey talks about Christian supremacists like they're vampires, demons determined to drain secularism and pluralism out of the military. That realization turned what was once a personal fight against anti-Semitism into a more lofty principle. "Wherever I see unconstitutional religious predators in the U.S. military, of any stripe, I don't care if I live or die. Someone's gonna get a beating and we're going to do it," he says. "The two ways to administer the beating is to go into the media or into court," he explains, a strategy distilled from his fight at the Academy. Lance Benzel, a journalist for Colorado Spring's The Gazette, recently summarized Mikey's civil rights agitation aptly: "Condemn in the strongest language possible. Publicly embarrass. Sue if necessary. Each new step raises the pressure on his publicity-averse targets." What the U.S. military has realized over the years is that the mosquito they swatted at didn't only have bite, it had malaria.

Some Christians, out of ignorance or sincere apocalyptic belief, believe Mikey is the anti-Christ. (He's actually a reluctant agnostic.) Google "Mikey Weinstein" and you'll see descriptions like "Jesus-basher," "AntiChrist," and "anti-Christian Jewish supremacist." One "Concerned American" on the website "Powered by Christ" argued Weinstein's "doing all he can to create an anti-Jewish backlash and help bring about the predicted endtime Holocaust of Jews that'll be worse than Hitler's."

There's one problem with this assumption. Ninety-six percent of MRFF's 18,300 military clients are Christians -- many Roman Catholics and mainline Protestant -- that have been treated by their more spirit-filled comrades and commanders as not Christian enough. "This is not a Christian-Jewish issue," Mikey argues, "it's a constitutional right and wrong issue, and Christian fundamentalism does not recognize the supremacy of the Constitution over its sectarian theocratic dictates."

[...] MRFF receives multitudes of thank you's from veterans and service members serving across the globe. One thank you came from a U.S. Navy veteran, a self described "religious Jew," who described extreme religious coercion during hospital stays at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2007. "During two hospitalizations, despite my written and verbal instructions to the contrary, the hospital staff was not content to just refuse to contact my rabbi," wrote Akiva David Miller, now the director veterans affairs for MRFF, "they sent a proselytizing Protestant chaplain in to see me -- while I was bedridden and wired to a heart monitor -- to tell me that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews too, and that my only hope was salvation through Jesus Christ."

Miller and his rabbi protested and the medical center retaliated by discontinuing Miller's care. When they cut of his pain medication, Miller asked his doctor why. He response: "You're a religious Jew. Why don't you try prayer or meditation?" Miller contacted MRFF. Mikey flew out to Des Moines and held a press conference that launched a full investigation that confirmed Miller's discrimination. And with the help of his old boss Ross Perot, Mikey got Miller care at the Dallas V.A. Medical Center.

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