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Atheist Soldier Sues Army

 
 
Reply Thu 10 Jul, 2008 10:00 am
CNN wrote:

Atheist soldier sues Army for 'unconstitutional' discrimination

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (CNN) -- Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was raised Baptist.

Like many Christians, he said grace before dinner and read the Bible before bed. Four years ago when he was deployed to Iraq, he packed his Bible so he would feel closer to God.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq and has a near perfect record. But somewhere between the tours, something changed. Hall, now 23, said he no longer believes in God, fate, luck or anything supernatural.

Hall said he met some atheists who suggested he read the Bible again. After doing so, he said he had so many unanswered questions that he decided to become an atheist.

His sudden lack of faith, he said, cost him his military career and put his life at risk. Hall said his life was threatened by other troops and the military assigned a full-time bodyguard to protect him out of fear for his safety. Video Watch why Hall says his lack of faith almost got him killed ยป

In March, Hall filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others. In the suit, Hall claims his rights to religious freedom under the First Amendment were violated and suggests that the United States military has become a Christian organization.

"I think it's utterly and totally wrong. Unconstitutional," Hall said.

Hall said there is a pattern of discrimination against non-Christians in the military.

Two years ago on Thanksgiving Day, after refusing to pray at his table, Hall said he was told to go sit somewhere else. In another incident, when he was nearly killed during an attack on his Humvee, he said another soldier asked him, "Do you believe in Jesus now?"

Hall isn't seeking compensation in his lawsuit -- just the guarantee of religious freedom in the military. Eventually, Hall was sent home early from Iraq and later returned to Fort Riley in Junction City, Kansas, to complete his tour of duty.

He also said he missed out on promotions because he is an atheist.

"I was told because I can't put my personal beliefs aside and pray with troops I wouldn't make a good leader," Hall said.

Michael Weinstein, a retired senior Air Force officer and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is suing along with Hall. Weinstein said he's been contacted by more than 8,000 members of the military, almost all of them complaining of pressure to embrace evangelical Christianity.

"Our Pentagon, our Pentacostalgon, is refusing to realize that when you put the uniform on, there's only one religious faith: patriotism," Weinstein said.

Religious discrimination is a violation of the First Amendment and is also against military policy. The Pentagon refused to discuss specifics of Hall's case -- citing the litigation. But Deputy Undersecretary Bill Carr said complaints of evangelizing are "relatively rare." He also said the Pentagon is not pushing one faith among troops.

"If an atheist chose to follow their convictions, absolutely that's acceptable," said Carr. "And that's a point of religious accommodation in department policy, one may hold whatever faith, or may hold no faith."

Weinstein said he doesn't buy it and points to a promotional video by a group called Christian Embassy. The video, which shows U.S. generals in uniform, was shot inside the Pentagon. The generals were subsequently reprimanded.

Another group, the Officers' Christian Fellowship, has representatives on nearly all military bases worldwide. Its vision, which is spelled out on the organization's Web site, reads, "A spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform empowered by the Holy Spirit."

Weinstein has a different interpretation.

"Their purpose is to have Christian officers exercise Biblical leadership to raise up a godly army," he says.

But Carr said the military's position is clear.

"Proselytizing or advancing a religious conviction is not what the nation would have us do and it's not what the military does," Carr said.

The U.S. Justice Department is expected to respond to Hall's lawsuit this week. In the meantime, he continues to work in the military police unit at Fort Riley and plans to leave as soon as his tour of duty expires next year.


Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/07/08/atheist.soldier/index.html

I find this story fascinating and utterly repulsive.

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Chai
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jul, 2008 11:28 am
sigh....

that was a sigh of thinking, not agreement or disagreement.

Looking at this impartially, and relating a career in the military to a career one might choose in a private sector....

ok, in no particular order...

I have met people of various religions that feel it's very important to talk to whoever is present about their beliefs, and persuading and/or offering what they consider proof of theirs being a superior way of life, and why you should believe the same way.

I have met people who are atheists that feel it's very important to talk to whoever is present about their beliefs, and persuading and/or offering what they consider proof of theirs being a superior way of life, and why you should believe the same way.

I have met people who have quit drinking, quit smoking, started exercising, became a vegetarian, decided to travel the world, love music, have children and so forth, that have done the exact same thing.

If I believed in God and the people I was with on a whole agreed to say a prayer before eating. I would sit quietly, calm demeanor, and let whoever was saying the prayer, say them.

If I was an atheist and the people I was with on a whole agreed to say a prayer before eating. I would sit quietly, calm demeanor, and let whoever was saying the prayer, say them.

I've sat a large statewide meetings, where I did not believe everything that was being said by the current speaker, or felt the same way. If it wasn't something that effected my duties. I respect the fact that others may be getting a message I'm not.

