U.S. Army Wages War Against Foxhole Atheists (Anonymous guest post)

Anonymous guest post from a foxhole atheist disgusted with the climate of discrimination he faces. This article was making the rounds on the web, and I think it is eye-opening. (No, this is not me ghost-writing. Several people alerted me to it.) I don’t want atheists to drop out of the military, or to avoid joining. We need more of you to stand up with us! But it is entirely understandable why this author has reached that conclusion.

By anonymous; republished with permission.

If you are a non-religious person considering a career in the U.S. Army, prepare to be assaulted by unwanted religious propaganda and proselytizing.

Prepare to be forced to swear an oath “So help me God” even though you are not legally required to.

Prepare to be treated with suspicion for placing the word “Atheist” on your military ID tags.

Prepare to repeatedly hear the common Christian lie “There are no atheists in foxholes” (perhaps while you find yourself in one).


Prepare to be forced to attend religious worship services, and sometimes forced to bow your head with the rest of the flock for the sake of “uniformity”.

Prepare to have your “spiritual fitness” tested with loaded questions that favor religion over non-religion.

Prepare to be forced into “remedial” training designed to make you more spiritual with repeated suggestions to pray, pray, pray, and pray some more.

Prepare to be forced to visit the chaplains, who will probablypreach their religion at you against your will (and get paid to do it).

Prepare to have your children stalked by religious predators sanctioned (and paid) by the Army to evangelize your unchurched hell-spawn (source).

Prepare to clean toilets while your buddies enjoy tax-funded rock concerts based on their faith (source).

Prepare to watch religious groups claim millions of government dollars for religious entertainment while secular groups are denied a single red cent.

Prepare to have your complaints dismissed and ignored, your paperwork “lost”, and your legal rights violated at every turn.

In short, find another job. And if you’re already in, follow my lead and get out. If you’ve avoided these things so far, you’re lucky: the threat of the Christian Taliban is rapidly growing. We are no longer welcome in their Christian Army. I used to believe in the honor of this institution, but that day has passed.This Army has declared war on its own soldiers. The only thing we can do is retreat from this corrupt institution before they start locking us in cages.

Last year, the Army spent over $50,000 to host and co-sponsor a Christian rock concert called Rock the Fort with the explicit goal of proselytizing and converting soldiers and civilians to Christianity. It isn’t hard to make a Constitutional argument that such sponsorship clearly represents an impermissible entanglement between church and state, but the Army squelched complaints with a half-hearted promise to give similar support to any other group.

Enter Army Sergeant Justin Griffith, atheist sponsor of a similar (but non-Christian) event, Rock Beyond Belief. I should say, “the late” Rock Beyond Belief, because RBB is dead. The Army killed it. This week, Sergeant Griffith was forced to cancel RBB because the Army’s “similar level of support” meant a 0:50000 funding ratio and an inferior venue vastly inadequate for the expected turn-out.

The message is clear: the Army deems non-Christians as unworthy of comparable funding and support. Can Sergeant Griffith prompt the Army to correct this egregious offense by filing an Equal Opportunity complaint? Probably not. As one Equal Opportunity Sergeant Major declared, “since atheism is not a religion, atheists are not protected by the regulation and it is acceptable for officers and chaplains to disparage their own soldiers.” (source)

Sergeant Griffith is also known for publicly exposing the Army’s “Spiritual Fitness Test“, a blatantly unconstitutional portion of the Army’s Soldier Fitness Tracker. This test is a direct violation of Article VI paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution which explicitly demands that “[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

It is difficult to conceive of an interpretation of those words which permits the Army to require a religious test as a qualification to be a soldier, and yet they do. All soldiers are required to complete this assessment annually, and until recently they were required to complete remedial “spiritual fitness” training if they were found to be unfit.

The Army, however, publicly denies that soldiers were forced to complete spiritual fitness training (nevermind the testimony of every atheist soldier: YES WE HAVE). In a Truthout article dated 05 January 2011, the director of the Spiritual Fitness Program, Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, told Truthout, “Spiritual training is entirely optional, unlike the other domains. Every time you say the S-P-I-R word you’re going to get sued. So that part is not mandatory.”

