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One-man offensive

"One-man offensive" Continued...

Issue: "All's fair at the fair," Aug. 25, 2007

In March 2006, he amended his Air Force Academy suit, adding a plaintiff and claiming that Air Force recruiters were "using Jesus as a recruiting tool." The suit was dropped last fall when a judge ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue.

But Weinstein says he isn't giving up: "The judge gave us a toolkit for how to come back appropriately into federal court and we're just about to. Stay tuned."

In the Christian Embassy case, some officers had their promotions put on hold for months pending the outcome of the IG investigation, a suspense that is not yet officially resolved. Weinstein says he is about sue in that case, too.

While Weinstein's war may be inconveniencing the Pentagon, other of his targets, such as Officers' Christian Fellowship and Military Christian Fellowship, say the lawyer's diatribes aren't affecting them at all. Both groups offer voluntary Bible studies and discipleship activities. Weinstein has characterized them as part of a "Christian Taliban."

OCF executive director Bruce Fister, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and combat veteran, said, "Most of our members won't even be aware of Weinstein or what he's up to. This stuff gets a lot less circulation once you get outside the Beltway."

Weinstein claims his foundation has received complaints from "5,000 tormentees," many of them junior troops whose commanders intimidate them with "the weaponized gospel of Jesus Christ." But he told WORLD "you can't" verify their stories because most won't speak on the record. "You're going to have to take my word for it."

"Weinstein is dealing in anecdotal evidence," said Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of the American Soldier, a history of the influence of religion in the U.S. military. "I spent a couple of years researching this. The average evangelical 'Bible thumper' type would welcome nonbelievers in a unit. The bottom line is that we have some anecdotal stuff here, and that's what fuels the debate."

Varney noted that the story line of the heavy-handed evangelical military leader has played out in the media since 2003, when Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin was accused of improperly representing his religious opinions as those of the Defense Department. Then came Weinstein's Air Force Academy suit, and now the Christian Embassy flap. But Boykin was exonerated, the Air Force suit dropped, and the Christian Embassy suit yielded no findings of religion-related abuse, Varney said: "In every case there's no substance to this idea of religious persecution."

Both Varney and Fister told WORLD they intend to continue encouraging military service members to live out their faith in Christ, demonstrating His work in their lives through excellence in military service.

"Our job is not to argue with Mikey," Fister said. "A lot of the people in our organization have put their literal bodies out for people to shoot at so that Mikey can believe however he wants to believe."

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