Republished with permission of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation:

To the Far Right Christian Hater…You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both
By Bonnie Weinstein
Rare Bird Books
Released Dec 2, 2014
Paperback: $11.75
Kindle: $7.99
There is a growing rage in this country and we’re not talking about communities or minorities angry over a miscarriage of justice. This rage is genuinely felt, but it is fabricated, fully manufactured, and fueled by a network of traditional and new media, almost wholly on the right. It is a rage both clumsy and ruthless, lashing out at anyone and everyone put before it. Over the last 10 years, Bonnie Weinstein and her husband, Mikey, of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have been square in the cross-hairs.

Bonnie is an unlikely activist. She is a middle-class mother of three, and grandmother of one, pursuing the American dream with a deep respect for all those things that make this country great. Her husband Mikey, her two sons, her daughter-in-law, son-in law and brother in-law are all Air Force Academy graduates. Her father-in-law is an Annapolis grad. But these days she is the target of vandalism, endless hatred, email and snail mails frothing with fury, some with detailed threats of death and torture worthy of Hannibal Lector.

I had a chance to chat with her this week about how this all started, and her new book on the subject of hate. As she described a few of her experiences, her hands would occasionally shake and her voice would crack. But her resolve burns through the virtual bulls-eye haters have painted across her chest. Join me below to see what started this madness and how she neatly turned the tables on the haters.

When did you start the foundation and why?About eleven years ago our two boys were cadets at a the U.S. Air Force Academy and they told us they would get pressured to leave their Jewish faith and convert to Christianity. This immediately turned us into pissed off parents for obvious reasons. Here our two sons were willing to put their lives at risk to defend the Constitution, and we felt strongly they should get the same freedom of or from religion they had sworn to uphold for all of us.

So to answer your question, well, we dealt with it and thought that was it, that it was just a single group of cadets, probably with good intentions, crossing the line at this one place. But then we started peeling back layers and started hearing about more incidents, and we starting hearing about the same kind of thing going on at other military academies (West Point, Annapolis et al) and eventually, throughout the entire armed forces. We weren’t alone, a lot of service people were telling us of intimidation and strong armed tactics, and as you can imagine that didn’t sit well with them. The Foundation grew from there.

The vast majority of people in the military support us and the Constitution and they are dedicated to the same ideals we are and feel the same way about religious liberty. In fact, today, the overwhelming majority of MRFF’s nearly 40,000 active duty and veteran clients describe themselves as religious and about 96% of them are Christian. The foundation is not about Christians vs non-Christians, or religion vs non religion, it’s about the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution. It’s about our service people feeling they can freely, openly worship how and when they see fit or being free not to worship at all if they so desire.

So we’re not against religion, in fact if anything we are pro religion. More specifically, we are “pro-choice” when it comes to faith or no-faith. We’re concerned about a specific pattern of of intimidation and strong arm tactics associated most often with fundamentalist or “dominionist” Christianity which simply violates the Constitutional Rights of American service members, and in almost all cases, these tactics are seriously undermining the morale, discipline, the careers and could even threaten the safety of our troops. It doesn’t matter which religion or sect or denomination is being pushed by commanders and superiors, we would feel the same. It’s how they do it, the time, the manner and the place they do it, the aggressive and unlawful way they go about it.

How do they go about it?

There’s the usual ways, you don’t have to be in the military to relate. Your boss at work invites you to a seminar or to their home, where you get heavily pressured into doing something that has nothing to do with your job. But it’s worse in the military in some ways. Military commanders are not just a boss, they have way more power over their subordinates.

A commander can literally decide who goes to the Arctic or into live combat zones, they can assign the worst duties to people they don’t like and vice-versa, they can deny leaves and furloughs. They can look the other way if a group of sympathetic ‘coworkers’ decide to take matters into their own hands back in the barracks — that can get ugly. These days, with active conflicts going on, an officer or NCO can lay his hand on the shoulder of a nervous new guy and say, ‘hey, you could get killed today, now would be the time to get right with God/Jesus and I’m here to help you do that.’

Opposing that nonsense doesn’t sound particularly controversial, when did the trolling and threats start?

Early on, after we formed the Foundation and realized the scope of the problem, and came to realize other parents, spouses and service members felt the same way, the hate mail and phone calls would kind of rise and fall with media attention. Some media do a better job than others. Over time it became clear that out there, maybe in some churches or blogs or whatever, people were being told we are militant atheists or religion haters, or at the very least Jesus haters, that’s when the hate really started flowing. This is not simply“trolling”. This is pure, abject hate that the average person will never have to experience in their lifetime. That’s when it got scary.

Scary how?

That’s what the book is about! The torrent of email and letters we get full of the vilest, threatening crazy stuff you’ve ever seen.  This particular kind of e-mail outlined in my book is almost always anonymous. They hide behind fake e-mail addresss and making up disgusting user names. These letters hardly ever come with name, home phone numbers and return address attached. These people are cowards. They’re hiding behind a computer screen, and are afraid to go on the record. That’s scary.

Our windows have been shot out, we’ve had swastikas and crucifixes painted on our house, we’ve had animals decapitated and their heads left at our home and we’ve had all kinds of weird mail show up in our mailbox right in front of our house, creepy phone calls, these are people telling us and showing us they know exactly who we are and exactly where we live. That bulls-eye painted on me in the pic, it’s not a joke. That’s how I really feel and you never get used to it, it’s a scary way to live.

You certainly turned the tables. Did you know the book was going to take off right away?

We would get reports of preorders coming in. So we knew pretty fast it had sold out of the first print run before the official Dec 2nd release date. Our publisher, Rare Bird Books in Los Angeles, is awesome and immediately started up a second run, there’s no shortage.

But I don’t think of it as turning the tables. I think of it as setting the record straight about what’s really going on in so many parts of our country’s military, in some corners of the country, and what the foundation is all about. When news that the book sold out started getting around, requests for interviews like this went way up. But there’s just no way to condense it all into a few questions and answers. To appreciate the problem, let alone address it, you’ll need to read the book. And you might want to have a good stiff drink nearby when you do, because some of the stuff you’ll read about is mind-blowing to say the least.

Bonnie and  Mikey Weinstein are the co-founders of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The Foundation is solely dedicated to ensuring that all members of the US military receive the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to which they are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Readers interested in learning more are encouraged to visit the Foundation’s homepage here.

Originally posted at Daily Kos

3 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

  1. Doug Colwell says:

    “These attics undermine the morale, discipline, careers…” Does it really? Sounds good to me. Much as I despise bible thumpers if they weaken the US military more power to ’em. No offence to Bonnie, she strikes me as a fine person.

    • I can’t agree Doug. A well disciplined military by definition will be more law abiding and far less prone to religion motivated and other war crimes. As well, an officer corps cleared out of religious extremists will cease to be a vehicle of impunity for a criminal culture, no longer protecting those who retaliate against women reporting rapes, example given. My social psychology training tells me an American military rape culture (a rampant problem) is almost certainly centered in religious fundamentalist males who believe as a matter of ‘faith’ women are inferior and to blame for everything gone wrong in this world, in this circumstance. Not to mention to be rid of ‘Christian Dominion’ nuclear launch officers who believe ‘God’s commands’ are the higher ‘authority’ could only be a good thing…

  2. Doug Colwell says:

    Whoops, attacks, not attics.

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