Mikey, Justin Win Major Victory

Mikey Weinstein and Justin Griffith won a big victory over the enemies of church/state separation in the military when they forced the Pentagon to remove the cross from a building at a remote military base in Afghanistan. NBC News picked up on the story and quotes both of them:

“When I think of an army sporting a Christian cross, I think Crusades,” Muhlnickel wrote in an email from Orgun. “Neither my country nor my army force me to swear allegiance to Odin, Jesus, Buddha or Horus. Freedom from religious oppression is pretty much the reason why the United States was founded.”

“It is the sort of thing that provides a boundless bonanza of terrorist propaganda for the mujahedeen, the insurrectionists, the Taliban and al-Qaida that we are supposedly fighting to protect our national security,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the non-profit Military Religious Freedom Foundation. “The message of the cross on the chapel is basically putting out the message in Pashto, Dari and Arabic to please blow me up because I’m a latter day Christian crusader.”…

Muhlnickel raised his concerns through his chain of command, and then — unconvinced that it would result in action — turned to outside organizations, including the nonprofit American Atheists.

“Chaplains know the regulations very well,” said Justin Griffith, an Army sergeant at Fort Bragg, N.C., and military director for American Atheists in his personal time. “Whoever authorized (the steeple and crosses) knew exactly what they were doing. It’s intentionally disrespectful to the non-Christians in the U.S. military … Put it in Afghanistan, the danger is very real, to personnel, even to Christians.”…

Griffith, an atheist who often calls out practices that he believes cross the line from the free exercise of religion to unconstitutional proselytizing or discrimination, has learned that his views are unpopular with many in the military. He’s concerned about Muhlnickel suffering reprisal.

“Sgt. Muhlnickel’s efforts just put the pin back in the grenade,” said Griffith. “The military now needs to protect him from any backlash … and not punish him for speaking out against the dangerous ‘crusader’ symbolism.”

That such reprisals even have to be a concern speaks volumes about the atmosphere in the military when you do nothing more than force them to comply with their own regulations.

Update: And to make things even sweeter, they managed to get Sarah Palin so riled up that she took to Twitter:

What are we succumbing to, America? The army orders “the removal of Christian symbols from a chapel.” I wonder…

We’re “succumbing” to complying with the constitution and with military regulations. And to not telling both our soldiers and potential enemies that we’re engaged in a Christian crusade.

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  • glodson

    You should check out his blog down there. The reaction from many is… unsurprising, to say the least.

  • sqlrob

    I tweeted a reply:

    ” The First Amendment, which you would understand if you didn’t quit your civics class.”

  • Olav


    And to not telling both our soldiers and potential enemies that we’re engaged in a Christian crusade.

    But are you quite sure about that? Bush jr. did announce it as such, 11 years ago.

  • Olav

    Sorry about the blockquote fail.

  • Rodney Nelson

    Army regulations specifically say that military chapels will not have religious symbols permanently affixed to them.

  • morejello

    One thing the article completely missed a beat on is that the regulations prohibit crosses (or any religous symbol) on the *outside* of the building. They still get to have crosses aplenty on the inside, where the chapel space actually is located.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yydlX7c8HbY

    And as I said to Justin “Rejoice! It’s not everyday you piss off a Yosemite Sam grade Stereotype”.

    (When Sarah Palin ran for VP people in the UK wanted her to win because Bush was gold for our comedians. Palin was EVEN better than him for gaffes.)

  • baal

    It’s beyond moronic in terms of tactics and strategy to display crosses on military stuff anywhere in the mideast. The South hasn’t really gotten over losing the Civil War in the US and the Muslim world still gets rhetoric modernly about the Crusades. I suppose you could leverage hate from time to time but I suspect in Afghanistan that it just means the locals are more willing to look the other way as a roadside IED is planted.

  • John Hinkle

    I recall Sarah Palin being quite concerned with the safety of our troops. Why does she not get this? Does she think the cross will provide security from infuriated terrorists?