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No Atheists in a Foxhole?

That’s what they used to say. Now it’s ‘Get the fuck out of our foxhole, atheist!’. One atheist is suing the military for what he sees as a breach of his constitutional rights by an army that discriminates against him and his non-christian beliefs. Frivolous way to get money in a litigious society? You might have thought so but it turns out the guy isn’t trying to get any remuneration – he simply wants a guarantee of religious freedom.

Since this is Jewlicious, it’s worth mentioning that Jews have had problems with the religious freedom in the army as well as exemplified by the case of Akiva Miller.

From cnn.


Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was raised Baptist.

Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, who was raised Baptist but is now an atheist, says the military violated his religious freedom.

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. Watch why Hall says his lack of faith almost got him killed »

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.

9 Comments

  1. Pants Wearer

    7/14/2008 at 9:43 pm

    Sure, I haven’t commented here in, oh, three years or something, but when a word like “Pentacostalgon” emerges from the syntactical primordial soup, it’s time to man up and say something.

    That’s just a phenomenal word. Amazing. I am in awe. That’s better than “truthiness.”

    So how will it work, they have to carry the Pentacostalgon with them into battle, or at least bring it with them in-country, then build it up in the nearest Green Zone? Can we see a replica of the Pentacostalgon? Does it look just like the Pentagon, only with a big picture of Jesus painted on each side?

  2. Ben-David

    7/15/2008 at 4:44 am

    Hey Muffti – remember the thread about medically sanctioned suicide and end-of-life policy?

    Check out the medical establishment’s full-court-press in the Golubchuk case in Canada.

    From a Jewish perspective:
    http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2008/07/10/his-battle-is-our-battle/

  3. grandmuffti

    7/15/2008 at 11:28 am

    Interesting and sad story about Golubchuk – Muffti heard about this story when those surgeons resigned. Cross-currents paints the hospital as murderous leaches gleefully waiting to kill an old man but Muffti thinks that this is probably overstated.

    Here’s a question Muffti has been mulling. SO far as he can tell, doctors routinely make assessments about quality of life when it comes to providing or denying care: it isn’t uncommon to be told of an elderly person that a surgery might save them but would leave them in such and such shape and that the chances of recovery are low etc and use this as a way to determine whether or not to do surgeries that may, though without super-high confidence, save or prolong their lives.(Muffti doesn’t know whether or not such a person can then demand the surgery in teh Canadian system). Is this case far off the case of euthanasia? there are structural similarities: the person is going to die more quickly than they might have otherwise, its on account of a lack of care that may save their lives but at a low probability and iwth massive costs ot agreed upoon quality of life standards.

  4. Ben-David

    7/15/2008 at 2:17 pm

    Muffti – the big moral (and for practical purposes, criminal)dividing line is between passive euthanasia and actively killing/hastening death.

    At what point does withholding or withdrawing treatment/sustenance become active?

    The other big issue for me is the policy angle – the problematic nature of national health care, which brings together the worst elements of faceless bureaucracy and medical hubris at these junctures.

    The Golubchuks did not have the option of buying medical coverage that reflected their moral take on end-of-life issues.

  5. grandmuffti

    7/15/2008 at 3:18 pm

    Muffti can’t help but think that that line is truly an artificial one, to be honest, and based on some rather inchoate thoughts about the ‘natural order’ etc. There are many subtleties here but in effect Muffti finds it hard to believe that you are less morally bad for letting something in your care die of neglect slowly and in massive pain than for achieving the same effectmore quickly and less painfully. This is , Muffti supposes, why we think it’s not murder to put someone out of their misery (like in ‘Of Mice and Men’ perhaps?) but an act of kindness. But he agrees that there is an awful lot of subtlety (he knows that the ethics literature is full of coutnerexamples, theories and analyses attempting to pin down the distinction.)

    As for the faceless beaurocratic side of national health care, Muffti thinks its fair to point out that in a non-national health care system, its not clear that Golubchuk could have possibly been taken care of unless the family has extremely vast resources. Muffti isn’t sure how much it costs but anecdotal reports on the internet suggests in the range of thousands per day. Who can afford that?

  6. Ben-David

    7/16/2008 at 1:34 am

    I don’t know if they could have afforded it – but the decision would have been in the hands of the private citizen.

    The line between passive and active killing is definitely getting more fuzzy as medical capabilities increase – but it is an essential distinction to those concerned with keeping us off a slippery slope of active medical murder.

  7. grandmuffti

    7/16/2008 at 10:17 am

    It’s a bit artificial to say that a decision is in the hands of private citizens when you know in the large number of cases they won’t be able to afford it. Look, this is a standard problem in the free market vs. government controlled debate: the latter gives you less freedom the former often unnaffordable by huge chunks of your population when wealth isn’t distributed very evenly. In Muffti’s opinion, both extremes are bad and so, as most countries fall scattered about the middle, you have to weigh the relative benefits and costs and it is very difficult.

    So, sure, Muffti wishes that the private citizen had far more power over these sorts of matters and wishes everyone was affluent enough to make such choices without financial pressure, or pressure from their doctors. It’s not going to happen to anyone but the wealthiest private citizens or people that live in countries so wealthy that their social services are way over-funded.

    Muffti can understand the slippery slope concerns, but the slope metaphor is imperfect because as is often the case with slippery slopes, the slope (impossibly) runs downwards and in a slippery manner in both directions. In other words, can’t you see the opposing sides concern with keeping off a slippery slope that prevents the ability to even passively end a life? The probelm with slippery slopes is that there is no real staying off of them in an, as it were, ‘neutral’ manner and the status quo is almost always what is picked to avoid any sliding. This would be fine but for the fact that (a) the status quo is often totally unacceptable and based on outdated or crude ideals we know not to be reflective of reality or (b) often it was picked arbitrarily and shifting it would be worth the risk of a slope rather than leaving it in a damaging place.

    Our case seems to be of type (a) – what do you do when the realities become more complicated than the status quo seems to give clear answers on? And Muffti has no idea how to answer that question very clearly. But he can see why people try to argue in various cases for one direction or the other and he can also see why, since everyone is scared of sliding down the slope, both sides get immaturely and often unfairly demonized by the other (the schiavo case seemed like this – republicans were clearly monsters who wanted her to suffer while democrats were clearly murderers looking for the chance to kill someone legally!)

  8. Ben-David

    7/16/2008 at 4:04 pm

    Muffti can understand the slippery slope concerns, but the slope metaphor is imperfect because as is often the case with slippery slopes, the slope (impossibly) runs downwards and in a slippery manner in both directions.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    OK, look Perfessor – just tell me what journal you wind up publishing this in… I hear they need articles at Proceedings in Skiing…

  9. Grand Muffti

    7/16/2008 at 4:12 pm

    hehehe…Muffti has to publish or perish. But he’s not quite this desperate 🙂

    Though he sure does like skiing…

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