Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Mikey Weinstein is threatening to sue a conservative Christian website for libel over an allegedly anti-Semitic article that called him, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” because he convinced the Dover Air Force Base to stop promoting an evangelical charity.
This raises two obvious questions.
First, what is so wrong with military brass urging airmen to support the charity, which provides Christmas toys to poor kids overseas? And how is expressing the opinion that he ruined Christmas libelous, let alone anti-Semitic?
Unlike WaPo media blogger and alleged human pooper scooper husband Erik Wemple, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith, special rights activist Al Sharpton and MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Weinstein was man enough not to hang up or run away in the face of pointed and potentially embarrassing inquiries from this reporter.
Instead, Weinstein, a veteran of both the Air Force and the Reagan White House, responded in considerable and, uh, colorful detail.
“What is libelous is the innuendo and false light that I took Christmas away — that we stopped little kids from getting their toys,” he contended. “They are defecating on the truth and twisting it. Let them prove it is just opinion not libel. Let them tell it to a judge. We didn’t cancel the program. That is a vicious disgusting fucking goddamn lie.”
Weinstein said it was impossible to tell from the Christian Examiner article by Liberty University assistant professor Gregory Tomlin that after he objected, the Dover Air Force Base did not prohibit airmen from working for the program, Operation Christmas Child. The only change is that any information base personnel receive about OCC shall be disseminated by military chaplains only.
Why does the difference even matter?
Chaplains, unlike commanders, don’t exercise any control over military personnel, so their communications are not coercive, he explained. Military rules explicitly prohibit any kind of endorsement or promotion of religion by commanders.
True enough. But is Grinch really a slur? Isn’t the Grinch simply a harmless character from the famous Dr. Seuss story?
In the course of a lengthy phone conversation and multiple emails, Wenstein insisted that to religious Christians the Grinch is actually the “Judas Iscariot of Christmas mythology.”
Calling him the Grinch, combined with a gratuitous reference to his being Jewish, like Judas who betrayed Christ, is an obvious attempt to incite violent anti-Semites, he contends. “When you write shit like, ‘Weinstein who is Jewish pounced’ we get the alchemy.”
Weinstein, who he said is accompanied to public appearance by armed guards because of all the anti-Semitic emails and death threats he regularly receives, accused author Gregory Tomlin of “trolling for assassins.”
He notes that most MRFF staffers and members are Christian and that one of the Navy SEALs killed in the Benghazi attacks, Glen Doherty, served on his board. So the notion that he is some kind of perfidious Jew is preposterous, argues Weinstein, a registered Republican.
The fracas started last month when 14 members of the 436th Force Support Squadron at Dover complained to the MRFF about an email from their commander’s secretary.
It urged to all base civilian and military personnel to “fill 5,000+ shoe boxes [for Operation Christmas Child] to be sent around the world as a way to show children in desperate situations that God loves and values them.”
“Many of these children have never received a gift before. Many have never heard of God’s incredible Gift of Salvation though His Son,” the Oct. 14 email said.
Four days later Weinstein fired off a letter to squadron commander Lt. Colonel Donald Tasker, his superiors and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter demanding that Tasker disassociate himself from his secretary’s email.
“You, sir, are her Squadron Commander and IMMEDIATE boss/supervisor and, thus, bear the ultimate responsibility for her illicit, unconstitutional actions. She is YOUR personal Command Secretary/chief administrative assistant, for crying out loud, sir! There is a Constitutionally permissible time, place and manner for any military or civilian member of the United States military to effusively express and proudly and peacefully practice their religious faith (or no faith). However, the deliberate and defiant actions of your personal head administrative aid, Ms. [Valencia] Branch, violate all three of these religious practice constraint conditions.”
(The bold type and capitalization are his.)
Weinstein said the email violated the Air Force requirement that its leaders “must ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief or absence of belief.”