The 'Secular Crusader': Former Air Force JAG Looks to Drive All Christian Symbolism from Military

Persecution of Christians worldwide, particularly at the hands of Muslims, is a well-documented phenomenon despite the successful attempts by most major Western and American media organs to ignore it.

Persecution of Christians in the United States -- a country where almost 80% of the population, some 240 million, is of that faith -- is deemed, ipso facto, an absurdity by some and an undeniable fact by others. As a conservative yet non-fundamentalist (Lutheran) Christian, Army veteran, and former academic specializing in Islamic history, I agree that Christians are not currently being persecuted in this country. I do discern, nonetheless, a worrisome growing intolerance of the majority faith coupled with a kneejerk support of minority religions.

Particularly, and unsurprisingly, Islam.

This year alone, there have been four prominent attacks on Christian connections to the U.S. military:

-- Charges of neo-Crusaderism against military supplier Trijicon for its gunsights inscribed with New Testament verses.

-- Charges of neo-Crusaderism against an Army unit for daring to have a cross as part of its unit insignia.

-- The branding as “a hate crime” the placing of a cross next to the the Air Force Academy’s neo-pagan worship site.

-- The Army’s decision to disinvite prominent evangelical Franklin Graham from speaking at a Pentagon prayer service on the National Day of Prayer.

These four incidents all have one major factor in common: the involvement of Mikey Weinstein and his “Military Religious Freedom Foundation” -- which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize last fall.

Weinstein is a former member of the Air Force JAG (Judge Advocated General's) Corps -- an attorney -- and a self-proclaimed secular crusader for rebuilding what he calls the military’s “obliterated wall separating church and state.”

Since Weinstein blames evangelical Protestants for allegedly breaching this wall, he directs most of his ire against them. They don’t hesitate to return fire, often citing Weinstein’s own intemperate, crass words. Weinstein gets plenty of support from the media, as is obvious from a sympathetic 2009 Harper’s article with an inflammatory title: “Jesus Killed Mohammad: The Crusade for a Christian Military.” The piece quotes him at length and takes his assertions at face value.

I will leave it to Weinstein’s evangelical Protestant opponents to question his salvation status; however, his misrepresentations of history -- Christian, American, and even Islamic -- are certainly fair game and call into question his logic and motives. If Weinstein were simply the head of a “religious watchdog group,” working out a personal animus against Christians and Christianity in the military, we could perhaps ignore him, but his views appear to be not just influential but gaining traction among some elements of the Obama administration.

Weinstein’s favorite trope is that the American military is somehow being turned into a “Crusader” army by the nefarious Protestants within its ranks, as exemplified by the “Crusader” unit heraldry which, according to him, “continues to add more fodder to the argument that we are Crusaders. ... It’s exactly what fundamentalist Muslims want.”

Here is the unit symbol for the Army hospital at Ft. Carson, CO, which so offended Weinstein on behalf of the world’s Muslims:

Note it’s inscribed with “For God and Humanity” -- not “For God and Americans” or “For God and Christians.” And it’s a hospital, not a combat unit.

I must confess my doubts that Weinstein found 43 people on Ft. Carson, as he claims, who are somehow offended by a cross being connected to a hospital.

I endeavored to scrutinize all the U.S military’s unit symbols and insignia at its heraldry site, but gave up after a few hours and only being able to check perhaps 20% of just the Army’s units. Even that small statistical sampling came back with dozens of U.S. Army units whose official symbols include crosses, such as the 5th Air Defense Artillery:

And the 112th Infantry Regiment, which sports not just one, but two crosses: