Activist demands court martial for Christian Air Force general

by Gregory Tomlin, |
In an August 2007 CNN report, Mikey Wienstein condemns military personnel for appearing in a video and sharing, while in uniform at the Pentagon, about their Christian faith and the support they find through Christian Embassy, a group affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ International. | CNN/screen capture

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – A group claiming to defend the military against a Christian takeover is demanding an Air Force general face a court martial for saying he is a "redeemed believer in Christ" while in uniform at a National Day of Prayer Task Force meeting in Washington May 7, the Air Force Times has reported.

Mikey Weinstein, who heads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wrote an editorial on the organization's website May 15 that Maj. Gen. Craig Olson violated Air Force instructions about speaking openly of God and Jesus Christ as a representative of the military. Weinstein believes the address endorsed Christianity and belittled other religions.

Olson, who is in charge of 2,200 Air Force personnel at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, spoke in the video about his personal reliance on God as he learned to fly complex aircraft on nuclear missions, saved failing military programs and negotiated foreign military deals in Iraq.

"I have no ability to do that. I was not trained to do that. God did all of that," Olson said at the prayer event organized by Christian family advocates James and Shirley Dobson. A video of Olson's address surfaced shortly after the event.

In the video, Olson said he was not a Christian when he entered the Air Force Academy, but attended a Bible study because he was "free to do so."

After coming to faith in Christ, the general said he embarked on a life of prayer, sometimes praying with his wife on the phone when he was deployed 8,000 miles away from home. He asked the audience at the event to pray for military personnel and families wearied by decades of continual war.

He also asked the audience to pray for military leaders to have "wisdom to design strategies that will be successful in protecting our nation's freedom" and for them to recognize they need "to humbly depend on Christ themselves."

Weinstein said his group – which fears "dominionist Christians" who want to take over America – demands the general be held accountable for his words. He said Olsen should be "explaining himself to a General Courts Martial [sic] as well as the American people. And the very same fate should await his military accomplices and enablers, all of whom should be likewise punished to the full extent of military law."

The Air Force Times reported Weinstein also sent a letter to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh asking him to investigate the matter and discipline the general for his remarks. A spokesman for the chief of staff's office said he was not aware if Welsh, who was was out of the office, had seen the letter, the newspaper reported.

In his letter, Weinstein argued that Olson violated Air Force instructions, which carry the same weight as legal regulations, when he spoke at the event. In making his case, Weinstein selectively quoted AFI 1-1, 2.12, which reads:

"Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They must ensure 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."

But Weinstein, himself an Air Force Academy graduate and an attorney, only partially cited the instructions, leaving out any mention about the instruction on free exercise of religion and religious accommodation (AFI 1-1, 2.11), which states:

"Every Airman is free to practice the religion of their choice or subscribe to no religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own. Every Airman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to AFI 1-1 7 AUGUST 2012 19 include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment."

During his 20 minute message, Olson did not negatively portray other religions and did not make comparisons about Islam, Judaism or any other religion in order to elevate Christianity. Still, Weinstein claimed Olson's mere mention of his Christian faith proves he is part of a "slow-motion fundamentalist Christian coup d'état" in the military.

His words, Weinstein wrote, "revealed the frightening face of viciously intolerant, Christo-fascistic religious extremism run amok throughout the U.S. Armed Forces. The worldwide and national security implications of such a Christian supremacist force unleashed throughout our armed service branches is staggeringly high, yet the issue mournfully remains largely ignored by the lassitude and willful ignorance of mainstream press outlets."

"Simply put, there IS no more profound clear and present danger to our American way of life than mixing this rabid theology of 'Weaponized Jesus' with the vast weapons of our American military's arsenal," Weinstein claimed.

Weinstein also criticized the National Day of Prayer Task Force, led by Shirley Dobson, as a "putrescent Potemkin Village, an illusion of 'respectability' crafted through artifice to shoehorn a truly bloodthirsty, sectarian, religious extremist agenda into those areas of civilian governance previously off-limits to organized religion thanks to the once-ironclad separation of church and state embodied by the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Think the Taliban, with formal shoes instead of sandals and significant and stealthy civil means of brutal coercion rather than AK-47s."

Weinstein concluded Olson was "not simply a harmless howdy-doody/'Stepford Wife/Ned Flanders type of character delivering homilies and platitudes to his assembled flock of like-minded fools." He was, instead, part of a "Christian triumphalist" plan to subdue America, Weinstein wrote.