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Military Religious Freedom Foundation


Last month the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that battles the evangelical, fundamentalist religious right, exposed the use of so-called Jesus rifles (there are coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ on rifle sights) in the U.S. military ... just three months after being nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Now MRRF and its founder, Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, is taking on the Obama administration for delaying the president's campaign promise to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy

Weinstein, whose family has a long U.S. history, spanning three consecutive generations of military academy graduates, is a Republican who once served in the Reagan administration as a White House legal counsel. He is married with two a daughter and two sons, both of whom followed in his footsteps and graduated from the Air Force Academy. He was an adviser to Ross Perot. And he is anything buy shy or forgiving with his views on "don't ask, don't tell."

The Advocate: How does the Military Religious Freedom Foundation relate to "don't ask, don't tell?"
Mikey Weinstein: We thought to be a good soldier you had to shoot straight, not be straight. I felt this was a huge cop-out by Clinton, and we are furious with the Obama administration. I'm a Republican, but I'm also a Republican who voted for Clinton twice, Gore and Kerry, and for Obama. I get the fact that our economy and health care are important. However, the concept of "don't ask, don't tell" is the most pernicious, evil thing that I've seen come out in regard to privacy in America ever.

And you said Obama doesn't have to go through all of these channels of overturning the policy. How is that?

It can be done away with in just a stroke of the pen. An executive order can make it go away like many other countries have done it. "don't ask, don't tell" to us is ridiculous. No, it's not ridiculous -- that makes it sound too lighthearted. It's a cancer. It's something that Obama said he was going to get rid of, and with a stroke of a pen he could've written an executive order. It's a cop-out that he wants legislation. Let that follow. He's the commander in chief!

But what authority does he have to repeal this on his own?

He has tremendous authority. I can't even tell you. The power of an executive order -- I mean, ask the Bush administration about what they did with executive orders.

What were your thoughts on Obama's State of the Union Address?

My problem is he gives a great speech, but so do a lot of college professors that don't actually have to do anything. We've been furious ever since he wouldn't get rid of the faith-based initiative, which allowed so many religious organizations to get money and to continue their hiring and firing practices based upon their own particular religious views.

Perhaps Obama just doesn't want to make too many waves.
And here's the problem. I tell people, "I don't know what it takes to be a success, but I know what it takes to be a fuck-up and a failure -- and that is trying to please everyone." That's what he's trying to do.

Colin Powell, who once supported Bill Clinton on "don't ask, don't tell," recently said it's now time to overturn the policy. What did you think of his statement?

I thought it was courageous. Much more courageous than when he went to the United Nations and laid out all that false crap about why we should invade Iraq.

And what about John McCain? In 2006 he said, "The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it." Now he says he's disappointed.
I think this was the 8 millionth time he prostituted himself. It was a further example of his prostitution.

Defense secretary Robert Gates said after Obama's State of the Union Address that laying the groundwork for a repeal of the policy will take more than a year ...
Ridiculous! It should take a minute, and it should've happened the day Obama took the oath.

When Gates told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that in the interim, the Defense Department will start enforcing the policy "in a fairer manner," what do you think he meant?

I think that's similar to saying we're going to grant inmates in concentration camps a fairer way of being executed.

Why should people care about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation?
The fact that we can sit here and talk about anything or go to a movie or to a game is because we do have a strong military. The guardians of our freedoms float on the oceans. They fly in the air. They are in tanks. They are the guards. The same way the NYPD is supposed to be the guards of New York City. The difference is the NYPD doesn't have weapons of mass destruction. We are not talking about an issue or a challenge. We are talking about a national security threat internally to this country with every bit as much breath and magnitude as what we're facing externally by a resurgent Taliban and an al-Qaeda that is at least as strong as it was on 9/11, according to this country's most recent national intelligence evidence.

What is the national security threat internally?
We've got this fanatical religiosity in fundamental Christianity. We're not talking about the Hindus, the Buddhist, or the Jews. It's called dominionist Christianity. You have this religiosity mixed with weapons of mass destruction. If you throw in a dash of totally misguided patriotism and another dash of the complete abrogation of the sacred oath of the Marine Corps, Army, and the Air Force, you have a national security threat.

How do you know the people you are going after or fighting?
I live in New Mexico and if you were to walk into a ditch on a hot September day and have your nostrils assaulted with the stench of 10,000 rotting swine, that's what these people smell like. There are five particular stenches about them: They're virulently homophobic, virulently misogynistic, virulently anti-Semitic and Islamophobic. They also have a desire to subordinate what they view has flawed man's law, which is the U.S. Constitution. They are comprised of about 12.6 percent of the American public. They are called premillennial, dispensational, reconstructionist, dominionist, evangelical, fundamentalist Christians. Remember, Hitler only had 7.9% in his National Socialist movement and Stalin had 2.9%.

