Christian classmate didn’t see discrimination, so the cadet is lying

Atheist West Point cadet Blake Page has recently penned Why I Don’t Want to be a West Point Graduate over at Huffington Post. It’s powerful stuff, and has been picked up all over the place.

CNN‘s Soledad O’Brien just interviewed Blake Page and Mikey Weinstein.

Cadet Page’s public stance inspired something amazing. Mikey Weinstein shared this letter with me, and Cadet Page gave me permission to share it.

Mikey,

I really need to share this with you. Something incredible happened tonight at our SSA meeting and I just couldn’t step away from it. First off we had a huge turnout, probably about 25 cadets compared to our usual 10. Also, many of them had told me in the past that they were afraid to speak up and file EO complaints, some were even afraid to give statements to support the one I had already started.

The EO investigator leading this case was at the meeting because she wanted to see what they had to say first hand, and more than a dozen of them said they were inspired to finally come forward, and they did! I watched cadet after cadet go have closed door meetings with the investigator to finally let a person in authority know what sort of things they have experienced.

On top of that I’ve had more people than I can count come up to me to let me know personally that they support what I’m doing. Some of the most rewarding of these conversations were with religious cadets that were tired of being told by their peers and others that they aren’t “Christian enough” or that they aren’t the right type of believer.

It seems like the work we’ve been doing together has finally paid off. You and the MRFF have been an awesome source of support for me and I can’t thank you enough. We’ve finally gotten the conversation started on the national level that’s been so desperately needed for decades. That was exactly what I wanted to see come from this, and I’m honestly close to tearing up from happiness just thinking about it.

Incredible. Others are refusing to stay in the closet. They are demanding justice, and standing tall with Cadet Page.

Help Cadet Page with Troll Patrol

Predictably, in the wake of such exposure, many people are rushing in to call him a liar. Including a former member of his class Charles Clymer. Citing dubious and unnamed sources, Charles frames the story as if nobody ever had any complaints at the academy and Page is making it up. Charles left years ago due to health issues, but still weighed in as if he’s an expert. He wrote an awful ‘open letter to Blake Page‘ on Facebook, and the general public seemed to take it seriously simply because they saw the two were in the same graduating class.

Charles Clymer’s nasty letter is long, but it boils down to this:

I never, not even once, witnessed, heard about, or even thought it implied that non-religious cadets face discrimination of any kind at the Academy.

So, no… I don’t believe your story for a second, and I’m angry that you’ve managed to insult the institution and everyone in it, lie about your experience, and exploit an important issue (separation of Church and State) for your own long term gain.

Please stick up for Cadet Page and speak out against this character assassination. A lot of (presumably Christian) people were ‘sharing’ and ‘liking’ it before it came to my attention. Blake’s letter from the beginning of this post exposes Clymer’s ‘misunderstandings’. A dozen cadets filed official formal complaints in solidarity with Cadet Page, refusing to let this be swept under the carpet. It’s not just one cadet, Clymer. Apologies are most certainly in order. Please be respectful to Charles and any others as you leave your comments. They are very wrong about the facts, but are not evil.

Most atheists aren’t brave enough or otherwise able to speak out by name in the military – and this is perfectly understandable (truly, that is not meant as an indictment to the torrent of anonymous pleas for help that I receive.) Many atheists don’t even have “ATHEIST” on their official records as their religious preference. Some are unaware that it’s even an option and very easy to fix, but some simply are too worried that it will affect their careers to be out of the closet.

The support of Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has been instrumental. Just in case you’re looking for a place to donate.

Cadet Page atheist at West Point CNN

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  • gshelley

    I wonder if he is aware of the irony of smearing Blake in his open letter, calling him a liar then complaining when some commentors are not as civil to people on his side as he wants

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/ Justin Griffith

    Irony is completely lost. Also, I didn’t see anything disrespectful from our side. Plenty of disparaging remarks were allowed through against Page (and atheists in general).