At the time, Brig. Gen. Cornum was either lying or unfamiliar with the program she directs. A month later the Army quietly and subversively issued a change (ALARACT 045/2011) that retroactively made official policy reflect Brig. Gen. Cornum’s remarks. Under the new policy, the spiritual fitness training modules are supposed to be voluntary; HOWEVER, the Army’s GAT/SFT/CSF/CRM websites still have not been updated to reflect this new policy nearly a month later, and still tell soldiers that spiritual fitness training is mandatory if they fail that portion of the test. To soldiers who haven’t seen this obscure change-in-policy, the outdated orders on the Army websites still seem to be in effect.

One mechanism for self-defense in this religiously hostile environment is to file a request for religious accommodation. These requests can cover anything from getting special holidays off to (in the case of non-religious soldiers) protecting oneself from mandatory participation in religious worship and spiritual fitness training. If a request is denied, the soldier can file an appeal to the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1 which according to Army Regulation 600-20 must be answered within 60 days.

Two months ago, Army Sergeant Dustin Chalker filed such an appeal. Today, Sergeant Chalker reports, “The Army’s deadline to answer my appeal has come and gone without a word. No surprise there. I know firsthand that I shouldn’t expect the Army to follow its own regulations.”

This isn’t Sergeant Chalker’s first rodeo. From 2008 to 2009 he spearheaded a lawsuit against the DoD and Defense Secretary Robert Gates for forcing him to attend ceremonial prayers. That lawsuit was dismissed because the Army claimed Sergeant Chalker failed to exhaust intra-military remedies.

The Army lied, period. They said I didn’t go through JAG, IG, EO, and the Chain of Command. I did. JAG told me to go to IG. IG told me it wasn’t within their purview and I should go to EO. My EO complaint was denied, and the Army’s lawyers deliberately obfuscated this fact by equivocating it with a separate and unrelated EO complaint I filed later. My commander lied in his sworn statement that he never received any EO complaint from me, even though the fact that he denied it was the event which led to my lawsuit. [...] I could’ve appealed the first EO complaint, but as you can see the system is clearly broken and can’t be trusted.”

The Army has declared war on atheism. Service to this nation means nothing less than enduring years of unconstitutional spiritual terrorism at the hands of the Christian Taliban who have infiltrated our Army. This fight can’t be won within a system of self-sustaining corruption, and the courts are too cowardly to impose the corrections that must be imposed to fix it from the outside.

The only way to fight back is to get out. This is a call to disarm. Do not enlist, and do not reenlist. Fulfill your obligations, then join the Exodus of the best and the Brightest. I’ll see you here on the outside.

In 2006 an officer resigned his commission because of similar religious discrimination.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrPLupGdKKQ

I am required to say this: The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect official Army policy.

~Anonymous

——————

*Justin Griffith’s reply:

The military is seriously jeopardizing their relations with the non-religious community, whether intentionally or not. There is a real risk of a ‘brain drain’, and a growing sense of injustice threatening to create a domino effect. I of course have advocated a positive change, encouraging more and more atheists, humanists, agnostics, and non-theists to come forward. It’s difficult, and I understand that.

I know that many of you may get overwhelmed, and the circumstances of every individual are extremely varied. But if you can find a way to resist the temptation to give up the fight, the Military Atheists & Secular Humanists (M*A*S*H) groups are sprouting up everywhere. If you there isn’t one already where you are, please contact Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF).

M*A*S*H is the new network of local communities in the MAAF organization. Though a long-standing goal of Jason Torpy’s decade long mission, he can’t do it alone. We need motivated people to empower others at the local level on every post. Our first group at Fort Bragg has over 50 members in the first few months, and we are very close to being a legitimate and recognized group by the chaplains. When we accomplish that here, we will show everyone else how to do it too.

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  • Sean kennedy

    I would like to say I was surprised by RBB getting shut down. I can’t being an atheist in the usmc and having all the same kind of problems the soldiers have with the army.

  • Jacqi

    We are currently stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. My husband is a civil employee (GS-13) and in the Air Force Reserves (O-4). Both of us are atheist and have little or nothing to do with the base. I’m in the process right now of starting up a Freethinking chapter based on the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF.org). We have NOTHING like that here – and I’m sick and tired of the pushy Christian fundamentalists inserting prayer and pimping their religion at every opportunity.

