Sparks briefly flew Wednesday when Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a First Amendment group, appeared before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee to discuss complications and confusion surrounding religious freedom in the U.S. military.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Mikey Weinstein clash over quotes he made about certain Christian factions (YouTube/MRFF)
Weinstein, known for his sometimes fiery rhetoric when staunchly advocating the separation of church and state, was confronted by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), who questioned some of Weinstein's past statements about Christian factions he opposes.
The dialogue between Forbes and Weinstein at the "Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services" hearing started out on bad footing when the congressman mispronounced the activist's name, leading Weinstein to proclaim, "I said it earlier — it's Weinstein. Maybe you weren't listening."
Forbes apologized and inquired about a July 16, 2006, quote that was attributed to Weinstein in a Washington Post article. It read, "We’ve created this foundation to be a weapon. We going to lie down a withering field of fire and leave sucking chest wounds."
After Forbes asked whether this quote was accurate, Weinstein and Forbes went back and forth for a bit before the activist conceded that it was, indeed, properly attributed to him.
"Of course I said those words. And proudly," Weinstein said.
And Forbes wasn't done there. He mentioned another quote from Weinstein, asking, again, if it was accurate — to which Weinstein again answered affirmatively.
That quote read, "Today we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nations armed forces."
Watch the video at the 53:30 mark below:
Forbes decried these comments and later said that he hasn't heard people of faith referring to atheists or others as "monsters" or other such sentiments. The congressman also called for protections for the faithful who wish to share their faith in the armed forces.
"Nobody is defending individuals trying to proselytize or correct. We're simply saying that we need a protection," the congressman said. "Just because you wear a uniform doesn't mean that you no longer have a right to express your freedom or your faith."
Weinstein appeared alongside Michael Berry of the Liberty Institute, Dr. Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty and Rabbi Bruce Kahn, among others, in front of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel to discuss and debate religious freedom in the military.
Despite areas of disagreement, the diverse panel agreed that there is a "tsunami of confusion" when it comes to addressing the issue, with experts claiming that the military is stuck between defending soldiers' individual liberty and not coercing or endorsing religious belief, the Christian Post reported.
Disagreement over these issues has led to numerous problems over the past few years, including battles in the military over what is and is not acceptable when it comes to soldiers' sharing their religious faith among peers.
(H/T: BizPac Review)