A recent decision by the Marine Corps to reinstate "Crusaders" as the name of its Fighter Attack Squadron 122 — replacing "Werewolves" — and adopting the red cross of the medieval Knights Templar was blasted as unconstitutional and willfully ignorant by a civil rights group Wednesday.
“I don’t know that the Marine Corps could do anything more to fuel the cause of jihad," said Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates church-state separation. "It will directly end up taking lives and maiming members of our military."
VMFA-122 based out of Beaufort, S.C., used the Crusaders symbol from 1958 up to 2008, when Lt. Col. William Lieblein pointed out that imagery invoking the Christian conquest and colonization of Muslims during the Middle Ages was counterproductive to U.S. soldiers based across the Arab and Islamic world.
"The notion of being a crusader in that part of the world doesn't float," he said, ordering the change to "Werewolves," as reported by the Beaufort Gazette at the time.
Dozens of military members, including Marines in the affected squadron have contacted MRFF reporting that the name has been changed back, and that the symbols had already been painted on the vertical stabilizers of the F-18s.
Weinstein says that members of the military who contacted his group — mostly moderate Protestants and Catholics — felt that the decision was blatantly religious.
"They’re being told, 'the enemy gets to have Allah in their fight. We need to get our Lord and Savior back into our fight'," said Weinstein."
Lt. Cmdr. Wade Weigel, who currently heads the squadron, said he did not think the historic nickname was problematic, according to a report in the Beaufort Gazette on Monday.
"It's a way for our Marines to draw on the service of the Marines before them, and to make their own history under the same name," Weigel told the paper. "As the squadron prepared to celebrate its (70th anniversary), my intent was to return the squadron to the Crusader name since 50 of the squadron's 70 years were under that name. The name change is a reflection of our heritage."
Through the law firm Jones Day, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on Wednesday sent a letter calling on top Navy and Marine Corps brass to reverse the decision, arguing that the use of Crusaders and the accompanying symbolism violate the Constitution’s separation of church and state, and threatening legal action if it is not changed.
The name change comes just as world media focuses on the trial of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian who admits to killing 77 people in a holy crusade against Islam and multiculturalism. Breivik brandished the Knights Templar symbols in his "manifesto" and YouTube video posted shortly before his bloody rampage.
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