Sunday, October 14, 2007

Atheists in the army

Freedom of religion in the USA is supposed to include freedom from religion. The Establishment Clause is supposed to apply to all Americans, including the troops. This is a basic right granted by the Constitution.

Ironically, the troops are the people making the greatest sacrifices in the name of freedom. Yet, the army is becoming a place of evangelizing to Jewish and Islamic troops. God forbid one be an atheist!

Last summer, US Army Specialist Jeremy Hall got permission to post fliers at Speicher base in Iraq announcing a meeting for atheists and other nonbelievers. When the meeting got underway, Hall's Army major supervisor disrupted the meeting and threatened to retaliate against Hall, including blocking his reenlistment in the Army. Earlier, he had been publicly berated by a staff sergeant for not agreeing to join in a prayer.

This intolerance in the military is not restricted to the Army and aimed only at atheists. In the 1990s, the Air Force published a Little Blue Book of core values highlighting religious tolerance. Nonetheless, it was discovered in 2004 that some faculty and staff at the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Colorado Springs, Colo., had significant problems with evangelizing cadets. It was reported that Lt. Gen. William Boykin visited churches in uniform and gave inflammatory speeches. Speaking of a Muslim warlord he had pursued, Boykin said, "I knew my God was a real God and his was an idol," and our enemies "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus."

Among those feeling the heat was the son of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's (MRFF) founder, Michael Weinstein, a former Air Force judge advocate and assistant counsel in the Reagan White House. His son, a Jew and a cadet at the AFA, was subjected to Christian evangelizing. Another alumnus of the AFA, Col. David Antoon (ret.), took his son to an orientation at the AFA in 2004. His son, Ryan, experienced an overt evangelistic approach during part of the orientation.

So what's a more tenable situation: to be a Jew or a Muslim in the US military? It seems that neither one is. But when it comes to being an atheist in the Army, you'd best follow the policy for gays: 'don't ask, don't tell.'

No comments: