“Bow your fucking head down, recruit. Pray with the rest of us!”

Back in December I wrote about a fierce young Marine Corps recruit who was told that she couldn’t have “ATHEIST” on her records and dogtags. I gave her some advice; she fought back, and won.

She recently graduated from Boot Camp in top form. She had a blast despite the USMC’s grueling 13 week training. It’s clear that becoming a Marine is something she is quite proud of. If you’d like to congratulate her, do so in the comments here – I’m certain she’ll see it. This is long, but certainly worth the read.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good. There are some shocking details in this otherwise inspirational letter.

Sergeant Griffith,

I did it!  I successfully earned the title of Marine and graduated from boot camp yesterday morning.  I cannot begin to describe how proud and happy I am to have accomplished my goal.  I never broke physically; I had a boot bite for 5 weeks which wasn’t pleasant but once I got new boots my foot healed, and some gnarly blisters after the Crucible that the Corpsman made me go to medical for “just in case” (much to my great annoyance).  Since blisters were the worst thing that happened to me, I would say I came out ahead.

Believe it or not, I had a lot of fun during the Crucible; it was amazing to see the women I’d been training with come together and gel as a team to complete the obstacles, and pull each other through.  There were 19 heat cases during the Crucible (I heard a rumor it got up to 114 degrees at one point), but all in the male company – our Corpsmen were very happy with us females, as they were tired of giving out silver bullets.  Only one female failed to complete the Crucible – she fell badly and broke her hand on the initial hump out, which is unfortunate, but she’ll heal up and will eventually get there, I’m sure.

To give you a quick run down of what an atheist recruit can accomplish at MCRD Parris Island without the supposed help of a deity, I earned:

– High scores on my CFT and PFT, (making me a member of the 285+ club, which goes in my Record Service Book)

– Sharpshooter with my rifle (nicknamed Hiro Protagonist; our PMI said we had to name our rifles, and yes, I’m that nerdy)

– Top 10% of my platoon, ranked 3 of 64 (only the guide and series guide received higher pros/cons), so I received a Meritorious Mast.

– Held the billet of ‘Knowledge Recruit,’ so I worked closely with our Knowledge Hat to help everyone study for all our tests.  I gave up most of my free time as a result for the majority of our time at boot camp, but we didn’t drop anyone for failing knowledge!

As far as religion and my training, I did go to church three times, once to Contemporary Christian, once to Traditional Christian, both times to get away from the DIs during the first two weeks of boot camp, and once to Catholic to see a friend who was six weeks ahead of me in training who had just completed her Crucible and earned the title of Marine in order to congratulate her before she enjoyed her Liberty Sunday.  The Christian services themselves weren’t bad, just a little too hokey for my comfort at the Contemporary Christian service.

On Young Earth Creationism

and the ‘proper’ role of women

What was annoying were the hour long Religious Education classes (really a long speech given by the same man) given after the Christian services that we had to stay for.  I ended up sitting through the same class both times, because apparently the teacher rotates between the two services.  The teacher, probably in his late fifties, was a young earth creationist who talked about how there was no evidence for evolution, just lies made up by scientists who couldn’t prove anything, they couldn’t test for evolution (I had a hard time not laughing at a YEC who wanted scientific method type of proof for evolution, but then turned around and talked about feelings as proof of god – the irony, it burns!), which somehow turned into a rant about the proper role of women, which was to not be in combat but to serve their husbands, make babies, etc etc.  I couldn’t believe that he could get away with telling Marine Corps recruits that women should never be in combat roles or even close to it – did he know who he was addressing?  It made me so angry because not only will that make the males think poorly of the female recruits, which is already a problem both during training and out in the Fleet, but it could make the female recruits begin to doubt themselves, which can really screw you over during training.  The whole thing was ridiculous.  But whatever – I had my Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to comfort me during the five minutes of Devotions we got each night.

They screwed up my dog tags

I only have two personal complaints regarding religion at boot camp.  First – they screwed up my dog tags!  It says NO REL PREF, even though my RSB and everything else says ‘ATHEIST.’  I just got my tags the night before graduation, so I couldn’t complain to anyone, so I’ll just try to get new ones made [PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION WITHHELD].  But you know there had to be someone who consciously ‘corrected’ my dog tags for me. Irritating, but not a big deal in the scheme of things.

