Army Wants Cadet Who Resigned from West Point Due to Anti-Atheist Discrimination to Pay Up

The last time we heard about Blake Page, the president of the West Point Secular Student Alliance, he was resigning from West Point six months prior to graduation because he “could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.”

Blake Page

At the time one of the bright sides to his leaving was this:

West Point has accepted Page’s resignation and given him an “honorable discharge,” which means he won’t have to pay the school for the cost of his education.

That was two months ago.

Now, the Pentagon — despite letting Page keep the “honorable discharge” — wants their money back, adding insult to injury:

The amount varies from one case to another. But the estimated cost of attending four years at West Point is estimated at $200,000-$250,000. The military could also order Page back to active duty.

Asked why [Superintendent of West Point Academy, Lt. Gen. David] Huntoon’s recommendations on Page’s behalf were rejected, [Army liaison Maj. Scott R.] Johnson said:

“We are an impartial third party. We review each individual packet… There’s merit to an organization such as the academy and a three-star general making a recommendation. But if it were always in their favor, there would be no reason for us to review the packets.”

Asked what will he do if the military sends him a bill for $200,000, [Page] responds: “File for bankruptcy, I guess.”

Unbelievable. The Army did nothing to stop the active proselytization and anti-atheist discrimination that was occurring under their watch, and when someone finally called them out on it, they punish him by making him pay for the tuition most other students would not have had to pay.

[Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Mikey] Weinstein is threatening legal action.

“My message for the Army is they better be ready to face a whistleblower lawsuit,” he said. “If they are not going to fairly state why they are doing this, they can tell it to the 12 members of a federal jury.”

I’m glad Mikey’s defending Page, but it shouldn’t have to come to this. This is revenge on the Army’s part — they should be apologizing to Page, not making him pay for their indiscretions.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • baal

    Ah but Page made them look bad, hence the pound of flesh for retribution.

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    he need to pay up.. just my opinion… He received the education.. it ain’t free and of course Athiests can be con men too…

    • starskeptic

      According to their own protocols, an honorable discharge means he wouldn’t have to pay.

    • Mario Strada

      I think you are missing the larger issue here: an army that discriminates and proselytize with our tax dollars. Of course there could have been other reasons as well, from health reasons to maybe failing grades and such. And in absence of a patently illegal hostile environment I would probably agree with you, but given that reality, who’s to say that he would have left the academy at all?

      We simply cannot afford to have a holy army. The consequences are too dear especially considering some sects attitudes in regard to the end of times. 100 years ago would have been a lot less dangerous but today these holy warriors indeed have the tools to rain hellfire on their enemy and start a mutual destruction war. The $250K he owes them are a far smaller worry than the reason he left the academy.

      • trueliberal

        I hate when ppl say “but we pay our tax dollars”, yes you do, but how much? when ppl even get more rebate from the government. Plus, not ALL of tax dollar went to West Point. Im not Republican, but just being

    • RobertoTheChi

      Speaking of education…

    • Conspirator

      I’m a little bothered by the fact that he went for so long then decided the proselytizating was too much. I could see if he wanted to quit after the first six or 12 months and not be obligated to anything, that seems reasonable. But to go for so long before he got fed up, that’s weird. I somehow doubt that they wait until senior year to start that b.s.. Now if he’d been filing complaints all along and then the harassment got worse that would be a different story.

      Now admittedly I don’t know the guy’s full story. Someone else mentioned there was a medical reason also. So is the story actually that he left for the medical reason, then complained about the religious element and now they are retaliating?

      • http://twitter.com/tardis_blue Tardis_blue

        Yeah, that’s what I wonder, too. It is more than a little suspicious that he tolerated it for about six of the eight semesters and THEN decided he couldn’t any more. And now he can transfer those credits to another college, pay for one year and graduate with a whole degree. Hmmm…I would really need to know more before I can work up a huge amount of sympathy for him.

      • Stev84

        He wasn’t going to be commissioned for medical reasons anyways. So in light of that he used his impending dismissal from the army, to make a point about the religious climate. That makes him “sacrificing his career” less meaningful than it appears.

