Army unit says only religious troops get out of work Friday morning

This flyer just went up on the Facebook page for the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne… (or simply 2-508 PIR). They are stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.

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EDIT:

***IMPORTANT UPDATE***

***IMPORTANT UPDATE 2 – They ‘fixed’ it and reposted it… with a wall of text rant aimed at me. Can’t respond their because I’m banned. ***

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After I asked around, it seems that there is no ‘time away from work’ opportunity for the non-religious soldiers. Fort Leonardwood had a similar issue in 2008, but they stopped doing this. A story that appeared in over 900 news outlets sums it up:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to the Department of Defense’s inspector general, asking for an investigation into the Sunday evening event, whose name was recently changed from “Free Day Away” to “Tabernacle Baptist Church Retreat Program.” The Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lebanon, Mo., has hosted the event for soldiers from the Missouri post since 1971.

A Fort Leonard Wood spokesman said the program is voluntary, and the church’s pastor said it has taken steps to ensure that soldiers know they will hear a religious message if they attend.

But Americans United’s executive director, the Rev. Barry Lynn, said soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood must either attend the program or stay on post.

“That’s not the kind of choice that ought be to be given to soldiers,” said Lynn, who described the practice as “coercive evangelism.”

They seem to have three options:

  1. schedule this during non-duty hours,
  2. excuse people from work who also don’t want to attend  this – or any - religious function,
  3. force another ‘limited public forum’ where every one of the hundreds of religious preferences in Fort Bragg’s demographics get their own event (with child care…)

The first two options would be easiest to implement. I suppose a fourth option of simply not doing this stuff goes without screaming.

Okay, internet atheists – this is one of those times where people need you to speak out for them. Be like the Lorax with a megaphone. If you choose to participate in the conversation, do so with respect. Do not engage in flame wars, and do not attack religious people (and this is not the time to attack their beliefs). We are aiming for equality.

Please (respectfully!) leave your opinion on the 2-508 PIR Facebook page.

This one of my comments:

Yes, but it’s during the duty day. Are there equal ‘time away from work’ opportunities for non-religious soldiers?

I’m all for religious soldiers getting their needs fulfilled (free exercise clause of the US Constitution is important). However, if you do not provide the same ‘time off work’ opportunity to non-religious soldiers (with free child care), they are effectively being punished for not being religious. Do they not deserve a break to contemplate, have fun with their families, and growth in their community?

Perhaps most importantly, it sets up non-religious soldiers with their religious peers’ workload.

Do it like that.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.ennis.16 seanennis

    pretty sure you dont need a group session to pray. and if you do, share the time off. if this friday is reserved for people that need to attend this prayer thing, have next friday set aside for the non religious. not that hard. either give it to all or give it to none.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karabear1982 karaswan

    I noticed comments disappearing and made the suggestion to start screenshotting. The picture was either removed or I have been blocked. Can anyone confirm?

  • Alverant

    Confirmed that the link takes you to a page saying the content is unavailable.

  • Rock Puppet

    They did indeed start removing comments, and banning people (like me) from commenting further. Then they deleted the whole post.

    Screenshots were grabbed.

  • Alverant

    Wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not.

  • Randomfactor

    I still see the discussion on their main page:

    http://www.facebook.com/2.508PIR

  • http://somersplace.wordpress.com Somerville

    Interesting – click on Justin’s link and you get

    This content is currently unavailable

    but if you use Randomfactor’s link, the 2.508 page appears

  • Haley

    I’m not shocked…this is like BCT when you had two options on Sunday: go to church or scrub the barracks. Then they would tell you you were NOT being punished for being unreligious while you were on all fours scrubbing a floor with an inch square scouring pad. That was…fun? I guess.

  • Sam Oglesby

    There is a simple reason that comments were deleted, posters banned, and then the announcements pulled. The 2-508 PIR website is an information site for friends and families of 2-508th PIR to share information and opportunities. It is NOT a public forum or an avenue for political expression. The announcement for First Friday Prayer was for family members, NOT soldiers. If you’d have read beyond the picture, you would realize that the Battalion is DEPLOYED… that means that the soldiers are off fighting a war in a distant land… NOT here getting time off to attend prayer mneetings. The politically motivated posting on this blog and the encouragement to leave politically charged comments on our page were premature and harrassing in nature. We reserve the right to ban anybody from posting comments on our page and we consistently ban political comments and posters, even when they post in support of what our soldiers are doing. If they can be deemed offensive,such as an insult to the president, we delete the comment. If they persist, we ban the poster.

  • Seamus Ruah

    “Fellow 2 Fury facebook followers, we apologize however we have decided to remove our prayer flyer due to an Atheist watch-dog group attempting to usurp our page to encourage political discent. It was intended for our spouses and family members and not our paratroopers as we are currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. We respect everyones choice of religion and thank you for your continuous support.”

    Fail, for multiple reasons, starting with the inability to spell desent.

    de·scent   /dɪˈsɛnt/

    noun

    1. the act, process, or fact of moving from a higher to a lower position. Synonyms: falling, sinking; fall, drop.

  • Seamus Ruah

    Sigh…that hurt.

    ‘Disent”

  • Seamus Ruah

    You know, I’m just going to shut up and try to get through the rest of the day.

  • Fred

    I was at Fort Leonard Wood in 1984. The off post “Day Away” was NOT really optional…either you went or you cleaned the barracks and did PT. Clearly this was punishment for not opting to hang with the baptists. I spent the day cleaning.

  • http://yahoo.com Aaron

    This article seems a little one-sided. In a situation like this, the army doesn’t put together the event, the church does. They develop a relationship with the command and show value. If an athiest group did the same, they would likely be afforded the same opportunity.

    In this instance, it seems that the non-participants are putting on a pity party for themselves because someone else got a day off work Sorry, I don’t feel sorry for them. If they want the same thing, then they should put forward the effort to organize their own event. And like the christians, invite everyone. Something tells me your religious friends will be quite happy to pick up the slack for a day.

  • jimbo

    Oh, somebody got time off of work to attend religious services. Please ‘splain if service people are off base why they are excused from work? And while the event may be set up by a church, it is the Army’s duty to ensure everyones’ rights are protected. Somehow it seems to me that when upper ranks are corrupted with religion those rights may be endangered.

  • jimbo

    Especially when the christianists are required to convert others. Allowing these people to abuse their power in the converstion process must be identified and prevented. Great work.

  • NoVaRunner

    Back when I was in basic training (waaaaaay back…) my friend and I once went to every available Sunday service we could find. We went to the early Catholic one, the late Protestant one, and in the afternoon, the Buddhist one. This was, of course, specifically to avoid having the Sunday “GI Party” barracks cleaning fiesta. The beautiful part, in our view, was the drill sergeant couldn’t say anything or retaliate in any way, he HAD to let us go.

    Back then I was still young and naive and didn’t understand how religion was enabling me to screw over the rest of the unit by saddling it with my share of the work. This “First Friday Prayer” does the same thing.

  • http://pinoymaritime.com/blog/ Ernesto Fortmann

    This report is good. I will certainly share it to my friends.


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