Wayne Laugesen is the editorial page editor of our village's daily newspaper. His Gazette job is important, calling for him to sound the call for the Libertarian philosophy, a social movement that remains today as insignificant as at its founding more than a half-century ago.
Anyway, Laugesen is a funny guy. Not ha-ha funny. More like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh actually using one of Laugesen's wacky, Libertarian, anti-government, Soldier of Fortune magazine articles to justify the fertilizer-in-the-truck thing. (In response to a 2001 FOX TV request to "describe his motivations" for the deadly bombing of the federal building, McVeigh sent the network a copy of Laugesen's 1999 government-is-out-to-get-us story, "When Cops and Soldiers are One-and-the-Same.")
He's that kind of funny.
Or this kind of funny: In 2004, as a Boulder Weekly columnist, Laugesen learned a homeowner in a Boulder historic district was being pressured by the preservation committee to reinstall original old windows that had been replaced by modern windows. The whole thing was still being negotiated, but Laugesen the journalist decided the old windows could break more easily and therefore were a danger to the homeowner's child. So, with a photographer in tow, Laugesen went to the house, found the old historic windows and smashed them with a sledgehammer. Then he hired a bulldozer to run over the shattered glass. And he wrote about it, calling it "my own Boston Tea Party."
"Every broken window was a score for fatherhood, husbandry and God-given liberty," Laugesen added. Denver's Westword called the episode a "commando mission."
The window tirade happened, Laugesen said, because journalists have to do more than write. Sometimes they have to get involved in a more direct way. He equated the glass-smashing outburst with a journalist who sees a child on the train tracks as a train approaches; you stop being a reporter and you rescue the child.
On the attack
Another story doesn't involve children or trains or windows or bulldozers but I'm going to share it. In an e-mail sent from his gazette.com address a few weeks ago, Laugesen, a loud and frequent defender of the evangelical Christian movement, wrote: "The Christian haters who've written me seem to believe some conspiracy theory that has Christians conspiring against everyone including the Jews. So who has combined government and religion? Is it the Christians or the Jews? Clearly Jews have done this and Christians have not. Jews overtly control the government of a western nuclear superpower. Christians do not."
That got the attention of Mikey Weinstein, who made headlines a few years ago when he took on the Air Force Academy and the entire U.S. military over what he called religious discrimination. Weinstein graduated with honors from the AFA in 1977 and worked for a decade as a military lawyer. He also served more than three years as legal counsel to President Ronald Reagan. But several years ago, he chucked it all and began talking about how the evangelical Christian surge had infiltrated the armed forces.
The Independent was among the first to put his story and beliefs into print in 2005. He said academy officials told him that Dr. Seuss, Jack Benny, Albert Einstein and Anne Frank are "all burning in hell because they were Jewish."
Earlier in May, Weinstein read Laugesen's note about Jews controlling a Western superpower. Confronted later by others, Laugesen said he was referring to Israel. Weinstein isn't buying it.
"He most clearly meant the United States," Weinstein says. "Have you ever heard anyone refer to Israel as a Western superpower? I haven't. Last time I checked, it was in the Middle East. He meant the U.S., and he let it slip and he got called on it, and then he backed off and said he meant something else."
Weinstein now leads the fast-growing Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which claims to represent nearly 8,000 active-duty military. The movement works to restore "the obliterated wall separating church and state in the most technologically lethal organization ever created by humankind: the United States armed forces."
The group's advisory board includes ex-Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, former NORAD commander Gen. Robert Herres, AFA and Harvard grad and former Pentagon official Robert Dotson, ex-Denver Post and Los Angeles Times publishing executive Richard Schlosberg and respected Iranian-born political scholar Reza Aslan. And Weinstein is a marked man.
"Just this week, I received six phone calls saying I was going to get a head shot, that they were going to kill me, and that they were going to change my wife's hair color with her own blood and they were going to kill my children," Weinstein said last weekend from his Albuquerque, N.M., home. "I get it all the time. And what fosters it is the belief that I am anti-Christian. I am not."
His wife is Christian, as are many members of his immediate family. He says some 96 percent of his foundation's members are Christian.
"But I've been portrayed over and over by bigots as an anti-Christian," he says.
One of them, according to Weinstein, writes for the Gazette.
The issue surfaced when Laugesen recently exchanged e-mails with Rick Baker of Colorado Springs, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and an atheist who is a friend of Weinstein. It culminated May 13 with this e-mail to Baker from firstname.lastname@example.org: "You do, in fact, comb thousands of years of history to find episodes in which atrocities were committed in the name of God and then stand there with a who farted look and point to the Christians. That's what you do, Rick. You and Mikey are on an all-out crusade to get the Christians."
Astounded, Baker forwarded the e-mails to an array of people on his mailing list. The message spread quickly to other sources, apparently on both sides. Within a week, Weinstein said, the death threats had reached new heights, such as one on his cell phone.
"It was the voice of a little girl or little boy; it was hard to tell," Weinstein says. "The child said: "Now we lay you in your grave, there was no way you could be saved. You hate our Lord and he can tell, which is why you burn in hell.' In the background were the voices of adults, a man and a woman, prodding the child, telling them the lines so the child could repeat them into the phone."
Last week, Weinstein's attorney, Pedro Irigonegaray, sent a letter to Gazette publisher Scott McKibben warning the paper and Laugesen to knock it off.
"My first reaction to the e-mails was disbelief," Irigonegaray said. "I couldn't imagine anyone being so reckless and so bigoted and so abusive. Being Jewish is not a crime."
Weinstein noted a 2004 episode in which the Gazette delivered copies of the Bible to all of its 91,000 subscribers (the paper's reported circulation then, though its home delivery now has reportedly fallen to around 70,000) including Jews.
"I'm not at war with Christianity," he says. "I'm at war with a small subset of evangelical Christianity that believes it is their duty to transform everyone else, a group that seems to have flocked to Colorado Springs, people who say, "You get our version of Jesus Christ, whether you like it or not.'
"It appears the newspaper is part of that group. And I wonder, really, why anyone would still read a paper like that. How do they tolerate that? What does it take to make regular people say enough is enough?"