MRFF's role is to ensure that our government does indeed adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the Constitution; that it leads by example when it comes to not allowing the military to become a place where religion takes residence as if in a church! Mikey Weinstein, who founded it, has a passion to protect us from the pitfall of allowing fundamentalists to hijack our military in order to 1) convert soldiers and 2) use our military as a platform for missionary work world-wide.
Is Mikey Weinstein just a disgruntled former career officer* with an axe to grind? Is his insistence on religious freedom in the military a radical, new idea?
No, in fact this is apple pie American! What is new is what got all this going for Mikey at the Air Force Academy: when officers began to put pressure on cadets to convert to evangelical Protestantism.
How did you first become involved with the MRFF?
I knew about what they were doing but Mikey contacted me in reference to my writings on the military and on the Religious Right.
Not a rumor, in fact MRFF broke the story, the Pentagon intervened, and that crazy company run by fundamentalist evangelicals had to stop that practice. The military certainly thought it vital they stop.
Is opposition to the breakdown of the separation of church and state being run by a ragtag bunch of Jews, other non-Christians, atheists and agnostics? What's so terrible if church and state aren't kept separate?
Well, I'm not agnostic of Jewish and I'm on the advisory board. As for separation, let's take a current example of just one aspect: the Jihadists. We're fighting claims they are in a Holy War against Christian Crusaders. Do we want to prove them right by letting idiots like the company that put bible verses on gun sights supplied to our special forces do stuff like that?
And, do you think it's right that some Roman Catholic kid who volunteers to serve his country be "invited" to a Baptist evangelistic service by an officer who has power over him? If the military is seen to favor one religion over another, how can they represent all of us? Is that what we want?
What's so bad about proselytizing in the military academies and the armed forces? Can't those who aren't interested simply say "No, thanks" and go on their way?
As the father of a Marine, I know the respect and fear he held his officers in, as well as the enlisted men and women who trained him. In a hierarchical wolrd, you just don't say "no."
I read a few months ago about the armed forces bringing Bibles in Arabic in with them to distribute to local residents. Is that kosher?
Do we really want to provide the Taliban and other terrorists with recruiting tools forever?
Because the fundamentalist right ascribes to something called Reconstructionist ideology. They hate anyone who gets in the way of their idea, which is to turn America into a sort of Christian Iran-style theocracy. If it was up to the radical fringe, Mikey Weinstein would be dead.
Yikes! Well, thanks for taking time out to talk with me, Frank. I understand you're hard at work on a new book. Good luck with it.
For those who would like to know more about MRFF and what they're up to, their website describes their mission this way: "The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment." The MRFF was nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.