Chaplain apologized to me for saying “God bless you”

Chaplain apologized to me for saying “God bless you” March 1, 2012

And I wasn’t even offended!

I was running with a few of my soldiers in the morning ‘PT’ session, just before sunrise. Our paths happened to cross and he instinctively said “God bless you” as he passed (or something very similar). I hardly noticed it. I had forgotten about it by the time I received this message.

Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 6:46 PM

To: Griffith, Justin T SGT USARMY (US)

Subject: sorry (UNCLASSIFIED)

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Caveats: NONE

Hi, SGT Griffith!  I just remembered: I am sorry for my greeting the other day during PT.  I did not see you until I had spoken, but didn’t mean any harm.  Chap!


<Name / Rank withheld>

This is my reply:


You just made me smile. Thank you very much. FYI, I get it all the time and don’t take offense. SFC [name withheld] is the best Chaplain’s Assistant I’ve ever met, and even a good friend. He is completely unable to stop himself from saying “God Bless (you / that / it / her etc.)” But it’s obvious to all that he’s using a customary greeting that goes with his territory.

Occasionally when the situation allows, I’ll chime in “Thank you for what you mean by that.” But usually I’m more interested in whatever the rest of the conversation was (even if it’s just salutations).

What I love about your email, though, is that it once again proves my point that Chaplains are already willing and able to support atheists. The vast majority are. Our main problem is with the Chaplaincy as an institution – they are banning all atheist groups on every post. A few weeks ago my local atheist group had a meeting on post anyway (justified through the one-off MWR approved event). 40 of us were shivering out there in the cold, 50 feet away from the (empty) Main Post Chapel. We just want to go inside. We wont burn down the chapels, or eat the neighborhood babies on our way home, you know?

Anyway – I’m going to use your message as a post in the next few days. I always keep these types of things anonymous, so no worries. I love having something positive to write about!


SGT Griffith

I think being an out and unashamed atheist raises people’s awareness like this. The more that speak up, the more that situations like this will play out. This chaplain also happened to play a significant role in the Rock the Fort evangelical festival that spawned the upcoming RBB festival.

We’re talking about extremely evangelical Christians behind that thing. One of those chaplains openly attacked me and the atheist festival quite viciously. But look at the exchange that I’ve had with the chaplain above. I think the situation playing out is already starting to change perceptions. It starts at Fort Bragg on March 31st, and you are all invited.

You can see footage of us shivering in the cold right outside of the empty chapel in this video (starting at 1:35)

(more below the fold)

That footage is a little out of context in the video, but it was a really historic meeting. We finally worked around the crazy ban on meeting on-post. Exactly ZERO churches were burned down. (And it was cold!)

But chaplaincy regulations specifically block us. They ban all groups from meeting anywhere on post that have not yet ‘been approved’. The phrase “dragging their feet” would be quite the understatement. I’ll be breaking the silence on the reason why my packet was denied next week. Mine was the first ever submitted, but many others have now followed suit. None have succeeded, though not all have been denied yet.

You can read all about why we are banned, in detail with all the military jargon explained.

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  • passerby

    I had something similar in Iraq, where we were having a hail/farewell barbecue. One of the Soldiers offered the prayer, which I oped out of, and afterwards he apologized for giving the prayer.

    I told him that it didn’t offend me, and that it’s his right.

    It’s weird to see how people react when you say ‘I’m an atheist’ in conversation. Luckily for me, I’ve had some understanding people to talk to.

  • EngineerDaddy

    Hooah SGT! Army chaplins are some of the greatest service members I’ve ever served with.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Chaplain apologized to me for saying “God bless you”

    But you didn’t sneeze.

  • Sue Kocher

    It WAS friggin’ freezing that day. But nothing energizes like martyrdom. 🙂 Great post, Justin. Rock on.

  • magistramarla

    I’m on the board of the Spouses’ Club where we are stationed, and guess what? We aren’t allowed to meet at most of the buildings on any of our three installations, either! If we try to meet at the club, we have to pay MWR some crazy amounts for room fees and we have to buy food from them – can’t bring in a potluck.

    The two housing areas have beautiful community centers, but they are now owned by Pinnacle, so our club isn’t authorized to use them. The beautiful meeting place on the army installation that we used to be able to meet in has now changed the rules, so we are also “unauthorized” there. We’ve taken to meeting at local restaurants, museums or tourist spots – they are glad to have us!

    It’s pretty ridiculous. The Officers’ Spouses’ Club has a long tradition in the military and we are supposed to be considered an important part of morale, right?

  • grumpyoldfart

    When I read the email, I thought he was just being sarcastic.

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