Saturday, April 26, 2008

Religious Freedom Does Not Include the United States Military

Specialist Jeremy Hall organized meetings for atheists at Camp Speicher in Iraq. One day, he said he was excited to see an officer attend. But, within minutes of the meeting he was berated for his views as was the group: “people like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Freddy J.Welborn said. The soldiers were threatened that they may be sent home or not allowed to re-enlist.

Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.

“They don’t trust you because they think you are unreliable and might break, since you don’t have God to rely on,” Specialist Hall said of those who proselytize in the military. “The message is, ‘It’s a Christian nation, and you need to recognize that.’ ” Really? News to me.

The New York Times article goes on to quote the religious guidelines of the military which were implemented because of discrimination claims in the Air Force. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. It seems the Army is no different.

Specialist Hall came to atheism after years as a Christian. He was raised Baptist by his grandmother in Richlands, N.C., a town of less than 1,000 people. She read the Bible to him every night, and he said he joined the Army “to make something of myself.”

“I thought going to Iraq was right because we had God on our side,” he said in an interview near Fort Riley.

In the summer of 2005, after his first deployment to Iraq, Specialist Hall became friends with soldiers with atheist leanings. Their questions about faith prompted him to read the Bible more closely, which bred doubts that deepened over time.

“There are so many religions in the world,” he said. “Everyone thinks he’s right. Who is right? Even people who are Christians think other Christians are wrong.”

Specialist Hall said he did not advertise his atheism. But his views became apparent during his second deployment in 2006. At a Thanksgiving meal, someone at his table asked everyone to pray. Specialist Hall did not join in, explaining to a sergeant that he did not believe in God. The sergeant got angry, he said, and told him to go to another table.

This type of discrimination underscore the type of bigotry that goes unreported by people like Specialist Hall and others. Atheism is a dirty word in many quarters in America, in fact most, but I can only imagine what it is like in the United States Army in Iraq.

Though with a different unit now at Fort Riley, Specialist Hall said the backlash had continued. He has a no-contact order with a sergeant who, without provocation, threatened to “bust him in the mouth.” Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion. Read the rest of the article here.
Thank you specialist Hall for ensuring our Constitution is enforced even in the most extreme cases.


pauzhaan said...

Freddy's myspace

There you can see his side of the story...

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