Monday, June 11, 2007

Weinstein: “VA Committed a Crime against Humanity”

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, the lawyer representing Navy Veteran David Miller, said “What the people are doing at the Veterans Administration Hospital {Iowa City} are committing, quite literally, a felony against Democracy and a crime against humanity.”

Weinstein agreed to take the case, when David Miller, reached out to him screaming: “I am not an animal. I’m not a Jewish animal. I am a human being. I am an American human being.”

“We got a man screaming in pain due to angina,” said Weinstein. “What he’s been through is unimaginable pain, and he’s screaming for the nurses to tell the evangelical VA Chaplain to go away and this is when he began evangelizing him, telling him that Jesus came for him. This is torture.”

This is one of the primary reasons Weinstein decided to take Miller’s case. “It’s simple, I took the case for the humanity,” said Weinstein. “It was off the scale, and I’ve seen just about everything. This was another manifestation of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and Walter Reed. It’s as simple as that. We are not a complex meal. We are not hamburger. We’re simply telling the military and the Veterans Administration that you are going to be at least as constrained as a shift manager at Starbucks or at the KFC or Cosco.”

Michael Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an attorney who worked in the White House under President Reagan, is filing a suit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in federal court over David Miller's treatment, while hospitalized at the VA medical Center in Iowa City. Miller is on full disability for angina, a painful medical condition that causes severe chest pains due to an oxygen shortage to the heart. In the suit, Weinstein claims that David Miller’s constitutional rights have been violated and the VA has overstepped the line separating the church and the state:

“This isn’t a Christian versus Jewish issue; this is a subset of people, who call themselves Dominionist Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians – roughly 12.6 percent of the American population, but still that’s roughly 38 million people. This is the Dominionist Fundamentalist Christians versus the Constitution issue and their revisionist history about the founding father’s intent when they crafted the Constitution.”

Weinstein said David Miller’s case is just the beginning and suspects there are other veterans who have been treated similarly and hopes Miller’s case will be a catalyst for a class-action lawsuit. During a telephone interview, Weinstein said he’s been contacted by over 4200 soldiers and military veterans, who feel they have been victimized by the indoctrination of institutionalized Christianity. Due to fears of a backlash from military leaders for speaking out, only 112 of them will go on the record publicly and voice their complaints. “David Miller is an American hero,” said Weinstein. “He had the courage to speak out about.”

Administrators at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City have gone on the record saying they’re taking Miller’s allegations very seriously. A spokesman, Kirt Sickels, said "We will look into these concerns that Mr. Miller is talking about. The Iowa City VA respects the rights to religious beliefs for every patient. If they have a request for any kind of religious needs, we try to accommodate whatever those needs or beliefs might be."

On of the major complaints cited by David Miller is that the VA hospital neglected to provide a kosher food alternative during all three of his visits to the facility, nor would the facility contact his rabbi to bring him some kosher food.

“We got a man screaming in pain due to angina,” Weinstein claims. “What he’s been through is unimaginable pain, and he’s screaming for the nurses to tell the evangelical VA Chaplain to go away and this is when he began evangelizing him, telling him that Jesus came for him. This is torture. During his last three visits, he wasn’t given food, because they didn’t have kosher food. Look, when you go on cruises they have kosher food. Even high school football players are provided with kosher food options. And the VA by its own accord is supposed to have kosher food.”

“Kosher meals are available to Jewish VA patients in Iowa City,” Sickels said.

Weinstein is confident he has a strong case against the VA: “We put people under oath and they’re swearing to tell the truth and we’re going to provide a number of witnesses that will support David Miller’s account. We’re in it to win it. We have military regulations up and down the line that specifically state you cannot use the Draconian specter of command influence to push anything on anyone, including Mary Kay products.”

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