    Charles Clymer Andrew, I just blocked him for making that reference. Yes, my new Atheist friends, I just blocked him for attacking my friend. Feel free to spread that around in other online forums.

    22 minutes ago · Like · 1

    We’re now getting blocked for “personal attacks” calm rational dialog.

  • nohellbelowus

    Most atheists aren’t brave enough (or otherwise able) to speak out by name in the military – and this is perfectly understandable (truly, that is not meant as an indictment to the torrent of anonymous pleas for help that I receive.) Many atheists don’t even have “ATHEIST” on their official records as their religious preference. Some are unaware that it’s even an option and very easy to fix, but some simply are too worried that it will affect their careers to be out of the closet.

    Despite its religious underpinnings, and despite my skepticism (and extended personal experience) regarding the efficacy of their 12-Step Program, Alcoholics Anonymous did get one thing right: their name. Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t have an “Out” campaign either, and for damn good reason, because in my opinion such thinking is naive, and in many cases “coming out” publicly as an atheist can be severely counterproductive to the life and career of a person who blindly exercises this option.

    Blindly? Yes, blindly. There is no reliable, scientific way of assessing the religious “threat environment” in which one exists, particularly with regard to one’s workplace, and despite the rash of well-meaning platitudes that I’ve been offered on this matter nobody will ever convince me that there is. Christians are nothing if not suspicious and irrational, and they are becoming more insecure each and every day about their former “hold” upon society. The religious are closing ranks.

    The public LGBT pride movement, at least from my admittedly ignorant outsider’s perspective, was successful largely because there is tangible, compassionate, and even loving bonding between members of this community. There is real strength. One need look no further than Freethought Blogs for evidence. I am continually amazed whenever I peruse one of the open threads on Pharyngula for instance, at the unshakeable support the regular contributors there will express for each other, even to the point of intellectual absurdity — but is it really absurd to provide strong emotional support for a potential ally, rather than clinging desperately to the emotional vacuum of strict and antiseptic logical rigor?

    Human sexuality is not a choice, unlike the choice of attending church — or not.

    Contrast this with the average atheist community interaction. The well-known “herding cats” analogy seems reasonably accurate, and I often come away from online debates with fellow atheists with the feeling that if I opened my jugular vein with a razor and blogged about it one morning, many of the replies would express concern that perhaps I should have resorted to a rope instead, or perhaps even to employ carbon monoxide because it’s largely odorless, and can be easily generated using an inexpensive bag of charcoal. Others would probably then chime-in about the hazards of charcoal fires, in addition to objecting upon the grounds of contributing to global warming.

    I like to think I’m a tough enough guy. My Dad is ex-Navy, and I played sports, and if the military had been in the cards for me (instead of a Stanford education) I have little doubt I would have been a fine and brave soldier. But jeopardizing one’s job prospects and future sources of income, merely for the sake of expressing public solidarity with a herd of snarling cats, isn’t a trivial matter, and I’ll submit that it may even be foolish in these economically uncertain times.

    Undercover policemen and counter-terrorism spies are not cowards; they serve a purpose and can ultimately be vital in toppling criminal and fascist organizations. I’m adopting this model for my own atheism in the future, because I’ve suffered enough at the hands of unscrupulous Christians for being “out”. I encourage others to do the same. Don’t be a casualty of this “war on religion” if you don’t have to be.

    Of course there are exceptions, but my advice to everyone else: stay under the radar, secure a good job, put aside some of the money, and contribute to atheist causes like the Richard Dawkins Foundation or the FFRF. Actions speak louder than words, and money can be put into action.

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Chris Rodda reports that a Republican strategist rebuked Cadet Blake by saying that if he didn’t want to see Christian activities, he shouldn’t have joined a religious institution like West Point! They live in their own little world.

  • leni

    I think the most galling bit is that a (presumably) Christian believer suddenly needs firsthand visual evidence for the existence of discrimination in order to believe it. Though he’ll believe a man performed miracles and came back from the dead without even so much as eyewitness testimony.

    Selective skepticism, gotta love it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/ Justin Griffith

      Well put.

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