U.S. Air Force veteran Michael Weinstein says the American military is being undermined from within by fundamentalist Christians who are coercing soldiers into their brand of faith. A Republican who worked for President Ronald Reagan before becoming general counsel to Texas billionaire and presidential candidate Ross Perot, Weinstein is foremost a military man. His recent book, With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military, presents what he sees as a grave threat to the nation's security.
How many people have contacted your group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, with stories of being proselytized to by military commanders?
We've had just under 5,000 members of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. Of the troops who have come to us, including some civilians and veterans, roughly 96 percent of them are Christians themselves. The remaining 4 percent are the minority faiths, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs or atheists.
What sorts of stories do they tell you?
An army private from Fort Bragg contacted me when he was going through basic training. When he signed up, they asked him his religious denomination and he said Christian, but they identified him as not being fundamentalist enough Christian, and they punished him by putting 'none' on his dog tags. When he got to Afghanistan, the commander said that the blessings of the Lord Jesus would not be on the unit unless everyone were evangelical, and since he would not convert, this 20-year-old private would be responsible for the deaths and injuries the unit might suffer.
In another case, we caught a three-star general who ordered his staff to put together a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating the direct parallel between the Book of Revelation and all of our combat movements in Tikrit, Mosul, Fallujah, Sadr City and farther east in Afghanistan. We were able to stop it after it got to 2,500 troops.
What group inside the military is doing this?
What we're fighting here is a subset of evangelical Christianity that goes by a long name: pre-millennial dispensational reconstructionist dominionist fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. There's an organization for officers called the Officers Christian Fellowship, and for the enlisted folks called the Christian Military Fellowship. The first goal is a 'spiritually transformed' U.S. military. The second goal is [to be] ambassadors for Christ in uniform—by the way, if you check the last 2,000 years, that hasn't worked out too well. Thirdly, [they are] empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In the private sector this would last about three seconds. It would be a killer lawsuit under Title 7 of the U.S. Code. Those serving in the military have to give up many constitutional rights. 'Get the hell out of my face, sir or ma'am' is not an option for you if you're being even gently evangelized. Because they're second-class citizens by design, they're very vulnerable, and the military knows this.
When people come to you with these complaints, what do you do?
Our job is to kick ass and to take names. We lay down a withering field of fire and leave chest wounds on those who would bring constitutional darkness to our military. I usually call commanders and tell them that we're here and we're going public. But making phone calls and doing interviews is at best weed whacking; that keeps them at bay for only a short time. The best thing we can do is to go into federal court, which we will do in a few days with a massive federal lawsuit directly confronting this.
We are not trying to take anyone's religious faith away; we are simply saying you can't use the machinery of the state, the awesome power of our military, to force religion on your subordinates up and down the chain of command. Must we become the Christian Taliban to defeat this Taliban and Al Qaeda?
For more information, visit www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org.