“Bow your fucking head down, recruit,

and pray with the rest of us!”

Second – and this infuriates me to no end – was the compulsory participation in the prayer at the Eagle, Globe and Anchor ceremony (and also later at graduation, but by that time it was a moot point).  A little background first: everyone in my platoon knows I’m an atheist, and I had a lot of really interesting conversations with my fellow recruits about it, all part of my goal to be open but not pushy about my atheism in the hope that I can positively influence people’s perception of atheists while remaining keeping my integrity intact.  Anyway…

The second night of the Crucible, after staging all our gear in our hooch, getting a quick hygiene break, we stood on line to learn about and practice what we’d do during the ceremony.  The first thing we were told was that we’d be standing at parade rest, and the Chaplain would come out and give an invocation.  When he said, “Let us pray,” we all were to snap our heads down so our chins touched our chest.  Our heavy hat gave the order, and everyone snapped their heads down — everyone except me.  Our heavy screamed, “(NAME/RANK WITHHELD)! You aren’t special, bow your fucking head down, recruit, and pray with the rest of us!”  I yelled back, “Ma’am, this recruit is an atheist, she doesn’t pray!” Dead silence.  The other recruits looked at me in shock – we all knew I was in for it.  Plus, I was one of the good recruits – I never had a bad attitude, I took my ITs like a champion, I was good about sounding off, freezing when told too…  In short, talking back like that and challenging the DI at all, let alone in front of the whole platoon, was completely out of character.  But I couldn’t just go along without trying to stand up for myself; I told myself I was on the Crucible, for crying out loud! The final test, the one that would make me a Marine – if I didn’t have the courage to say something now, would I ever?

Then the other shoe dropped, as you might imagine.  Think “Full Metal Jacket.” The DI started screaming and ranting at me, saying that “Oh my fucking god, recruit, no one is trying to change your religion, this is part of a ceremony that’s been going on since 1775, no one else has ever had a problem with it,” and so on and so forth for what seemed like forever.  At one point I started counting the logical fallacies she made just to make sure I didn’t make the mistake of trying to talk over her and explain that I didn’t think the Constitution allowed them to force me to physically conform to their prayer.  Finally, she said that I could either bow my head and pray with everyone else, or she would make sure that I didn’t participate in the Eagle, Globe and Anchor ceremony, that I could watch the group on the sidelines while everyone else received their symbol that they were Marines and I could go to the PX and buy myself one on my own during Liberty Sunday.

Knowing that she was deadly serious, I did what seemed like the smart thing at the time, and shut up and bowed my head, at that practices and at the actual ceremony itself (although I refused to say the “So help me god” at the end of the oath administered at the end of the ceremony).  There wasn’t an opportunity to talk with our Senior DI before the ceremony to either informally or formally complain and request to not bow my head.

The positive part of this was that the majority of my platoon came up to me over the course of the next day and said that they were really glad that I had stood up for myself like that, that I was really brave, and that they agreed that I shouldn’t have to bow my head, but it wasn’t worth the risk of not being a part of the ceremony.  They told me to think of it as a drill movement, but understood when I said I couldn’t just pretend like that, and why it was like a Christian being forced to participate in a ceremony of a different religion.

It’s one thing to go to someone else’s event and sitting silently through a prayer – you chose to go to that event, you have to be nice and not disrupt someone else’s plans.  But this was MY ceremony, I had earned it and was going to be damned (hah!) if I was not going to be a part of it.

What can – or should – I do?

