Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) has a rather disturbing report about an Army unit currently stationed in Kuwait where soldiers are required to loudly say “fear God” when saluting a superior officer. And the division leadership doesn’t see why that’s a problem at all.
In Kuwait at 2-34 Armor battalion, the official call and response is “Fear God / Dreadnaught”. That means every person in the unit is expected* to loudly say “Fear God” and salute whenever passing a senior officer. If the statement were “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) or “Om Muniye” (Hail Vedics), would Christians be happy to say it many times a day? They wouldn’t be happy and they shouldn’t be forced to adopt someone else’s belief. The “Fear God” motto leaves out anyone who doesn’t believe in a personal God. What is particularly troubling is that this “Fear God” motto is not part of official heraldry and has been added by local commanders to the call/response, t-shirts, and even to the official unit crest. Commanders have for years set aside official policy and neutrality toward religion in favor of using their position to promote their personal religious beliefs. How have local EO representatives, lawyers, chaplains, and lateral/higher commanders let this go for even one day?A spokesperson for 1st Armored Division and 2-34 Armor discussed the issue and declared that professing a belief and fear of God in this manner should be no big deal to atheists…
The use of “Fear God” does not require anyone who uses the word “God” to actually believe in or worship any god or higher power. The word “God” to those who do not believe is just a word. Just as a chapel to some folks is just a building and the Bible or Koran just books. Accordingly, its use does not violate AR 600-20 (Army Command Policy) or other Army regulation or law.
MAAF reiterated that yes, it does matter. And also that a unit motto of “Allahu Akbar” would not be “just a word” to Christians who don’t believe in Allah. Fear of government-mandated religion isn’t about the truth of the religious beliefs, it’s about the believers in power and what they might do to unbelievers. This attempt to deflect the problem by misrepresenting the beliefs of nontheists, turns a blind eye to the command climate and conveniently promotes religion in general and Christianity in particular.
What a pathetic and disingenuous argument from the division spokesman. I hope both MAAF and MRFF are all over this and putting pressure on the Pentagon to fix it.