September 24, 2007

Army Violates Religious Freedom

United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Even though they may know little else about history, science, or law, most Americans can tell you that religious freedom had something to do with the founding of America. The critical truth that they often fail to realize is that freedom of religion requires freedom from religion. How sad it is then to see the American military violating the religious freedom of our young men and women in uniform.

According to John Milburn (AP), Spec. Jeremy Hall, an American soldier stationed in Iraq, has filed suit against the Defense Department alleging that his commanding officer infringed on his religious freedom by preventing him from meeting with other non-Christian soldiers. The suit "alleges a pattern of practices that discriminate against non-Christians in the military."

After receiving permission to distribute fliers promoting a meeting of atheist and non-Christian soldiers, Spec. Hall was prevented from actually convening any such meeting. His superior threatened him with military charges and the possibility of blocking his planned reenlistment.

As reported by Truthout (update: link no longer active), this isn't the half of it. Hall's complaint also alleges that his First Amendment rights were violated repeatedly, beginning last Thanksgiving after he refused to join a Christian prayer ceremony.
"Immediately after plaintiff made it known he would decline to join hands and pray, he was confronted, in the presence of other military personnel, by the senior ranking ... staff sergeant who asked plaintiff why he did not want to pray, whereupon plaintiff explained because he is an atheist," says the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to Truthout. "The staff sergeant asked plaintiff what an atheist is and plaintiff responded it meant that he (plaintiff) did not believe in God. This response caused the staff sergeant to tell plaintiff that he would have to sit elsewhere for the Thanksgiving dinner. Nonetheless, plaintiff sat at the table in silence and finished his meal."
According to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Hall's lawsuit will be "the first of many." This is not at all surprising given numerous reports of Christian extremists infiltrating the American military. Can we really expect our soldiers to willingly die to defend freedoms they do not have themselves?