I am not sure what to do at this point about the forced prayer, or what I could/should have done before the ceremony itself.  Yes, I know that they didn’t force me to pray, but the forced physical participation makes it seem to everyone else that I was praying, which bothers me to no end.  I could have refused to bow my head, but I really wanted to participate in the ceremony which marked the culmination of all I’d been training for.  I do not think I should have been forced to choose between participation in the ceremony or remaining true to my non-religious beliefs (for lack of a better term).  I know I gave up certain rights when I enlisted, but was this really one of them?  I don’t think so, but like I said, I didn’t have a chance to find out before the ceremony itself, and now it’s a moot point for me, but maybe not for future recruits.  What, if anything, can – or should – I do?  A formal complaint seems like overkill (and possibly the death of my career in the Corps before it begins), but I feel like I should somehow let the powers that be know that this is wrong and ask that it be made clear that you cannot force someone to participate in an overtly religious ceremony against their will (the prayer was to “Our Lord of Hosts,” but didn’t mention Jesus at the end), unless my DI was right and they actually can force the physical participation in prayer, in which case I would want to make a formal complaint and fight that practice.  What do you think about this?  What can – or should – I do?

I’m slowly catching up with the real world, and I have several months of your blog posts to read through, which I’m looking forward to.  I hope you and the rest of the online atheist community is doing well, because I know I am happy to be out and about, and a Marine.

Sincerely,

NAME / RANK WITHHELD

(*Extremely minor details have been altered or omitted to obfuscate the Marine’s identity.)

First of all, congratulations! I am so happy to hear from you again. When I first interacted with you, I could tell that you were already quite fierce. It’s no surprise that you did so well in boot camp.

Dog tags: You fought hard to get your records right before you got there, it’s a shame someone was so petty. You assessed the problem and the solution correctly. It is too late to fix the ones you were issued. I imagine that many of my readers will be more than happy to purchase your correct set of dog tags. (First person to contact me directly can do so online. Thanks!)

Bigoted creationist: The Religious Education classes were certainly over the top. The instructor clearly violated EO regulations when he discussed the ‘proper’ role of women as anything other than equals. It’s disgusting that our tax dollars fund his bigotry. I want this person’s name. Please do whatever you can to provide it, along with any other distinguishing details about this man.

His creationist non-sense also had no place in the religious settings you describe. You didn’t attend ‘Young Earth Church’, or ‘Our Lady Of Saint Flintstone’. You attended ‘contemporary’ and ‘traditional’ Christian services, and received the same idiotic ‘education’. I promise you that there were Christians in your class that were equally outraged at this one-size-fits-all conspiracy theory version of their religion. This guy needs to go.

Forced to bow your head: This is a major issue in all branches of the military. The Drill Instructors who ordered you to bow your head were just wrong.

[*Continued below the fold*]

The same thing just played out in Fort Jackson, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) came to the rescue. CNN covered the story:

Washington (CNN) - Fort Jackson officials said Friday that an atheist soldier was asked to lower their head during a prayer portion of a graduation ceremony rehearsal, but then decided it was ok for the soldier to stand at Attention.

The 20-year old private first class, a proclaimed atheist, graduated from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina on Thursday.

The soldier, who requested that CNN not give a name and gender for fear of repercussions, called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation on Wednesday after taking part in a rehearsal for the graduation.

The soldier told the watchdog group that during the rehearsal, officials ordered the soldiers to bow their heads and clasp their hands during the chaplain’s benediction. As an atheist, the soldier refused to do so.

“When you stand up like this, you make yourself a tarantula on a wedding cake,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder of the foundation. Weinstein said the soldier was “brave” for taking a stand.

Officials at Fort Jackson threatened to pull the soldier from the ceremony but then backed down, according to the soldier, after hearing that the soldier had contacted the religious freedom foundation.

“This is an absolute perfect example of the separation of church and state, and it takes a 20-year-old to stand up and say no,” Weinstein said.

Fort Jackson officials told CNN a non-commissioned officer informed the soldier to bow their head for uniformity purposes but says there was never a requirement to pray during the prayer portion of the graduation.

Keep an eye on how well that ‘uniformity purposes’ excuse holds up, according to their own people.

When the soldier refused, citing a Supreme Court ruling that states there was no requirement to pray in public ceremonies, the officer then took the matter to the platoon sergeant, who also told the soldier to bow their head for uniformity purposes, according to Patrick Jones, a Ft. Jackson Public Affairs Officer.

Upon refusing again, the platoon sergeant contacted the company commander who then told the soldier that there was no requirement to pray or bow ones head, but was required to remain at “attention”, Jones stated.

