Mikey Weinstein Makes Students at Patrick Henry College Think -- School Deletes Video (UPDATED)

On Friday, September 26, Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), appeared at a very unlikely venue -- Patrick Henry College (PHC).

For those unfamiliar with this institution of higher learning, PHC is a fundamentalist Christian college in Virginia, founded 14 years ago to groom a steady stream of young fundamentalist Christians to transform American society, particularly as future political leaders.

"The Mission of Patrick Henry College is to prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding. Educating students according to a classical liberal arts curriculum and training them with apprenticeship methodology, the College provides academically excellent baccalaureate level higher education with a biblical worldview."

"The Vision of Patrick Henry College is to aid in the transformation of American society by training Christian students to serve God and mankind with a passion for righteousness, justice, and mercy, through careers of public service and cultural influence."

PHC is also a college where fundamentalist Christian parents can safely send their thus far homeschooled children, assured that even through their college years they will remain insulated in the "biblical worldview" bubble that they were so carefully brought up in. Last Friday, however, a big sharp pin was stuck in that bubble when Mikey Weinstein appeared at the college as part of its Newsmakers Interview Series, hosted by WORLD Magazine editor-in-chief and PHC faculty member Marvin Olasky.

Mikey Weinstein being invited to be a guest as part of this PHC interview series was somewhat surprising to those of us at MRFF, but Mikey is always up for a "challenge," so he gladly accepted Dr. Olasky's invitation into the lion's den.

The interview went extremely well -- for Mikey -- but not so much for Dr. Olasky, whose attempts to trap the "little Jewish radical" into appearing to be an anti-Christian bully were altogether unsuccessful. Mikey clearly connected with the students, who, much to our surprise, seemed eager to hear what PHC had described in its description of the event as "an alternate viewpoint on religious freedom." Several students asked very good questions during the Q & A part of the event, and others lined up to ask Mikey even more questions afterwards.

Immediately after the interview, which was webcast by PHC, emails and phone calls started coming into MRFF -- emails like the following from PHC students and alumni:

From: Patrick Henry College Student's E-Mail Address Withheld
Subject: Thanks Mr. Weinstein

Sir, I am a (class year description withheld) at Patrick Henry College and attended your speaking event today at the school where you were interviewed by Marvin Olasky. Speaking on behalf of many of us who attended, I wanted to thank you for the personal courage it must have taken for you to come here. We all saw your security guards and after going to your website at the MRFF we now know why you need them. While a lot of us can't say much for Mr. Olasky's offensive, sketchy interview "techniques", we really can praise your excellent answers and instructive and even humorous commentary. You kept your cool and we learned so much. We also very much appreciated your MRFF friend Mr. Larry Wilkinson's* words as well. Of my (number of years withheld) years at this school this day was the most educational day ever! And I'm not the only one who feels that way. We see things differently now and we haven't sacrificed our faith in Christ to do that. Please know that many of us here at PHC are in your corner from now on. We are sorry about what happened to your son at the AF Academy. Also I'm sorry that your dog passed away. I hope you know that the Lord loves you. (I sent a picture of you wearing your PHC baseball cap to my mom and dad who were worried about you speaking here.)

Yours in Christ, (Patrick Henry College student's name withheld)

(*The student is referring to MRFF Advisory Board member Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who attended the event and spoke during the Q & A segment. See video below.)

From: PHC Graduate's E-mail Address Withheld
Subject: Thanks Mr. Weinstein

"I'm a 20XX graduate of Patrick Henry College. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised to hear that Mikey Weinstein of MRFF was speaking there. Separation of church and state was consistently denigrated during my time there--a frightening prospect, considering that I was a government major. The campus administration seemed a bit hesitant about Mr. Weinstein's appearance as well. A few hours before his interview began, the administration sent out a campus-wide email calling Mr. Weinstein a "rather non-traditional guest" who would "bring[ ] an alternate and, by some standards, anti-Christian viewpoint." To their credit, the email asked the students to be hospitable. It's unfortunate, however, that separation of church and state in the military would be a topic that requires such an introduction.

Marvin Olasky, of World Magazine fame, conducted the interview. From the beginning, his questioning was unnecessarily belligerent. He presumed that Mr. Weinstein's answers could be a simple yes or no (as if the law is that simple) and gave Mr. Weinstein little time to provide a detailed explanation about the various factors that would go into the legal analysis of a case. Despite Olasky's shortcomings, it was a great interview. Mr. Weinstein gave as good (probably better) than he got, and the students heard a great explanation about the importance of the Establishment Clause in the military.

I very much appreciated Mr. Weinstein's entering the lion's den that is my alma mater in order to provide the students with another point of view. PHC rarely, if ever, invites a guest who is not a member of the Religious Right. Its students are intentionally trained to "bring Christ into the public square." Giving the students a glimpse of the other side of the story is crucial. I know from my own time at PHC that the instruction provided does not always add up. That's how I got out of that mindset myself. Yes, some students accept without question the fundamentalist-religious-beliefs-turned-political-prose that is typical of classes there, but many others are willing to march to the beat of a different drummer if you give them the tools to do so. After hearing some of the student reaction to the interview, I know many found Mr. Weinstein's visit educational and interesting. For some, it could possibly have been eye-opening. I hope Mr. Weinstein can do it again someday!

PHC Graduate's name withheld

On Friday afternoon, PHC posted the video of Mikey's interview on its UStream page, along with the videos of its other Newsmakers Interview Series interviews, and the video started to get around via blogs and social media.

At some point over the weekend, however, PHC apparently decided, for reasons that can only be guessed at, to take the video down. (MRFF was initially informed of the disappearance of the video by a PHC student who had wanted to show it to their Bible study group, but found that it had been deleted when they went to the school's UStream page.)

But, fortunately, the video is not lost. MRFF recorded the interview, and it is now available on our YouTube channel. So, if you want to guess at why PHC might have decided to make the video of this interview unavailable, just watch it.

UPDATE: PHC has put the video back up, on its YouTube channel. The video has been edited at the request of a student who was uncomfortable with something said during the Q & A portion of the event. At PHC's request, I have replaced the original video recorded by MRFF that was previously in this post with the version now available from PHC.