I'm not really sure where being an thesist put his life at risk. Because someone threatened him when he said he was an atheist, and had to have a full time body guard? From the information available, I can't tell if that really happened. Did someone actually say "I'm going to kill you", or maybe just "I'm going to kick you ass"? either way, I'm sure it's not the only time that's been said over human differences, taking religion out of the equation. I'd have to know more about the seriousness of the threat.

He complains that someone said "Do you believe in Jesus now?" What, like everyone is supposed to repress their freedom of expression? I can easily imagine an atheist saying to a believer "Where's your God now?" Would the believer have a leg to stand on filing a complaint about the atheist?

The group that didn't want him sitting with them on Thanksgiving because he didn't want to pray?
I'd like to know exactly what transpired there. Did the prayers get irate because they looked over at him during prayer and see his lips weren't moving, so they said "Hey you lousy non-prayer sayer...you have to be saying your prayers out loud so everyone knows you're saying them."

Or, did he sit quietly without making a comment about how he wasn't going to pray? Perhaps for the 100th time? Could it be the others were just sick of him in general?

If, just if that is closer to what happened, it was his right not to pray....but it was their right to not listen to someone yet again tell them how he doesn't believe anymore.

I've known vegetarians who, whenever there was a scrap of food around, animal based or not, found the occassion to announce yet another time how they don't eat meat.....yeah, great, I know.

Was this soldier an annoying preachy type when he did believe in God? Is he an annoying preachy type of atheist?

Too many questions for me to fairly say what my opinion is.


heh....an aside....watching the video, I saw a woman standing with her arms raised, palms out, in an attitude we commonly associate with prayer.

How do we know, just looking at her doing this in the video, if she was praying or not? Maybe she just felt like standing like that. Maybe she was one of those lousy non-prayer saying atheists, who like to stand with her arms held out.
0 Replies
 
Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jul, 2008 08:51 pm
I think you are being fair Chai, and if an atheist were to say something like "where is your god now?" on the battlefield, I'd be in absolute agreement that it is inappropriate.

Beyond that though, I'm more concerned with remarks made about his leadership in regards to not praying with the group. You can't be passed up for leadership positions and dismiss that you were told that a way to improve them would be to pray etc. I think that kind of statement was a huge mistake. If this soldier was unfit for promotion for his leadership, this is especially bad.

I think the fact that the soldier felt separated from his team in this way is also something of note. The functionality of the entire group was compromised when this was made into an issue. There should have been measures taken to prevent this kind of thing, but instead, it seems this kind of behavior is encouraged.

He didn't feel safe, and that's pretty serious.

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0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 04:53 am
Thanks diest.

Yes, a soldier being separated from his team is a very bad thing.

However, in any group, sometimes a peson is excluded because of the prejudgice of the group, or sometimes a person is excluded because that individual is the one hurting the effectiveness of the team.

Again, just all supposings....

the statement of

"I was told because I can't put my personal beliefs aside and pray with troops I wouldn't make a good leader,"

If the word pray was substituted with something else, that statement could be quite appropriate. Such as....treating homosexuals, women, all ethic groups, etc. fairly. Being able to rise above the maybe ridicule of others to perform their duty as a leader and so forth.

if the above statement was what was really said, perhaps a better way of phrasing it would have been about putting his personal beliefs aside and respect others praying by sitting quietly for those 10 seconds might have been more effective. Why would he be forced to sit quietly? Well, I guess for the same reason I sit quietly, and politely when others are talking about football or something else I find completely boring. If necessary I'll smile or nod when it seems appropriate, because I really don't feel it's worth the potential friction of telling others they shouldn't talk about sports since I have zero knowledge or interest in them.

Being a good leader in any organization means realizing that no matter how good you are at your job, there will be others that will deride you. I think a lot of this is opposition to change. A good leader will institute change where needed, and no matter how skillfully done, there will be those that are opposed.

Honestly? You can't be a good leader if you can't put your personal beliefs aside, as far as what other people may personally believe.

Would he have been a good leader, or one that his men considered as someone who used his authority to spout of about something he didn't agree with whenever he got the chance.

Maybe Hall isn't leadership material, or strict organization and discipline material.....I don't know.

I'd like to have been a fly on the wall when all these allegations were taking place.
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Chai
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 04:58 am
Edit:

I read in another article that "he left his faith when confronted by atheists on the bible"

Why didn't he complain about being "confronted" and having his faith challenged?
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Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 09:11 am
Chai wrote:
Edit:

I read in another article that "he left his faith when confronted by atheists on the bible"

Why didn't he complain about being "confronted" and having his faith challenged?


The circumstances of this confrontation are unknown. It's quite possible the confrontation was initiated by him. I think the point is that the difference is that he was being threatened by the Christian troops, and felt his safety was at risk.

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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:07 am
I see a big difference between what the soldiers discuss between themselves, and what the command structure imposes on them, or represents to them. The soldiers are required to follow their leaders and the leaders are required to follow the constitution.

It's up to the command structure to make sure their troops don't break down into "gangs" of various ideology and start fighting among themselves.