“It is not the command’s policy to force anyone to bow their heads and clasp their hands to pray,” said Jones. “The Army fully recognizes all faiths or lack there of”.

The graduation ceremony was conducted without incident, Jones said.

Spokespeople at Fort Jackson need to get right. They need to understand that ‘damage control’ sometimes involves clearly identifying when an NCO has done wrong, and setting the record straight to curb future incidents. Be clear! The soldier was right, and the NCO’s ‘for uniformity purposes’ justification was absurd, and rightfully corrected by his commanding officer.

If you had been able to contact me (or any organization such as MRFF, FFRF, AU, etc.), there is a chance we could have intervened like the incident at Fort Jackson. There is no real way of knowing this ahead of time, so don’t fault yourself here. It’s very selfless of you to ask this question for the sake of others who may soon find themselves in similar situations. To be honest, MRFF is currently the best equipped to handle this in a rapid manner. I’d certainly have passed any such report directly to them, and worked together with them towards a resolution over at American Atheists.

There is no such thing as ‘non-sectarian prayer’

Furthermore, prayer is not a uniform activity. It needs to be removed from mandatory military ceremonies altogether. There is no such thing as ‘non-sectarian prayer’. Drill Instructors at Parris Island regularly groom warriors from all walks of life – including Muslims. How would that DI react if a Muslim recruit turned to face Mecca and got down on the ground during the mandatory prayer, in keeping with their religious customs? “Stand the fuck up, you Muslim recruit. Pray like the rest of us!”

Religion started creeping into more and more ceremonies in the late 80′s / early 90′s, and now many of us are forced to stand through prayer for even the most pedestrian of events dozens of times a year. The unchecked evangelical creep is problematic even for religious soldiers now. You clearly handled yourself in such a way to earn the respect of your fellow Marines. It was a touching concession to know that they largely had your back, even on this divisive issue.

I’m very proud of you. You’re among the bravest of the new wave of foxhole atheists. The New Foxhole Atheists will be the generation that swings the cultural pendulum back towards sanity. You did good, killer.

‘OORAH, MARINE!

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About Justin Griffith
  • Steve

    As an atheist in the Air Force, I am very glad to hear that our young men and women are standing up to the religious fanatics. As a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, I have tried to keep religion and prayer out of any ceremony I have been in charge of. Religion has crept into just about every ceremony we do. It is really ridiculous. Congrats again Marine!

  • lol mahmood

    Amazing and moving story. Oddly enough, as a 20 year serving member of the British Armed Forces i have never bowed my head, and never been ordered to either. Religious ceremonies are not unusual in the British Forces, and I’m by no means the only who doesn’t bow or pray during them.

  • http://www.mac-photo.com Mark Cohran ETCS(SS), ret.

    That’s a brave Marine and one who exemplifies standing strong for her rights as an atheist, and more importantly, as a citizen of a country that was founded on the concept of religious freedom–or more appropriately, the freedom from religion.

  • Jane Frankel

    Ms New Marine:

    Congrats on your graduation, and for standing up for all atheists! That took a lot of courage – I think you will make a fine Marine. You sound like you have the “Marine attitude” down perfectly. I wish you the best in all your endeavors.

    Daughter of a Marine, friend of a (Desert Storm) Marine

  • http://www.miketheinfidel.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    It bothers me to no end to see religious nuts trying to turn our military into an Army of God. I cannot fathom how they think that will end well.

  • http://alexandersafir.wordpress.com Amateur Hour

    Weinstein’s “tarantula on a wedding cake” is an excellent image.

    • Justin Griffith

      He’s got a gift for visceral imagery. “A one-inch putt of a court case.” Etc.

  • Darlene Waters

    You did it! You go, Girl! (I just hope you are never actually required to kill anyone.)

    Thank you for standing up for freedom and our rights as American citizens.

    Oh, and thank you for turning me on to Snow Crash. I’m going to the library to get it today.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Semper Fidelis refers to people we can count on. Looks like we have one more.

    • Justin Griffith

      Faith in my fellow humans… that’s the type of faith I have.

      • D. C. Sessions

        I make a distinction between “faithful” and “having faith.” I’m old fashioned that way.