    From squadron picnics where we are “volun-TOLD” to attend (and then listen to some jerk start the day off with a 10-minute prayer) to retirement ceremonies and change of command – Christian prayer has infiltrated every single aspect of the military community. And if it’s not sanctioned directly by the military, there are idiotic wives pushing their pro-Christian lifestyle to any other military spouse.

    I stop conversation regularly. When any of this bull-blather comes up, I say “My husband and I are atheists and child-free. I’m a liberal and he’s a libertarian.” They quit preaching after that.

    *And I’m not afraid to drop the “F” bomb here and there, also!! ;0)

  • BobApril

    Getting out won’t work. While the “No Rel Pref” category may be the second largest “religion” in the military, that percentage who are strong atheists is still small. I suspect that even if all of them left the military it still would not have a large enough effect on recruitment/retention to change the evangelical trend – and it WOULD remove those few, like SGT Griffith, who are fighting to correct the abuses. The more who leave, the worse it will be for those who stay – and some will.

  • doug steley

    So much for sending brave young men and women out to fight for freedom.

    This just sucks.

  • doug steley

    PS I am ex Australian RAAF and proud to have served with US troops.

  • Tony MacCabe

    I wonder how many atheists consider themselves Humanists, and if they or anyone else think of Humanism as a religion. I know a UU minister who calls herself a religious humanist, though I’m not sure what that means. Why do I ask? Because it’s a “nicer” word and may receive religious accomodation more easily. Every fight requires strategy and the leveraging of something. Can we lever Humanism?

  • Bryan Zeski

    As an atheist and a Soldier, I have not experienced the levels of discrimination listed here. I have 10 years in service and I’ve never uttered the “So help me god,” nor do I bow my head during prayers, nor taken any flak for my atheist tags. I’ve never participated in remedial prayer training and I’ve never sent my Soldiers to do so either. I’ve talked to each new Chaplain to see where they stand and have had some good conversations with them. One Chaplain has gone out of his way to provide support for non-religious groups and has earned the dubious title of “Atheist Chaplain” from some Soldiers.

    I’m not saying its all peaches and cream, just that it is not such a dire situation for all military atheists. The military culture is changing, don’t give up on it now, just before your results are realized.

    • Justin Griffith

      Many have received such discrimination. The spiritual fitness remedial training is mandatory for all soldiers who fail the spiritual fitness testing of the Global Assessment Tool, which itself is offensive and mandatory.

      Testing is mandatory:
      Consequences of not taking the test:

      Remedial training is mandatory (though the CSF who made this test/training publicly pretend that it is not):

  • Annie

    If the US armed forces have such a lack of tolerance for their own men and women, I shudder to think how they interact when abroad and intermingling with people from other cultures and religious (or non-religious) views. The US is NOT a “Christian Nation”. To say so is as offensive (and constitutionally incorrect) as it would be to call us a “white” nation or a “man’s” nation.

  • Zachary

    Such a shame. Soldiers should be free to practice their religion of preference with no military-sponsored religious programs/support. The Army is there to defend our country and its interests, not to become a megachurch. As a concerned citizen I am ashamed that the military seems to have little better to do than spiritually enrich its soldiers. Don’t you guys have training to receive, drills to perform, duties to assign and fulfill, etc? I question the government’s decision to let this religious circus go on.

  • Ben Hart

    It seems the Military has declared war on the very Constitution they swore to uphold.
    I will be in contact with my Senator and I encourge everyone else to do the same.

  • Dustin Chalker

    SGT Anonymous here isn’t alone, folks. I’m getting out in November for the same reasons. I would be staying in if it weren’t for the Army’s constant mistreatment of non-religious soldiers. Forcing atheist soldiers to attend religious worship events is the same in my eyes as sending black soldiers to a white supremacist rally, or letting a wiccan/satanist/whatever cast a magic spell on christian soldiers. But Anon is right: the Army doesn’t care about fixing the problem. They have declared open war against secular governance by imposing religious coercion and force on us all.

    I refuse to continue serving an institution that has betrayed the oath to support and defend our gloriously godless Constitution. I refuse to continue serving an Army that has betrayed me.

    In 2006 an officer resigned his commission because of similar religious discrimination. If you have a few minutes, you can see his explanation of the decision below:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrPLupGdKKQ [***Editor's note: I am embedding this to the post. Hopefully anonymous wont mind. He knows how to contact me if so.***]


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