Lawyers Debate at Air Force Academy

By Rebecca Spence

Published April 27, 2007, issue of April 27, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Colorado Springs, Colo. - Two controversial attorneys representing opposite ends of the church-state separation dispute faced off at the U.S. Air Force Academy here this week in an impassioned debate over the reach of evangelical Christianity in the ranks of the military.

The debate pitted Mikey Weinstein, the New Mexico attorney who sued the Air Force Academy in 2005 over what he calls rampant proselytizing on campus, against Jay Sekulow, a Jewish convert to Christianity who works closely with televangelist Pat Robertson and represents Christian groups before the Supreme Court.

Taking place in the midst of an unseasonably fierce spring-time blizzard, the debate drew a crowd of some 300 Air Force cadets. Judging by the applause, the audience seemed noticeably more sympathetic to Sekulow, who hosts a radio talk show and heads the Robertson-affiliated American Center for Law and Justice, than to Weinstein, an Air Force Academy graduate.

Weinstein has garnered a host of enemies in the past two years, including what he describes as weekly death threats, while pursuing a one-man mission to sound the alarm that evangelical Christians are taking over the military and pushing it in the direction of an apocalyptic Christian crusade. In the lead-up to Tuesday night’s debate, the death threats reached a fever pitch, Weinstein said, with four coming in one week. The Air Force Academy increased security in response, and no disruptions took place.

The Brooklyn-born Sekulow has said he joined Jews for Jesus while a student at Mercer University and now describes himself as a Messianic Jew. He has argued several landmark cases on behalf of evangelicals before the Supreme Court and has often appeared on lists of the nation’s most influential lawyers in publications such as Time, American Lawyer and National Law Journal.

Addressing a sea of blue uniforms, Weinstein and Sekulow traded barbs over the extent to which military personnel, including Jews, should be permitted to express their religion when on duty. Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said he agreed with a 1986 Supreme Court ruling that an Air Force member could not wear a yarmulke on duty, as it interfered with the uniformity of dress.

“This is where we disagree,” Sekulow responded. “I think he should have been able to wear the yarmulke.”

From the audience, a reporter overheard loud murmurs of dissatisfaction over Weinstein’s portrayal of evangelical Christians. “That’s offensive,” one cadet whispered to another, when Weinstein remarked that the issue was not a “warm, cuddly Jewish or Jesus teddy bear.” “He says he’s not anti-Christian, but he is,” the cadet said. “He’s anti-evangelical.”

Despite their differences, Weinstein and Sekulow also exchanged pleasantries and found areas of common ground. ‘I know he’s a messianic Jew,” Weinstein said during the debate, “but he’s a nice Jewish boy. I can tell.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.