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Religious Civil Rights: Why Have the Washington Times and the Air Force Academy Savaged Them?

Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, a 1977 Honor Graduate of the US Air Force Academy and founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, denounces The Washington Times' recent editorial, which degrades the religious civil rights of honorable US military members.

Religious Civil Rights: Why Have the Washington Times and the Air Force Academy Savaged Them?

Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, a 1977 Honor Graduate of the US Air Force Academy and founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, denounces The Washington Times' recent editorial, which degrades the religious civil rights of honorable US military members.

Albert Einstein once famously said, “There are only two things that are infinite; the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” To that end, especially that part about the infinite depth of human stupidity, one is compelled to pose the following question; has The Washington Times editorial staff fallen so low on the ethical, rational, reasonable and integrity scale that they've taken to “drunk dialing in” their editorials now?

Last Thursday evening, May 5, 2011, The Washington Times published a breathtakingly hurtful and almost preposterously ignorant screed entitled “Air Force witchcraft: political correctness casts a spell on the armed forces.” In this pathetic and putrescent journalistic piece of filth, parading as the opinion of an alleged so-called leader of the “conservative” newspaper world, the Times revels itself to be just another run-of-the-mill, prejudiced bully cum bigot.

Among other asinine assertions, the Times argues that certain nonmainstream religious faiths being practiced in the United States military are “fringe ideas” not worthy of any institutional respect, and even derides one faith group's worship area at the United States Air Force Academy as “a pile of rocks.” A complete detailing of the Times' egregious savaging of the legitimate, religious civil rights of honorable US military members, who apparently don't meet the Times' own convenient “religious test of legitimacy,” is beyond the intended scope of this brief rebuttal. I will restrict my responsive comments to two substantially enormous errors committed by this degradingly disgusting Times editorial; to wit, (1) the illegality and real-world danger of the Times' “religiously profiling” any faith as “fringe”; and, (2) the Times' selection of the United States Air Force Academy as the would-be quintessential example of too much religious accommodation gone awry.

It seems that the Times has either suspiciously forgotten or is engaged in “willful ignorance” (i.e., being stupid on purpose) regarding the purpose of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. This compendium of the first ten Amendments was absolutely not passed for the convenience of the majority, but to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Who is the Times to establish a “Religion Legitimacy Star Chamber” to seemingly render verdicts, sua sponte, on which faiths are “mainstream” and, thus, deserving of constitutional rights in our nation's armed forces and, alternatively, which are “fringe” and, consequently, should inherit the wind?

Such vile journalistic carelessness, callousness and arrogance have real-world consequences that go well beyond the oft-used analogy of a mere slippery slope. Oh, how we have seen these “Star Chambers” before. History is replete with draconian example after example, swimming in oceans of blood, as civil majorities have first categorized “fringe” religious faiths as unworthy, and secondly, moved to exterminate them from the planet earth. Our United States Constitution represents the very first time in human history that any nation-state has ever created a governing document that did not invoke the name of someone's particular deity. And besides the First Amendment to that same Constitution clearly creating and mandating a distinct separation of the metaphysical from the physical, the spiritual from the temporal and the church from the state, the actual body of that great document, at Clause 3 of Article 6, just as clearly proclaims that there will never be a “religious test” for anyone serving in the government of the United States. Last time I checked, members of the United States armed forces would seem to so qualify.

Perhaps, the Times editorial staff has further forgotten that, just because the faith of the majority of American citizens is Christianity, Christianity holds no special superior rights, as a matter of law, over ANY other faith or even no faith at all? This watershed determination of no constituency's parochial theological dogma, especially including the faith with the most current adherents, being either superior or subordinate to the dogma of any other constituency, is just rock-solid, foundational, bedrock constitutional law in America. It is most certainly not some back-tide, eddy water “playground” for the left to experiment with “fringe ideas” in the armed forces, as baselessly decried by the utter nonsense of the Times' spurious editorial.

The Times' ludicrous designation of my alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy, as being the paragon of constitutional religious civil rights allowance is specious on its face and, thus, immediately void of any semblance of credibility at the starter's gate. The nonprofit charitable foundation of which I am the leader, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), currently aggressively represents the abused religious civil rights interests of almost 23,000 active duty US marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, cadets and midshipmen, reservists, National Guard personnel and veterans. Incredibly, about 96 percent of them are practicing Protestants and Roman Catholics being told by their military superiors that they are simply not “Christian enough” for today's American armed forces.

MRFF presently has 262 United States Air Force Academy faculty, staff and cadets as its clients as a result of a pervasive and pernicious, fundamentalist Christian culture of systemic religious oppression wretchedly extant at the Colorado Springs-based institution. Of those Air Force Academy MRFF clients, 217 self identify as practicing “non-fringe” Christians, some of them even identify as evangelical Christians.

But wait, there's more. Barely seven months ago, the Academy's leader, Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, most undeservingly portrayed positively by this Times editorial as some sort of bureaucratic “fringe religion” proponent and enabler, was forced to release the Air Force Academy's own internal “Climate Survey” about religious civil rights matters there. The actual results, precipitously lionized and canonized by Gould as something bordering on the wondrous when he initially refused to release the “Climate Survey” publicly, were quite anything but. Apparently Lieutenant General Gould wanted us to just “take his word for it” that the Air Force Academy's religious climate was balmy and welcoming. Quite the contrary, when Gould was finally forced by MRFF and its allies to release the data to the discerning light of public scrutiny, we were all thunderstruck to learn that nearly half of all minority faith cadets reported having to endure unwanted proselytizing. And, get this, 23 Academy cadets reported that they lived in fear of physical assault because of their religious beliefs, and over half of that group were Christians themselves.

Does the Times really expect us to believe that those reporting this oppression, marginalization, dehumanization and humiliation are all “fringe” religious complainants unworthy of serious consideration and the justice wrought by due process? Moreover, the Times article showed a picture of Technical Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, described in the caption as “the Pagan lay leader at the Academy.” Wrong again, Times editorial buffoons. Technical Sergeant Longcrier, a courageous MRFF client, resigned that titular post a fair number of weeks ago in direct protest over the blatant, strong-arming insensitivity, which the Academy was using in the administration of the naming of that stone circle described ignominiously by the Times, once again, as “a pile of rocks.” Not one single Air Force Academy official, chaplains included, reached out to him in fellowship, friendship or good faith counsel during this tremendously painful period of his resignation. The silence was truly deafening and colorably most telling.

Shame, shame, shame on the Times for failing to recognize that, while the First Commandment might indeed say that “you cannot have any other Gods but Me,” the First Amendment's clarion call is quite simply, “Oh yes you can!”

Now, please listen very carefully, Times editorial staff; we're talking about constitutionally guaranteed religious “civil rights” here and NOT “civil privileges.” Do you understand that? You see, you get them, full on, whether you're of a Times-designated “fringe” faith or of a “mainstream” faith or even of no faith. That's the basis of the way our country has been designed because that's what our United States Constitution says, plain and simple. These are inalienable civil rights not dependent, circumstantial civil privileges. In fact, you get them even if you're unconscionable, world-class jerks with a pedestrian, bigoted dung heap for brains; a fact about which The Washington Times editorial staff ought to be most sincerely grateful.

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