  • http://militaryreligiousfreedom.org Andy in Albuquerque

    Congratulations Marine and thank you for your service, which is and always be highly admired and respected.

    I’m a volunteer with MRFF who is working to change the reality of this quote from this post:

    “If you had been able to contact me (or any organization such as MRFF, FFRF, AU, etc.), there is a chance we could have intervened like the incident at Fort Jackson. There is no real way of knowing this ahead of time, so don’t fault yourself here.”

    We’re working to get MRFF brochures/literature into all 65 MEPS facilities pursuant to USMEPCOM Policy 11-2 which requires them to allow equal access by NFEs (non-Federal Entities) to the MEPS facility. This policy came about due objections raised by MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) and the Louisville Association of Atheists and Freethinkers to the virtually un-restricted access to MEPS facilities granted to The Gideons and other religious groups.

    We want all recruits to realize they have an ally in these matters.

  • Ryan Parrotte

    From a fellow foxhole atheist, congrats to you for doing so well during your training. It’s great to know that the other branches take pride in their non-beliefs as well. Keep doing your thing, you’re a valuable asset to the country for just this reason alone. Thanks Justin for posting.

  • Jim Dearborn, LtCol USMC Ret

    Congratulations Marine, welcome to the Corps.

    I’m proud of you.

  • Mina

    This young woman is the kind of person who makes me hopeful for the future. Congratulations to her on her achievements and thank you for her bravery both on the personal level–standing up for herself that way–and as a Marine for all of us.

    ‘OORAH, indeed, Marine. And thank you.

  • Adam

    Congratulations, Marine!

    Regarding the forced prayer, you don’t need to make a formal complaint. There are enough witnesses that an informal complaint to the DI’s CoC would quickly remedy the problem. There’s also whistle blower protection for formal complaints. It is illegal for any type of reprisal, and this is CLEARLY an equal opportunity violation.

    Sea story time! During a deployment in 2007 (its been that long?!), I was eating Thanksgiving dinner, and Chaps starter a prayer over the 1MC (ship-wide communication circuit) on the ship. I just kept eating. There was no shortage of disapproving glares. I just laughed under my breath.

  • http://nigelthebold.com/ nigelTheBold, Venomous Demonic Hater

    My admiration for your courage, Marine.

    While in Army basic training at. Ft. Sill not quite three decades ago, we were asked by a belligerent drill sergeant if there was anyone who didn’t believe in God. I did not raise my hand, and we were all treated to a special ten-minute rant about the evils of atheism (with some added homophobia for spice).

    I’m glad to see others are braver than I was.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fbneidhardt fredneidhardt

    Since you had made your stance known at the practice, I wonder if they would hae done anything had you not bowed at the actual ceremony and stood out. I think them making a scene at the ceremony and removing you would have been a bigger disruption of “uniformity” than you not bowing your head. I really wonder if they would have done anything.

    Congratulations on becoming a defender foremost and an atheist secondly.

  • N. Nescio

    The kind of individual who would stand up to a USMC DI over what they knew was right is EXACTLY THE KIND OF PERSON I want on “our” side. Thank you ma’am, and congratulations for all of your tremendously hard work. I hope you have a successful career, and get to come home safe.

  • http://dave-parnell.tumblr.com/ David Parnell

    My day <— made

    good job

  • BCat70

    Semper Fi, Marine.

    BZ for holding your frigging DI accountable.

    I am in awe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.plante.7 markplante

    Atheist AF Vet here. Proud of you, Marine!

  • Makoto

    People always talk about soldiers being brave – this is one more excellent example of that.

    (Apologies if this has already been suggested, but I didn’t see it in the links so far, and I was hoping..) On a related note, I know it’s hard to publish names, so I wanted to suggest a slight alternative, a beer tab. Basically, something we can donate to, which can be used to send our brave folks a beer or 12 for doing what they do so well in these kinds of cases as a small thank you and show of support, along with the other, non-direct shows.

    Is that even possible? I don’t know what kind of repercussions might occur (religious officers realizing where the beer boxes come from or something), I’m just thinking it’d be nice to send something their way to say we’re with them, and thanks.

