Another military base, another Nativity Scene – this time in Kentucky.

Another military base, another Nativity Scene – this time in Kentucky. December 20, 2011

Foxhole atheists are taking notice of the rapid changes made at Travis Air Force Base nativity scene, spearheaded by Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings.

Fort Campbell needs to rapidly respond to the atheists that want to put up a holiday display there. Early reports are stating that this was put up today.

This is an absolutely inappropriate place. This is nowhere near a chapel, which is still inappropriate if they refuse to support an atheist group. Travis AFB officials blocked the efforts of the atheist groups initially. But once the press, media, and frankly the internet atheist community rallied – they quickly changed their mind.

It reads like “Welcome to Fort Campbell, where you better love Jesus…”

I just spoke with Chaplain Latrell, the on-call Chaplain. Admittedly, he is too far down on the totem pole to make these decisions. But he didn’t stop himself from letting me know how he felt about atheists.

He stated that “This sign simply says Merry Christmas… why do you want to stop people from saying happy holidays?” (Obviously missing the point about equal representation, and being religiously neutral.)

I demanded that an atheist sign be put up nearby (to be donated by American Atheists). The sign would say “Have a safe holiday season – from the atheists at Fort Campbell”

Chaplain Latrell responded very negatively. He made rude jokes. Such as,

“You guys want a blank sign in my office?”

He also repeatedly exposed the intent of having a token Menorah near the nativity scene. It is simply an excuse to put up their Christian artifacts, in a legally ‘cover your ass’ way.

“You’re attacking Christians…”(I asked him how “Have a safe holiday” attacked Christians.)


“This is a holiday for Christians. Why don’t you guys come up with your own holiday?” (I replied that every day is an important day to an atheist.)

But their strategy doesn’t cover their ass if they aren’t *truly* willing to put up a display from all points of view.

The dust is still settling, and calls are being made behind the scenes. I’ll update you as the story develops.

Jason Torpy, at the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) is responsible for getting the first of these atheists in contact with me. They had seen the American Atheists efforts to get a sign up at Travis Air Force Base, and wanted to pounce locally.

Torpy responded to the situation, “Atheists and humanists service members can’t  be full and equal members of the Fort Campbell team when the post has an official Christian Nativity Scene and Menorah.”

Mikey Weinstein at Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), was the first to champion the Travis Air Force Base situation. He is 100% supportive of the idea that we take the same successful strategy to Fort Campbell.

All of us would like to offer Fort Campbell a chance to get ahead of this story. They need to either remove the display, or at the very least let all the other points of view have an equal level of support.

If officials at Fort Campbell return my phone calls with a positive message and rapid plan in place, a crisis may be averted. The atheists at Fort Campbell would likely be willing to drop the Equal Opportunity objections that officials like Chaplain Latrell, and the garrison itself are racking up.

No military lawyer worth his salt would possibly recommend that the Fort Campbell commanders continue to pursue this. The cat is out of the bag, and it’s time to clean house. Tomorrow morning is their first real chance to correct the situation. More to come.


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  • Foxhole bandsman

    I can’t wait to watch Muslim soldiers want to erect their holiday signs! Good job fellow FT! Let us know if you want/need us up there to help you erect the sign. !!

  • Alan

    >”They need to either remove the display, or at the very least let all the other points of view have an equal level of support.”

    I’d opt for removing the display. Good luck guys.

  • articulett

    Why not secular Christmas decorations like a decorated tree and a snowman? This need to put baby Jesus in public places ought to be embarrassing to Christians. Why not keep such goofy “dolls” on private property where people are “into” that stuff? Why the desperation to shove it into other peoples’ faces? It seems that those responsible for this display are being purposefully bullying and divisive.

    I hope all people of minority religions as well as freethinkers consider demanding equal time and space unless or until Christians understand what the 1st amendment means and quit asking for privileges for themselves that they would not grant to others. (I’d rather like seeing a Buddha in a Santa hat or a festive looking spaghetti monster– but the atheist holiday greeting is great too.)

    I wonder if Christians know when it was “decided” that Jesus birthday should be celebrated on December 25th and why? (It was decided over 300 years after Jesus’ suppose death as a way of overshadowing pagan celebration of Mithras and is not based on anything actually in the bible.) I think Christians really imagine that Jesus was born on that day and that Christians have always celebrated it as they do now. They imagine they own the holiday being clueless as to where most of the customs of the holiday come from– and thus they feel entitled to put their baby Jesus graven images… er, I mean, plastic statues in the public’s face, and insinuate that seasonal celebration is only for those who believe as they do.

    The court has already decided the law on this case– you can put your baby Jesi anywhere you want on private property, but it’s not suitable on public property unless you allow all competing viewpoints a similar forum. The government cannot appear to favor one brand of religion over others nor can it show favoritism to religion over non-religion.

    I’m glad you are fighting this, Justin, and I’m sorry that your superiors are being so dishonest, petty, and bullying. But I guess that,increasingly, this is what Christianity has come to represent in America. Keep us posted!

  • Justin Griffith

    Fort Campbell atheists can get involved in the MASH Fort Campbell facebook page.

    Grace Quiroz runs the group, and she is an awesome person. She’s in contact with me (the military director for American Atheists) for the sign, but she can use all the help she can get.

  • Chris

    >”“This is a holiday for Christians.”

    Clearly someone hasn’t done their Christmas homework.

    Last I checked, this was a holiday for pagans that got hijacked by Christians.

    This conduct seems to be very unbecoming of a Chaplain.

  • N. Nescio

    What a dick. Give ’em hell, man.

  • papango

    This is a holiday for Christians.

    If that’s true, then why are they making everybody else celebrate it. It would be much better to have this near the chapel, just for Christians.

  • FormerlyNavy

    Chris stole my comment. “Christmas” by that particular NAME may be a holiday for Christians, but the time of year itself holds many oft-overlooked “holidays”. Saturnalia, Yule, Kwanzaa -just to name a few. For all we know Satanists have their own December based holiday. I don’t personally know any Satanists, so I can’t give a name for this possibility. But there are so many religions that a broad based, idiotic statement that “this is a Christian holiday” makes me want to SLAP that stupid Chaplain.

  • Again Justin,

    I have to salute you for going at this like a rabid beaver, you is my hero.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Buddha looks CUTE in a Santa hat!

    And the noodley appendages (blessed be their starchy goodness) are superb with tinsel

  • Craig

    If it’s a holiday for Christians, then why the Menorah?

  • cottonnero

    The menorah serves the same purpose as the phrase “Judeo-Christian”: cover.

  • Scott (Ret AF)

    Just a note to add: Those wanting to contact the Leaf Chronicle (media) reps mentioned can email them at:

  • plutosdad

    This is a holiday for Christians. Why don’t you guys come up with your own holiday

    So they flat out claim it’s not secular but specifically a religious holiday, which means ALL government displays are illegal according to their own definition, even Santa Claus.

    Of course people who’ve cracked open a book besides the Bible know that Christmas is not a christian holiday at all, but rooted in paganism and full of pagan imagery, which is why it used to be banned by the Christians even a few centuries ago.

    I have come to the conclusion that people who shout out or display signs saying “keep Christ in Christmas” are not displaying good will toward men but just the opposite, being divisive and hateful and tribal. How can anyone be offended if I, not knowing which religion you are, say “happy holidays” instead? Only a thin skinned angry hatemonger could be. If they want to keep Christ in Christmas, they would do better by trying to emulate his better qualities, and loving their neighbors, loving “sinners”, and reserving their anger for religious authorities who divide and lord their power over others.

  • BdrLen