The leading activist in the fight to make the U.S. military live up to constitutional church-state protections is glad the Pentagon has decided not to allow an Air Force “flyover” as part the annual God and Country Festival in Nampa, Idaho – the first time military authorities have denied the sponsoring group’s request in 42 years.
But Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, isn’t heaping accolades on the new administration; in fact, he says he’s pretty disappointed with its performance so far.
Promoters of the conference say it’s just meant to honor U.S. service personnel and acknowledge the country’s religious heritage, but critics say it’s part of a continuing trend of using military institutions to promote a specific religion – namely, evangelical Christianity – the same trend that has turned institutions like the Air Force Academy into evangelical mission fields.
This year, pressed by Weinstein’s group, the military brass changed its tune on the flyover. Responding to the Christian group’s request, the Office of Aviation Support (note: it’s not the office of Salvation support) said that “Air Force and DoD policy prohibit support for events which appear to endorse, selectively benefit, or favor any special interest group, religious or ideological movement.”
Great, Weinstein told the Jewish Week. But mostly, he said the new administration has been unhelpful in the effort to rid the military of the kind of rampant sectarianism his group has been fighting.
“We’ve been waiting for President Obama to act, and so far we’ve been disappointed,” he said this week. “We’ve been rebuffed by every attempt to reach out to the administration. We keep waiting for the President to engage in the issue.”
The flyover decision, he said, looks more like an “anomaly” than a change in direction for a military establishment that has become far too cozy with the evangelical world.
The Christian Defense Coalition was up in arms about the decision, saying that the event “has focused on honoring and paying tribute to those veterans who have served our nation in the past and those who are currently on active duty.”
But in an interview with the Idaho Press-Tribune, an organizer said the rally is “about as Christian as you can get — we believe in promoting Christianity.” (read the full story here )