    • DM

      I fully support the creation of the MABF (Military Atheist Beer Fund) and will gladly donate on behalf of soldiers as brave as the Marine who wrote this letter.

      Also, you named your rifle Hiro Protagonist? I think I’m in love! :D

  • Andy Mawson

    Congratulations, Marine!

    You can be proud of that title and proud of your courage to stand up against bigotry. Any atheist in any situation has to weigh the pro’s and con’s of standing up for their beliefs (or lack thereof); but in essence you stood up to the USMC in defense of your human rights. I hope if I am ever in a similar situation I will find the same courage. Reading your story will help me find it though, I am sure.

  • DigitalAtheist

    Dear New Marine,

    Congratulations on your achievement, and I’m glad you were able to stand your ground. Best of luck in your new career, oh… and one more thing: Essayons!*

    *Let us try! (old Army Engineer here… sorry ;-) )

  • FreeThinkerKY

    I salute you for your courage and your service. You make me proud to call myself an Atheist and an American.

  • http://thecyberneticatheist.blogspot.com/ RW Ahrens

    From an old Army Spec4, Congratulations on your graduation and earning the title of Marine! It is a fine title and an honor to boot. If you got that far, you earned it in spades.

    Additionally, you earned it a second time for standing up to the DI. That takes the kind of courage they were trying to instill in their trainees, and that DI should have been proud of your courage. That kind of courage could lead you to save his ass some day.

    Here’s wishing you a long and illustrious career – may you live long and prosper!

  • http://ozpsych.com.au Tim

    What an inspiring tale. You should be rightly proud on so many levels, both for your military acheivement and personal qualities and values. I am a psychologist, and my guiding mantra is ‘truth in all things’ – however painful, pain can pass and teaach us so much. Thank you for sharing your story, my very best wishes for your future, your professional life and your humanity.

  • http://justdfacsmaam.wordpress.com MarkNS

    “Ma’am, this recruit is an atheist, she doesn’t pray!” As an atheist who went through Canadian military boot camp in 1981, I’m ashamed to admit I just bowed my head on parade to “get along”. This female marine has more balls than I had at that age. I’m in awe.

    • mysticl

      My husband is an officer in the Canadian military and he refuses to either bow his head or remove his beret during parade prayers … there is no regulation that requires him to do so, so therefore he doesn’t … he’s been doing this for years and it has often sparked debate which he is always willing and indeed eager to engage in … he knows his rights under Canadian Military Regulations and while it’s a small gesture of defiance, he feels it’s an important one, and so it is ;)

  • flherp

    Semper Fi, Devil Dog. Congratulations on your accomplishments and sticking to your guns. The best I could do at the time was No Religious Preference for my dogtags, alhtough there were a few of us who chose this option. Best Regards.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EDGECRUSHR michaelfedo

    Congratulations and Semper Fi [PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION WITHHELD]! As one Marine to another, welcome aboard! No matter how long you end up serving, you’re a Marine for life. I was also married to a Marine, and she never let me forget “The Fewer and Prouder” part!

    What irks me to no end is the bowing of the head crap. I’ve heard all sorts of arrogant bullshit about “even if you’re not praying, bow your head” or “show some respect, nobody is making you pray”. The whole “uniformity” argument comes apart with one question:

    “Aren’t we already at the position of attention?”

    There is zip, nada, zero reasons to bow heads in prayer for some sort of “uniformity”, when everyone is already in formation. Want a moment of silence? Sure, give the order. Call the platoon/company/battalion to attention and carry out the order. But this crap about the ceremony going on since 1775 (your DI was just firing for effect there; it hasn’t. It’s been going on since 1997, right after I joined) and having to bow heads because…well, BECAUSE! is just shitty.

    There are many viable, appropriate, and respectful ways to carry out moments of respect and honor that do NOT include praying. There is just absolutely no way to pray in a way that isn’t divisive. Going along with it is an unfortunate reality many Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Coasties have to do every day.

    Bravo Zulu for standing up in a way that was a credit to yourself and the uniform! And once again, welcome to the Corps!