Can you give us an example to break it down about who these people are?
They are your Pat Robertsons, Jerry Falwells, Oral Robertess, John Hagees, and Sarah Palins.

Sarah Palin?
She is the poster child for this group! Look, sex is a special thing with America. If Sarah Palin looked like Susan Boyle, do you think for a second she would be anywhere? She's considered to be attractive and is not that smart, which is perfect for America. I spent over three years in the White House with Reagan. I think he was our first president with an IQ of 100.

Why is it so important to you to be an advocate for "don't ask, don't tell"?

There is a great quote to answer your question that I hadn't thought of in a long time. It's a quote from Carl Jung [the psychiatrist]. It says, "You meet your destiny on the road you took to avoid it." After 11 years in D.C., I came out to New Mexico just to be a lawyer and businessman. I wanted to keep a low profile, but I guess that wasn't in the cards. People who are victims of the fundamentalist Christian tyranny are not all straight. We've had a large number of our clients -- many of them Christians -- who were made to feel like they wanted to commit suicide because their military superiors were asking them to bottle up their feelings. It's very hard to speak truth to power.

Why do you think up until a few weeks ago with his State of the Union address Obama has been dragging his feet on "don't ask, don't tell"?
I don't have a good answer to that, but the level of dissatisfaction has been amazing. But as bad as he has been, it's still not as bad as it would be under McCain or Palin.

A study from the Palm Center, described as a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that specializes in research on gender, sexuality, and the military, revealed that woman take more of the brunt from "don't ask, don't tell." Why do you think that is?

It is true. It's always been difficult to be involved in a male-dominated environment to begin with.

In October 2009 a senior fellow at the Palm Center, Nathaniel Frank, told the North Star National that the reason for this is that a higher percentage of women enlisting are gay. Another explanation is the "macho" culture that is enduring throughout all branches of the armed forces and that leads to sexual harassment. For example, if a male colleague or officer makes advances toward a woman, and if she does not respond, he accuses her of being a lesbian, setting off an investigation into her sexual orientation.

You have two sons, who are both involved in the military. What would you have done if one of them or even both came to you and said, "Dad, I'm gay?"
I would've said that information is inherently better than no information. Of course, I think all parents think about that. It would've been something that I would've said, "Thank you for telling me, and you're a courageous person. I love you more than ever. But I don't love you any more than if you told me you were straight." It's something to me that is a nonissue.

What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage?
People say it has to be between a man and woman. And I say, "Yes, and not too long ago it had to be between a white man and a white woman." Black men and black women in this country couldn't even get married.

But what do you think about it?
As I've said before to people, "Get it through your fucking thick skulls, they are not civil privileges. It's a civil right. You have a right to marriage!" I get very pissed off about this.

Where do you see same-sex marriage going?
We all know what is coming. We are all going to have these rights, but in the meantime -- that's why I got emotional watching the incredible performance of Sean Penn in Milk. You look back and think, What's the big deal? He was just saying there should be gay rights and we have that everywhere now. It's easy for teenagers and 20-somethings now, but it wasn't so easy back then.

Speaking of Harvey Milk, who were some of your inspirations?

I'm a real big fan of Jackie Robinson. I am a fan of pretty much anybody who has spoken truth to power because the average American doesn't have enough testicular fortitude to tell someone to shut up if they're talking in a movie theater.

Before you go, what can we do to get "don't ask, don't tell" overturned as quickly as possible?
I can give you the usual crap, which is to write to your members of Congress and et cetera and et cetera, but forget about that for this year. We're facing midterm elections, and they are heating up more and more every day. I've said all along that I want to keep Republicans out of the bedroom and Democrats out of the boardroom. I've always felt that under Republicans man exploits man, but under Democrats it's just the opposite, so I've given up on both parties. The number of members of Congress who support us is large, but they are terrified to come forward because they are cowards. They're terrified of annihilating the right-wing, fundamentalist-based because they vote and give money. I would say to the people who want this changed, "Shut the fuck up and put your money where your mouth is, the way the Republicans and the conservatives do." O'Reilly, Hannity, and Palin get their people to write checks, and we're going to have to do that on our side also.

Finally, what do you think the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's relevance is when it comes to "don't ask, don't tell"?
Our job is to be angry. People don't like it when we get angry because it disrupts their plan of doing things. If you're going to say, "Don't tell us you're gay and we won't ask and we will tolerate you," it's an abomination, or rather, an Obamanation. It's taken way too long for this to happen.

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Dustin Fitzharris