    • phantomreader42

      West Point agreed not to charge him. Then they decided that their word isn’t worth shit and demanded money anyway, after they broke the fucking law. I say that they either drop the charges immediately, or West Point and the Pentagon’s refusal to keep their word should be treated as an open admission that they can’t be trusted on any subject ever, meaning that they automatically lose any lawsuit relating to this and pay triple the normal punitive damages. Oh, and make that retroactive for every MRFF suit ever filed.

      • trueliberal

        I would like to advice you of not using such abusive language

        • phantomreader42

          And I would like to “advice” you to go fuck yourself.

          Really, you get a terminal case of the vapors because some guy on the Internet said “shit” and “fuck”, but you can’t bring yourself to object in any way to West Point violating the Constitution they swore to uphold and lying for money? What the fuck is WRONG with you?

  • Stev84

    The way I understood it then was that he was let go for medical reasons anyways. So his resignation merely pre-empted a dismissal by the military.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625429396 Andrew Kilian

    My favorite part is that the atheist’s name is essentially “blank page” the default position for religion before proselytization.

  • ortcutt

    The goal of Christian conservatives has been to create an atmosphere in the military that is hostile to atheists, hostile to Jews, hostile to gays (until recently), etc…. They want to create an exclusively conservative Christian military. We’re on the other side asking that the service academies not be Liberty University, and as far as I can tell nothing has been done.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      that’s pretty much what the Air Farce is today, already. they just want the army and navy to be more like it.

      it scares the bejeebus out of me to realize that the Air Farce people control a lot of nukes. when i think of all the nutbag mass shootings we’ve had lately by xtians, and that one of them in uniform could try something similar with a bomb. /shudders

      • NickDB

        ^ This, whilst America is rightly worried about the religious extremists in Iran getting nukes, a lot of us around the world have the same worry about America.

      • RoMansfield

        How judgmental and bigoted…there are sharp and wise leaders of faith and no faith and nut jobs on both sides of the philosophical aisle…respect for all.

  • eric

    What he got was education + proselytization in exchange for future service, when what he agreed to education (no proselytization) in exchange for future service.
    If you buy a camera from me, and later discover that it gives exactly the peformance you paid for but also electronically stamps “Satan is Lord” on every jpeg it produces, I think you could easily sue me and win. Me adding that to the product and not telling you about it is just as much a contract breach as if it didn’t live up to its advertized specifications.
    IMO, that’s the case here. The army added something unwanted to the product, something that they did not advertised and at least implied by omission that they didn’t include.

  • Shannon

    Yet again another example of why it is not wise to mix government and religion! An honorable discharge and the benefits it affords should still apply. You can’t discriminate against someones religious freedom and a lack of religion is part of that freedom!

  • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

    Gee, what a surprise.

    The U.S. military, an organization which can’t find its own rear end with both hands and a map when it comes to strategy (look at our performance — or rather, lack thereof — in Iraq and Afghanistan, where our generals have consistently refused to do the things recommended for fighting insurgencies and instead have fallen back on indiscriminate killing), which constantly kills innocent people in its pursuit of enemies who are frequently entirely fictional, which has repeatedly been revealed to regard wars in the middle east as a modern-day Crusade, which constantly lies about its own behavior towards individuals no matter how inevitable the revelations of the truth may be (cf Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman), which necessarily devotes a huge amount of time towards getting its members to view other people as less than human as an aid to killing them without hesitation, which wastes vast amounts of money every singe minute of every single day (every soldier in Afghanistan costs the U.S. taxpayer one million dollars each year to support, according to the army’s own figures), is discriminating and trying to extort money.

    Color me shocked.

    Actually, come to think of it, I’m amazed the military hasn’t started sending soldiers door to door to demand money with threats yet, in areas where they have bases. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. The similarities between the U.S. military and the mafia are startling.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i’m a DADT victim. i believed in honorable service, once. peacetime service can be a good life for some people.

    but as a counselor to young people considering careers today, i cannot recommend service. it makes me very sad.

    i blame religious fanatics and the greedy whores to contractors who wear a lot of stars/whatever. war is a racket and the military today is worse because of that fact.

    the moldy soldier’s tent story in iraq is just sickening. and that’s only one of a myriad of examples of how our political and military leadership is FAILING.

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

      You are not a DADT victim. You are DADT benificiary. We (even us straights) are the victims. We made the DADT possible. You need to get a grip and consider another field of work than counseling people based on you false victimhood. And, you might want to consider getting your GED or at least learn how to work your way around a key board.