Ultimately the command structure is responsible for everything that happens in the military, right up the chain, all the way to the top.
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Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:30 am
Well phrased.

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BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:44 am
BBB
http://www.able2know.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=119182
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:44 am
Diest TKO wrote:
I think the point is that the difference is that he was being threatened by the Christian troops, and felt his safety was at risk.


Just to be a bit more precise here - he claims he was threatened. Thusfar we have only his word for that.

That said, during my 21 years in the service I only ran into one situation where religion was being used overtly. One of my co-workers was over-weight to the point of exceeding standards. 2 mid-level NCOs grabbed him and told him that if he attended their church with them and went to biblie study classes 3 nights/week at the church they'd help "cover" for him so that he wouldn't get discharged for being over-weight. They basicly hijacked the kid when he was already in a corner and twisted his arm.

A few of us found out about it a week or two later and turned the whole thing over to the Unit Commander. The 2 NCOs were removed from their jobs and repremanded (both eventually left the service because the mark in their record prevented them from geting promoted again...).

Yeah, there were prayers and such at some official functions but those who didn't participate were never (to my knowledge) looked down upon and nothing was ever said to them about it.
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Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:51 am
Yeah, he claims. His claims were certainly taken seriously. He was assigned protection.

Why are some people so eager to dismiss this?

You seem to recognize that what the NCOs did in your story was wrong, yet you are ready to turn your head for this young soldier?

I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He isn't seeking discharge or money. He's taking a stand, and people like you are ready to deny that this could happen.

If his claims are verified, then what?

Then can I expect your outrage?
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0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:53 am
fishin wrote:

Just to be a bit more precise here - he claims he was threatened. Thusfar we have only his word for that.




mm hmm, this is the point I was making.

It's all allegations and heresay at this point.
0 Replies
 
Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:58 am
Allegations and hearsay, sure. But it's not stopping people from making the opposite conclusion that he is making this up.

It goes both ways.

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0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:59 am
Diest TKO wrote:
Yeah, he claims. His claims were certainly taken seriously. He was assigned protection.


Once again, he claims he was assigned protection. The Army may have another side of that story.

Quote:
Why are some people so eager to dismiss this?

You seem to recognize that what the NCOs did in your story was wrong, yet you are ready to turn your head for this young soldier?

I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He isn't seeking discharge or money. He's taking a stand, and people like you are ready to deny that this could happen.

If his claims are verified, then what?

Then can I expect your outrage?


Who is dismissing it or denying that it could happen?? You are reading things into responses that simply aren't there. The point is that we have ONE side of a story here. Why does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? Just because he managed to file a lawsuit? Anyone can file a lawsuit. The majority of civil cases are withdrawn or dismissed because they simply don't hold up.

I'll reserve my judgement and outrage until the other side of the story becomes known.
0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 11:03 am
Diest TKO wrote:
Yeah, he claims. His claims were certainly taken seriously. He was assigned protection.

Why are some people so eager to dismiss this?

You seem to recognize that what the NCOs did in your story was wrong, yet you are ready to turn your head for this young soldier?

I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He isn't seeking discharge or money. He's taking a stand, and people like you are ready to deny that this could happen.

If his claims are verified, then what?

Then can I expect your outrage?
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Sorry, I posted at the same time.

I'm not eager to dismiss this. But, I'm not eager to accept as true either.


If his claims are verified, I would be able to think of ways to attempt to prevent this in the future. But, as long as every organization/group in this world is made up of human beings, there's going to be imperfect harmony.

I'm not sure this story could ever induce outrage in me.

on the side, asking someone to be as outraged as you are (meaning the group "you", not particulary you deist) reminds me of that bumper sticker "if you aren't completely outraged, you aren't paying attention".....thank you for telling me how I shoud feel, and that I'm not doing enough Mr. total stranger in the car passing me. (not directed at you at all diest)

I only have so much outrage, and I'm saving up for the holiday. :wink:
0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 11:05 am
Diest TKO wrote:
Allegations and hearsay, sure. But it's not stopping people from making the opposite conclusion that he is making this up.

It goes both ways.

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I haven't made any conclusions.

I'm going to wait until I have concrete evidence.

Grisom wouldn't reach a conclusion unless he had evidence, and by God, I'm not going to let him down.
0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 11:06 am
fishin, would you kindly get out of my brain?
0 Replies
 
Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 11:07 am
I'm pretty sure that the protection assigned was not a part of the calim, but a part of the report by CNN. Open for interpretation.

I'm not telling you to be outraged, I'm asking. Perhaps a better question is: At what point would you acknowledge this was legitimate and worth action?

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0 Replies
 
Chai
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 11:08 am
When there's enough evidence to say it actually happened.
0 Replies
 
Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2008 11:10 am
I'll give you the benefit of the doubt then that you won't dismiss the evidence if it shows exactly what the soldier claims.

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0 Replies
 
 

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