  • godlessveteran

    In situations like these where religious observance is coerced, I think it would be incredibly helpful if a list of applicable DoD and individual service regulations/instructions could be compiled. Imagine the DI or NCO/officer trying to keep from exploding when a subordinate cites chapter and verse of a regulation which makes it clear to the superior that they are acting illegally.

    Semper Fi, Marine, from a retired zoomie.

  • Melissa

    Wow, I was searching for something else completely and found this post.

    Good job standing up for yourself! I hope you get your dog tags fixed.

    I am so tired of religion being constantly forced on people, keep up the good work and congrats on making it through boot camp!

  • Mixhele

    Congratulations. And wow. And wow again. A smart woman, a strong athesit, a shiney new Marine. I don’t know which I am more in awe of, your accomplishments or your grit or your grace, but all are making me that kind of weepy one gets when hearing about an everyday hero.

    Thanks to people like you I have stopped trying to blend in and now stand by my atheism at all times. Keep on keeping on Marine, keep on.

  • Mixhele

    Shoot, you are not an athesit, whatever that might be. Atheist. Told you I was a bit a weepy.

  • PatrickG

    A civilian here just ducking in to say BRAVO and congratulations on your achievement!

  • http://www.beautifulchaosphotography.wordpress.con angiem

    So proud to have atheists standing up!

    Congrats on becoming a Marine..and all your amazing achievements!

  • jason

    symbolically, it was good of you to assert yourself to your drill sergeant (or whatever the usmc equivalent is). But really, it was a little too brazen. You are not allowed to refuse orders that do not conflict with other orders (in the army we called them ‘general orders,’ and I forgot every one of them). If they order you to read from the Koran, you better do it. There is no point in reading into the meaning of the actions you are ordered to take, because often there is no meaning in the military.

    Oh, as for the ID tags, wherever you are stations is likely to have the machine needed to make new ones. You can print whatever you want on it then. I put Discordian on mine, just to be funny.

    • Justin Griffith

      You are not allowed to refuse orders that do not conflict with other orders (in the army we called them ‘general orders,’ and I forgot every one of them). If they order you to read from the Koran, you better do it. There is no point in reading into the meaning of the actions you are ordered to take, because often there is no meaning in the military.

      This is all sorts of untrue. Additionally, there are existing laws, regulations, and policies in place that forbid this shit. Your example with the Koran would never fly, and substituting the Bible doesn’t make it any more legal. The fact that Christianity is at the heart of nearly every military prayer speaks more to the phenomenon of Christian Privilege, not towards legality.

      Please don’t tell people stuff like this. There are many myths that I have a hard time dispelling with theists, I’d like my fellow atheists to be extra vigilant to arm themselves with facts and regulations. Lawyers and activists are standing by to help if the system doesn’t work.

  • http://www.secondskeleton.com ryan cameron

    “and they’ll know we are christians by our hate, by our hate, yes they’ll know we are christians by our hate. “

  • Troy Gavazzi

    Congratulations to one brave Marine! I am also encouraged by the understanding displayed by some of her sister Marines. Maybe the next generation of recruits won’t have to go through the same BS.

  • Ben Hart

    I am very proud of you young lady. Standing up for what you believe is not always easy, but it is satisfying. My uncle was a doctor in Vietnam an atheist. His dogtag said “NONE”. That was in 1968. Keep up the good fight. I wished I could be of more help.

  • SeattleMike

    Congratulations, Marine!

    I was USAF from 1972-1984. Sometime during that time frame a young sailor went through a whole lot of BS to be able to get ‘Atheist’ on his dog tags. As soon as his case was settled (in his favor) I wandered over to our Personnel Office with the clipping and had my own records straightened out. Received new dog tags that day, too, after I was very firm in stating that No Religious Preference was wrong, that I absolutely DID have a preference, and that it was Atheist. As far as I know I was one of the first in the Air Force to actually get ATHEIST on my dog tags. When I was assigned to Germany some others in my unit saw them and went and got their tag reissued, too.

    Thank you for standing firm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theatheistadvocate Kenny Duit

    Semper Fi Marine!

    I went through this very thing in the summer of 1970.

    Being an Atheist in the military is not an easy thing.

    The best I could get on my Dog Tags was agnostic.

