Military Watchdog Threatened for His Work — I’m ‘Your Worst Nightmare!’

Michael L. Weinstein has spent the last decade highlighting the hidden phenomenon of proselytizing in the military. As head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group, Weinstein has earned many critics — and last week was sent a violent threat.

The typed letter was sent by an individual claiming to be an ex-Army Ranger, according to a June 30 post on the organization’s site.

“I know who you are; what you look like; where you work,” the anonymous letter read. “You are going to know who I look like real soon. And, it ain’t going to be pretty!”

The letter was signed, “Your worst nightmare!”

Weinstein first began campaigning against anti-Semitism in the military academy, which he says is widespread, and expanded his vision to advocate for other religious freedoms. His work earned him a place in a 2006 list of influential Jews published annually by the Forward.

Weinstein graduated from the Unites States Air Force Academy in 1977 and later stated that he had been subjected to physical and psychological harassment — he claims he was called anti-Semitic slurs, beaten and received death threats.

Weinstein has been contacted by thousands of service members and families about incidents of religious discrimination, he told the New York Times in 2008.

Complaints included prayers “in Jesus’ name” being said at required functions and officers proselytizing subordinates to be “born again.”

“Religion is inextricably intertwined with their jobs,” Weinstein said. “You’re promoted by who you pray with.”

Some critics — both Christian and Jewish — have said that Weinstein takes his campaign against religious proselytizing too far, and that he has overstated the scope of the phenomenon.

In his autobiography, Weinstein wrote that both of his sons faced religious discrimination in the military—one being asked “how it felt to kill Jesus;” the other being asked “how do you feel about the fact that your family is going to burn in hell?”

Weinstein has said that he was originally most concerned about anti-Semitism, but his mission has expanded over the years.

“With regard to the arc of justice in my life, I started out at point A where I made a commitment that wherever I saw anti-Semitism I’d stamp it out,” he told LA Progressive in 2012, “Now I’m at point B, when I see unconstitutional religious persecution of any stripe, I don’t care if I live or die, I’m not going to stand by and let it happen.”

Contact Sam Kestenbaum at kestenbaum@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @skestenbaum

Author

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum is a staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at kestenbaum@forward.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .

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Military Watchdog Threatened for His Work — I’m ‘Your Worst Nightmare!’

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