Mikey Weinstein is, by all accounts, hard to forget. Last year, the 1977 Air Force Academy honors graduate filed a lawsuit against the United States Air Force for allowing, even promoting, aggressive evangelical Christian proselytizing at his alma mater.Several events led up to the lawsuit, including Weinstein’s son, an Academy cadet, being warned he would burn in the eternal fires of hell because he is Jewish – and incidents like Mel Gibson’s controversial movie The Passion being widely endorsed and promoted by Academy brass..
Weinstein, an Albuquerque-based attorney who worked in the Reagan White House, recently left the employ of his longtime employer, Ross Perot, to focus full time on his battle for plurality and against religious intolerance throughout the military. He is the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, formed early this year. His bombast and fiery quotes have made him a household name for supporters – and a nemesis to Christian evangelicals who maintain the First Amendment secures their right to proselytize at tax-funded military installations.
Though he continues to hold ties to the Republican Party – “the Party that needs the most work” – Weinstein is a huge supporter of, and has held a fundraiser for, fellow Air Force Academy graduate and Democratic congressional candidate Jay Fawcett.
Weinstein’s recently published book, With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military, is a firsthand account of his skirmishes. Since he filed his lawsuit and firmly planted himself in the public spotlight, he claims to have been called “the field general of the godless army of Satan”; had feces thrown at his house and smeared on his car windshields; and had his tires slashed. He’s had people call him up and, in sort of a “chorus prayer,” chant, “Mikey Weinstein, bullet in the head / Praise the Lord, he’s finally dead.”
When he comes to Colorado Springs, he says, he checks into his hotel under an alias. The first time, he says, he used the name “Dobson.”
CoCo What is the status of the lawsuit?
MW The judge has ruled on nothing.
CoCo You’ve gotten plenty of publicity. So why a book?
MW This is 209 pages of text, and people can read the story, and the appendix with all the supporting documentation. I defy anyone to read it and say there is nothing here but smoke and mirrors. It’s important to draw the line in the sand, once and for all.
CoCo What is happening with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation?
MW We have a newsletter, membership drives, fundraisers all over the country. We’ve heard from the whole corporeal body of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, complaining about the imperious contagion of imperial triumphantalism. Thousands of sailors and airman have contacted us – at least 96 percent are Christian – and say they’re being abused, preyed upon and prayed upon by fundamental Christians. I’m out here with the gunsmoke – and all that’s left of the wall between separation of church and state, is smoke and debris.
CoCo Is it too late to reverse the trend?
MW No, it’s not too late –it’s close to being too late. And I [paraphrase] Machiavelli: “The darkest place in hell is still reserved for those who in times of moral crisis remain neutral.” We’re not going into the dark night; we want our Constitution back. Or here’s another one: ‘In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth itself is a revolutionary act.’ That was George Orwell.
CoCo So what’s next?
MW We’re in negotiations for the film rights, and my family is also in a movie, Constantine’s Sword, a history of the Jews and the Christ, which is based on the New York Times bestseller and is [hitting the film festival circuit] in the next 90 days. They were looking for something to anchor the film to 2006. I haven’t seen it yet, but the director called me today said it very profoundly stretches from the birth of Christ to the Weinstein family.
CoCo Who is going to play you?
MW It’s a documentary, so I get to play me. But in the movie version of my book, I hope that it will be Mel Gibson. We are the same age – both 51 – and it will be good for his therapy. I’m going to strongly suggest it as a way to make amends.
CoCo What else have you encountered?
MW I’ll be speaking at an event, and I’ll ask, “Who is familiar with how the Bible says, “The Lord helps those who help themselves’?” And I will get a few hands in the air, and I’ll say, “No, that’s actually Ben Franklin, from Poor Richard’s Almanack.” So don’t give me anything about how we’re a Christian nation …
CoCo What do you have to say to critics who accuse you of going too far?
MW We are not going to stop; we are not going to stop. That is not going to happen. We have the sword at their throat, and we are not going to put it down. If they think I’m a monster, they’re the ones who created me.
Photo of Mikey Weinstein by Kathy Conarro