An activist leading the charge against the influence of evangelical Christians in America’s military is sizzling up his latest fundraising gala with some heavy-hitting Washington star power.
Mikey Weinstein, an Air Force veteran turned church-state gadfly, has signed up Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame to headline a soiree he is set to throw September 9 in Albuquerque, N.M.
Wilson is the former U.S. ambassador who accused the Bush administration of manipulating pre-Iraq War intelligence. Plame, his wife, is, of course, the erstwhile CIA operative whose outing as a spy led to a federal leak investigation that reached all the way up to the president’s office.
Wilson sits on the advisory board of Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which fights to maintain the separation of church and state in all branches of the armed forces.
“We believe very strongly,” Wilson told the Forward, “that the notion of freedom to practice your own religion without being proselytized is particularly important” in the context of the American military. He rattled off a list of relatives from both his own family and his wife’s who have had military careers, including his father, who was a marine pilot, and Plame’s father, who served as an Air Force officer.
Wilson also said that he has two Jewish children from his first marriage and that Plame is the great-granddaughter of a rabbi.
Wilson and Weinstein first met about a year ago, when Patricia Madrid, who is the New Mexico attorney general and a mutual friend, introduced them. “He’s one of my strongest proponents,” Weinstein said of Wilson.
Weinstein’s latest gripe is with the airmen of the 523rd Fighter Squadron, based in New Mexico. The F-16 combat squadron calls itself “The Crusaders” and has incorporated the religious imagery of the crusades — including a cross — into the patches they affix to their uniforms. As usual, Weinstein pulled no punches. “I’m already in court suing the Air Force, and my lawyer is studying whether we want to take this to federal court,” he said.