An associated press article that ran in dozens of newspapers nationwide tells the story of US Army Major Ray Bradley. Major Bradley is currently fighting to get ‘humanist’ on the military’s official list of recognized religious preferences.
RALEIGH, N.C. – Soldiers who don’t believe in God can go to war with “Atheist” stamped on their dog tags, but humanists and others with various secular beliefs are still officially invisible in the Army.
Maj. Ray Bradley is applying to be the first humanist recognized as a “distinctive faith group leader” by the Army. In the meantime, he can’t be designated as a humanist on his official records or dog tags, although he can be classified as an atheist.
The distinction may not seem like a large one to those unfamiliar with humanism, but the Fort Bragg-based officer says it’s the equivalent of being told that “Christian” is an acceptable designation, but not “Catholic.”
He’s actually the second person at Fort Bragg to apply as a lay leader. I’m proud to have inspired this strategy, though my application was eventually denied (and I wasn’t even told until 6 months after it was denied.) I’ve not told the rather depressing end of my lay-leader story, as I didn’t want to discourage all of the others who followed my lead. But if they keep denying packets, or dragging their feet forever… we’ll be forced to change tactics.
Fort Bragg still bans atheist and humanists from meeting regularly on post. This situation is mirrored everywhere else too, even on Air Force bases like Travis. I’ve explained the reasoning behind this before, as the ban comes from chaplain regulations.
I hope Major Bradley gets the support he deserves in getting Humanist approved. Jason Torpy, at the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) has been extremely vocal in supporting this action. MAAF is now also taking my little ‘MASH Fort Bragg’ concept to other bases, an extremely promising development.
Unfortunately, Ray Bradley hates me right now.
Have you ever unintentionally pissed someone off with your words? I did that to him recently, and it must have really hit a nerve with him. I re-tooled the offending sentence in a blog post and sent an apology / explanation within an hour of his message. But he has not responded. Which totally sucks, because he was a valuable member of the group here.
When he joined, he told me his main allegiance was with another secular group (though not military themed). He let me know that it would occupy most of his time and energy, but he still wanted to help. We had an extremely strong first six months. Our meetings attracting so many people that we were filling the houses we’ve been forced to hold our meetings at. But all of the core leadership team deployed or moved to another base at the same time. Including me.
Naturally, it eventually became too difficult for me to run remotely while deployed. My wife’s PTSD symptoms were peaking, and she sought her family in Florida. There was no ‘civilian anchor’ to keep it going. So it quickly started to die. Ray was instrumental in providing at least the appearance of activity while it lay dormant for 4 months. He was cross-posting many of the non-military / movement events from his other group, and I most certainly approved of and appreciated this. A side-effect was that the other group tended to absorb some of our enthusiastic new members.
I included a clumsy / thoughtless statement in a post the other day. Something like “We were sort of infiltrated by another group…” It pissed him off in the extreme. He felt unappreciated and defensive, and he referred to it as ‘life-support’. (a mean joke, but funny.) He then quit MASH Fort Bragg – a move that I hope is only temporary. Honestly, I think he could have picked up the phone… but I totally understand what his issue was. All I can say is that I did immediately reach out, apologized, explained, and even adjusted the sentence within a few hours (before I even noticed he quit the group!)
Now that I’m back, it’s time to get off life-support and get back to life. I’m training my replacements and showing them how easy it is to make it a successful and meaningful community. We’re putting things in place so as not to ever let it crumble away again. Lesson learned, and I’m still very grateful to Ray for cross-posting his meetings during the dormant period.
Obviously, even if he doesn’t return to his always-available slot in the MASH Fort Bragg group – I wish him the best. Kudos on the coverage, Ray. Take a bow.