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The president of a non-profit that claims to serve in the interest of protecting military members’ religious freedoms declared hyperbolically that Wreaths Across America is “carpet bombing” veterans’ gravesites with a “Christian gang sign.”
The non-profit issued a Nov. 22 statement attacking Wreaths Across America, an organization that has placed wreaths at veteran cemeteries every December for almost 30 years; a tradition that up until five minutes ago didn’t appear to be problematic.
“We’re not saying you can’t [place wreaths], but you cannot blanket it like that,” Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) president Michael ‘Mikey’ Weinstein told Fox News. “That’s like carpet-bombing.”
“On December 18, the graves of all veterans in our country’s 155 national cemeteries and numerous other locations where American veterans are buried, will be indiscriminately decorated with Christmas wreaths by the organization Wreaths Across America,” the statement read.
(Video: Fox News)
“The grave sites of Christians and non-Christians alike will be adorned with this hijacked-from-paganism symbol of Christianity — circular and made of evergreen to symbolize everlasting life through Jesus Christ — whether the families of the deceased veterans like it or not,” it continued.
In response, Wreaths Across America executive director Karen Worcester told Fox News that her organization is neither political nor expressly Christian.
Weinstein argued, “Our view is that if you want to put a Christmas wreath on a veteran’s grave, that’s fine. But then you must first request that, or you make sure that, in this case, Wreaths Across America has absolute empirical and express approval to do it.”
But Worcester said they have a policy of not placing wreaths on those tombstones that are marked with the Jewish Star of David, and added that her organization has never been expressly asked not to place wreaths for veterans of other non-Christian faiths, such as Islam. She said, in fact, they never have “placed those wreaths unless asked by the families to do so.”
“We live in a free country where there is freedom of religion, and we respect that,” Worcester told the outlet.
In a non-sequitur, Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s research director, Chris Rodda, aimed a new attack at the finances of the wreath providers.
“According to their latest available tax return, the Worcester’s nonprofit Wreaths Across America took in nearly $25 million in donations in 2019 and then paid nearly $17 million of that to their for-profit wreath company to produce the wreaths,” Rodda wrote.
Worcester defended the practices of her non-profit, saying, “The wreaths have to be made,” she told Fox News. “That’s that and for many long-standing years there is [a request for proposal] process.”
“It’s done by members of the board that have no relation to the Worcester, the founding family,” she added.
According to Matt Viola, Vice President of Charity Navigator, an organization that examines non-profits for any improprieties, the finances at Wreaths Across America appear to be on the up-and-up.
“It has come up before that the wreaths themselves are purchased from a related entity,” he said. “This is disclosed properly on the 990 [tax form], and assuming they are paying fair market value for the wreaths (similar to other vendors) and have done that due diligence, they are doing nothing illegal or against IRS regulations.”
Conversely, after a review of Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s 2020 IRS filings, Viola found that Weinstein received a salary of $314,000 while his non-profit reported under $700,000 in total revenue. Weinstein also reported in the same filings that he worked 105 hours a week in 2020, a figure equivalent to working 15 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The 105 hours worked for Michael Weinstein is a bit odd,” Viola told Fox News. “I don’t think I ever saw a number that high.”
“If we ignore the 105 hours per week workload, that is higher than what we normally see,” he added. “We do see six-figure compensation for our $1mil or more star-rated charities, but its low six figures. So for a charity under $1mil, this appears to be high.”
Weinstein argued for his large take of MRFF’s revenue, telling Fox News “My salary is perfectly in line with a ton of other folks that do what they do.”
Like every ill-advised and predictable Lefty, Weinstein is calling on the federal government to intervene on his behalf.
“We’d love President Biden, and Secretary [Denis] McDonough, the head of the [Department of Veterans Affairs], to come out and simply say again, ‘Fine if you want your wreaths, but then you make sure that you’ve either requested one from Wreaths Across America or that … Wreaths Across America has expressed or explicit approval to do it,'” he said.
Worcester defended her organization’s philosophy and practices, saying “Our kids are watching us. We need to put a good face forward and that we can be in unity and go forward as a country.”
“We’re so blessed to live in this country because of the men and women that we’re trying to honor,” she continued. “We want to respectfully honor every one of them.”
Arlington National Cemetery ignited their own firestorm in 2020 when they announced in November of that year they were suspending the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony because of COVID-19 concerns.
The coordinated effort spanned 2,100 locations across the nation and was set to be canceled if not for the backlash the announcement caused. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) was notable among many who were vocal in opposing the decision:
“You’ve got a situation where you take a wreath, and you go and lay it on a headstone to honor the fallen. You’re outside. You’re not near anybody,” Crenshaw said on “Fox & Friends” at the time. “Why would you choose emotional reasoning over sophisticated, rational reasoning? I want to hear that from them I want to hear why we shouldn’t honor the fallen, I want to hear their scientific reasoning for it.”
This decision to cancel #wreathsacrossamerica must be reversed immediately. Critical thinking must win out over emotion. Large areas, outside and well spaced, with masks on, is perfectly safe. Our fallen deserve to be remembered.
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 17, 2020
As reported by BPR, the backlash made a difference. The office of the Secretary of the Army later announced that they would host Wreaths Across America, safely.
I have directed Arlington National Cemetery to safely host Wreaths Across America. We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground.
— SecArmy (@SecArmy) November 17, 2020
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