Soldier’s Atheism Led to Threats

I’ve mentioned this on a number of occasions.

But the story of Specialist Jeremy Hall made its way into The New York Times today.

When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

At the July meeting, Major Welborn told the soldiers they had disgraced those who had died for the Constitution, Specialist Hall said. When he finished, Major Welborn said, according to the statement: “I love you guys; I just want the best for you. One day you will see the truth and know what I mean.”

According to Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, that’s not the only case of religious discrimination in the military.

Complaints include prayers “in Jesus’ name” at mandatory functions, which violates military regulations, and officers proselytizing subordinates to be “born again.” After getting the complainants’ unit and command information, Mr. Weinstein said, he calls his contacts in the military to try to correct the situation.

“Religion is inextricably intertwined with their jobs,” Mr. Weinstein said. “You’re promoted by who you pray with.”

So far, the Justice Department hasn’t responded to Hall’s lawsuit.

Another story on this topic shed a little more light on the type of harassment Hall has been dealing with:

Known as “the atheist guy,” Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and — just as severe to some soldiers — gay, none of which, he says, is true. Hall even drove fellow soldiers to church in Iraq and paused while they prayed before meals.

That doesn’t event mentioned the threats of physical abuse.

The lawsuit can be read in full here (PDF).


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • mikespeir

    I don’t know. Something about this doesn’t smell right to me. Not impossible, of course.

  • Mriana

    I don’t know. I just don’t understand why people have to be so hurtful to others all because they don’t believe the same way, if at all. It’s never made any sense to me.

  • Karen

    It was an excellent story, very sympathetic to Hall, with a nice picture of him (and he’s a cutie!)

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 benjdm

    Isn’t that link to the original lawsuit, not the updated one? The case numbers are different and it doesn’t appear to have the incident where he was told he wasn’t eligible for promotion.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    I kind of feel like this is indicative of a larger underlying problem, a sort of “hive mind” mentality that is quite pervasive in the military, especially among those who go the basic training route.

  • Xeonicus

    I hope things work out for him. It has to be tough to continue trekking along everyday in an unfriendly environment. It is funny for a religion of “peace” to make someone feel unsafe and threatened. I hope the justice department picks up the suit and runs with it.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Isn’t that link to the original lawsuit, not the updated one?

    You’re right. I changed the link. It should work now.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 benjdm

    According to Chris Rodda‘s comment at Pharyngula, this will get TV coverage tomorrow AM:

    Link

    “This story will be getting major TV coverage tomorrow morning. The schedule as of right now is:

    Good Morning America on ABC at about 7:00 A.M. EDT – Mikey will be on live

    CBS News Sunday Morning – the program runs from 9:00 to 10:30 A.M. EDT, and it’s supposed to be the second segment”

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