    • 3lemenope

      True story. My grandfather was a staff sergeant during the tail end of WWII and participated in the postwar occupation of Okinawa. So, on my 18th birthday, he gives me a call, and after talking at length about my plans for the future and adulthood and all that, he makes it a point to tell me emphatically that I shouldn’t join the army. This was a guy who was very proud of his service, and so I was somewhat startled. His loss of faith in the institution wasn’t drawn from experience with DADT (he was dispirited mostly by government domestic action in the late 60s and early 70s) but the recommendation from him ended up being the same; war is a racket, and if you’re not in on the take, it’s best to be as far away from it as possible. It is silly to die for people who are mendacious about the reasons.

  • SecularPatriot

    That would be adding injury to injury.

  • http://twitter.com/DrumminD21311 D

    I gotta pay back my student loans. Why doesn’t he?

  • klauze

    I have to disagree with your conclusion that the Army is being vindictive towards the cadet. When I first read about this young man resigning only 6 months prior to graduation I thought there was something going on that was not mentioned. That is, I don’t think it is just his chosen response to the discrimination. There may be other motives involved. If he claims personal discrimination as the cause for his resignation, why not see if he has any unfair reprimands in his record to support this. And if his resignation was in protest of the general discriminatory mood in the Army and was meant to promote change, why not graduate, take the commission as 2nd Lt and try to do something from within the organization.

    As far as the Army being vindictive, I have to disagree. The man was not drafted. He chose to apply and accept the rules and responsibilities of attending West Point. I spent 11 years active duty in the military. The Air Force put me through medical school. Before I accepted the Air Force medical school scholarship I read the contract and the applicable rules and regulations thoroughly. I knew what I was getting in to, what was being offered to me, and what was expected of me. There was also a section outlining my responsibilities to the Air Force if for some reason I could not complete medical school (poor grades, quitting). I would be liable for the funds, or would have to pay back in active duty time as a 2nd Lt general medical officer.

    Again, resigning six months prior to graduation is very suspicious. That means he put up with it for 3.5 years. What changed after 3.5 years? Was there another reason that he was going to be booted out, such as a medical issue or poor grades, and he wanted to save face with this resignation?

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

    I have to disagree with your conclusion that the Army is being vindictive towards the cadet. When I first read about this young man resigning only 6 months prior to graduation I thought there was something going on that was not mentioned. That is, I don’t think it is just his chosen response to the discrimination. There may be other motives involved. If he claims personal discrimination as the cause for his resignation, why not see if he has any unfair reprimands in his record to support this. And if his resignation was in protest of the general discriminatory mood in the Army and was meant to promote change, why not graduate, take the commission as 2nd Lt and try to do something from within the organization.

    As far as the Army being vindictive, I have to disagree. The man was not drafted. He chose to apply and accept the rules and responsibilities of attending West Point. I spent 11 years active duty in the military. The Air Force put me through medical school. Before I accepted the Air Force medical school scholarship I read the contract and the applicable rules and regulations thoroughly. I knew what I was getting in to, what was being offered to me, and what was expected of me. There was also a section outlining my responsibilities to the Air Force if for some reason I could not complete medical school (poor grades, quitting). I would be liable for the funds, or would have to pay back in active duty time as a 2nd Lt general medical officer.

    Again, resigning six months prior to graduation is very suspicious. That means he put up with it for 3.5 years. What changed after 3.5 years? Was there another reason that he was going to be booted out, such as a medical issue or poor grades, and he wanted to save face with this resignation?

    • phantomreader42

      The man was not drafted. He chose to apply and accept the rules and responsibilities of attending West Point.

      And West Point chose to break the law. And West Point chose to promise this man that they would not charge him. Then, West Point chose to go back on their word. Isn’t integrity supposed to be one of those “values” they babble about teaching at West Point? Is this all West Point’s “integrity” is worth?

      • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

        So where is the information coming from about what West Point and the Army promissed the man? If it was a medical discharge, perhaps they offered to forgo the payback, as it would not have been his fault. But then there was his accusation of discrimination. Did that bring about a whole new set of laws? I’m not saying that the Army got pissed off, but that there are certain rules and regulations that, if broken, bring about certain consiquences.

        • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

          Just to clarify my position. First I am suspicious about the timing of his “resignation” (six months shy of graduating). Second, if he was about to get a medical discharge, his claim that he was resigning due to discrimination may have trumped whatever benefits a medical discharge would have given him. This includes not only not having to pay back the tuition, but also by resigning he does not get an honorable discharge and he does not get VA medical benefits. If he was about to go out on an MEB (medical evaluation board) he shot himself in the foot by preempting this by resigning. The resignation takes precedence over any other form of discharge, disciplinary of medical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

    First, I would like to know why you did not post my opinion that did not support yours. I tried to post it three times, but have yet to see it here. I jumped through all the “sign in” hoops and I get your blog on my Kindle. I signed in on your sight and through Facebook. If you can’t handle an atheist with a view other than yours, how can you present yourself as a reasonable voice for us?

  • cipher

    They want to make an example of him. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. And that they lied or reversed themselves? No surprise there, either. Evangelicals and the military are two sides of the same authoritarian coin. This young man threatened the hierarchy, and must be punished as a deterrent to others – and they’ll rationalize it to themselves in whatever way they have to.

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

      If they wanted to make an example of him they would have done it sooner. See my comments above.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

    I do not agree that the Army is being vindictive in asking for payback for the education this individual has received. The Air Force put me through medical school. The contract was very clear regarding various forms of payback (financial vs time on active duty) should I not be able to finish medical school. I think in this case the Army is asking for the appropriate reimbursement which must have been in this individual’ original contract. Remember, he was not drafted. I do agree with others who think that the timing of his resignation is suspect. For three and a half years he put up with something that finally made him resign? I suspect there is something more going on here. Either he is being dropped from West Point for other reasons (such as medical) or he is copping out and trying to use religious discrimination to get away with a college education. In any case, lets not make him our poster boy until we know the full story (and not just the one he is telling).

  • Anonymous

    Wow, are you that easily fooled or are you deliberately being obtuse? ALL West Point Cadets know that if you go past the ’2-year mark (Junior status)’ at the Academy, you’re gonna have to fork over the dough. It wasn’t until Blake was introduced to Mr. Weinstein that he came up this this cockamamie idea to make a ‘political statement’ and now he’s paying the price for it. Weinstein is a pathetic excuse for a human being. He exploits young soldiers who are taken by his “I’m a graduate of the AFA and a former JAG attorney.” He did it with Jeremy Hall, Dustin Chalker, Victoria Gettman, etc. and now Blake Page. He also has a habit of threatening erroneous lawsuits, like he did with RBB (Fort Bragg called him on that pluff right away.) If Mr. Weinstein had any ethics, he’s pay this young mans bill, after all Blake did what he did on the advise of his ‘attorney.’

    Mr. Hemta, Mr. Weinstein does not represent the atheist or secular community within the military, he makes it harder for those of us that actually break ground by trying to work WITH commands. If you or the atheist community are really concerned about helping secular soldiers establish a more prominent presence in the military the first step is to stop supporting a man who is only interested in profiting off of manufacturing and over-dramatizing the severity or even role of the chaplaincy and how that relates to secularism in the military.

    This is just gross!

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lauze Karen Lauze

      You said that Mr. Weinstein should pay the man’s bill. I assume you meant his tuition. There is more to the young man’s loss that tuition. If he was going to get out on a medical with an Honorable Discharge he would be eligable for VA benefits. This includes tuition assistance (GI Bill) that could have paid off the last six months. And there are other VA benefits he is missing out on, such as VA mortgage loans. But most importantly, having been medically discharged would have given him a monthly VA disability check (tax free) and VA medical care for his service connected medical issues, including medication and any future hospitalizations. I am 70% service connected. I get all my medications free and get any and all my medical testing and treatment free as well. Hell, the VA disability check I get covers my mortgage payments.

  • RoMansfield

    As an AD chaplain…I see respect many times for people of no faith. I also see active proselytization by humanists with accompanying bigotry towards people of faith. It’s often an issue of free speech instead of the establishment clause. Some have no problem verbally asking God to damn this plan or damn the short suspense, but complain when a fellow soldier asks God to bless her promotion or retirement. The hypocrisy is evident and requires fairness…take out public expressions of faith and require gag orders on profanity.


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