    I must have gotten lucky, because there were three of us cleaning the head and squad-bay every Sunday while the rest were at services, so I wasn’t the only Atheist. :)

    Congrats on your graduation!

  • Jackie

    Congratulations on your hard work and accomplishments, and well done for standing up to that DI. I hope that information about the rights of members of the military regarding compulsory religious practice becomes more widely available, so that future atheist recruits will not be put in the position you faced, and I hope you get your dog tags straightened out. Again, well done; you deserve to be proud of yourself.

  • Randy

    First of all…errr devil! Congrats! Secondly i understand your desire to make a stand, and prove a point…but recruit training aint the place. Additionally, dont get so proyd that you lose sight of a logical point…specifically that prayer is just another word for personal reflection (because we all know they are just talking to themselves) something which, as an athiest, you are obligated to do, as introspection is the only place truth can be found. And what better posture for introspection than with your head bowed to mother earth? Feel free to roll your eyes while they cant see you! Fuck em if they can’t take a joke. Incidently, did it ever occur to you to report the drill instructor for using profanity? I know THAT is against the rules…as silly as that may seem.

    • Hayes

      On the contrary Randy, the recruit training process is an ideal place to take a stand against an illegal action. If we grant the military, or any other government institution, the ability to circumvent the rule of law, we would be establishing a dangerous precedent. This brave Marine enlisted, I assume, with the intent of defending the principles upon which this nation is founded, foremost among which is the notion of religious freedom. Allowing such a blatant infringement upon her liberty to pass without comment would be, in my opinion, antithetical to the values she intends to both protect and uphold.

      In short, the most humble recruit should be willing to stand up to a superior, even if it is an Admiral or General, attempting to violate their natural right to religious liberty. I am a civilian, so I do not fully comprehend the nuances of military life, but I know that no individual or organisation, regardless of rank or status, should be above the law.

      On a side note, one of my fraternity brothers just became a Marine last fall (he is in the reserves). I’ll need to ask him about the prayer, as he is agnostic. The whole boot camp scenario seems rather unpleasant. I am thankful that other individuals are willing to suffer such hardships, so I don’t have to.

  • Mitch

    I faced the same problem at my Navy RTC graduation. My RDCs were not as blunt about it, and introduced it as an “official military movement.” But nevertheless, I was forced to bow my head against my will for a prayer to a god in whom I do not even believe exists. The entire time I had my head bowed for the prayer, I thought all the way back to when I first arrived at RTC. One of the things we had done was to get training about the religious education programs from the chaplain. He informed us that though we had given up almost all of our rights by enlisting, we still maintained the freedom of religion. Forcing someone to bow for prayer is not freedom of religion. The US Navy has made a huge oversight, but I cannot fight it while I am still in the service for fear of a discharge.

  • http://www.commentarycat.blogspot.com Michael

    Hiro Protagonist! Snow Crash is my favorite novel. Kudos on that! When I was in I named my rifle Katrina after an x-girlfriend because it was so high maintenance…

    Congratulations Marine!

  • Jeanette Potts

    Send this letter/info to our President. Barack WILL do something, about the military ‘prayer demands’, as he IS Chief in Command, & he does believe in our constitution, wholeheartedly! He does believe in equality for All!

  • Kevin M. Hirst

    Congratulations Marine. Your courage is inspiring.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1092933945 mikegarber

    As a civilian, Im honored and humbled that you are now “standing watch” over me. Thank you a thousand times for your service!!!

  • davideriksen

    Yet another foxhole atheist (Army type) here.

    I wish I had this Marine’s courage when I graduated from basic. I didn’t know how much control religion had over the military until then.

    Congratulations to PVT NAME WITHHELD!

  • Dave, Maj, USMC (Ret)

    Congratulations and Semper Fi Marine. You definitely earned the title, and I think you’ll find the Fleet a lot more accommodating.

  • Mark D.

    I find something rather confusing in these tales.

    These people are soldiers. They are all being trained to risk their lives dodging bullets for the sake of defending country and Constitution.

    Caving in and violating core, fundamental beliefs simply because they were threatened (even by a superior) seems like something you want to train soldiers NOT to do.

    But I’m being sensible about this.


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