Once again, we have evidence that U.S. military leaders are proselytizing to the soldiers who work under them.
Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers points out two specific problems:
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 representative also stated that saying “Fear God” during a salute is not required, but representatives were not responsive when asked what the alternative was and how those opting for the secular motto would be protected from retaliation. Stating something is optional is just lip service when, as in this case, secular alternatives are likely to draw negative attention or to eliminate benefits associated with religious default options. What soldier would want to be the one who didn’t Fear God in a unit where such a motto is put on the crest, t-shirts, and banners?
That last point is huge — even if the God-talk isn’t required, it’s like remaining seated during the Pledge of Allegiance: Who wants to attract all that unwanted attention? And why are military leaders putting soldiers in that position?
The other problem takes place at the Naval Air Station Lemoore in California, where a chaplain “sent over 1200 military personnel encouragement to attend Creationist and other fundamentalist activities for months.” Check out these quotes from a chaplain’s weekly emails:
“Please join us as we worship, fellowship, study and prepare for eternity… dinosaurs roamed only a few thousand years ago… with men. We have proof from archeology and soft tissue… not to mention sculptures from those who lived with them… Realize the theory of evolution is still a theory because there is no science to prove it ever happened… and that is a fact! We focus [on] the science that demonstrates the rationale behind the belief in an Intelligent Designer… as opposed to random chance.”
The chaplain seems to have forgotten his job is to support the beliefs of sailors, not to use his influence to push his beliefs on them. Asked about this issue months ago, the chaplain (who remains anonymous because this is about military culture and leadership not one chaplain) re-asserted his right to evangelize, re-asserted his scientific authority (without justification), and made no subsequent change in the tone or diversity of his ministerial promotions. Local commanders let the process continue for months thus giving tacit approval to one-size-fits-all chaplaincy and evangelism using official distribution lists.
Like he said, this isn’t just about stopping one or two rogue leaders. There is a culture in the military that encourages the preaching of Christianity despite the religious diversity in the ranks and the First Amendment; that’s what needs to stop. Since private letters didn’t work, maybe public exposure will have a greater effect.