Are soldiers given the right to practice religion in the manner they choose?

@fiona08 (454)
United States
July 9, 2008 1:44am CST
It is a right they are guaranteed by the first amendment to the constitution, yet Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was deprived of his right. According to an article found on CNN.com, Hall had a nearly perfect record on two tours of duty in Iraq. He had been a practicing Christian, but his beliefs changed somewhere between the two tours of duty. Hall became an atheist, and says his life was threatened by troops. It was apparently serious enough that he was assigned a full time body guard, and later reassigned to a base in the US to finish up his tour of duty. Hall says there is a pattern of discrimination toward non-Christian military personnel. He is suing the US Department of Defense, but is not asking for compensation, just the guarantee of religious freedom in the military. Michael Weinstein, a retired senior Air Force officer, and the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has joined him in the suit. Weinstein claims he has been contacted by more than 8000 military members, most with complaints of being pressured to "embrace evangelical Christianity". How do you feel about this? Do you think the military has become a Christianity promoting organization? If so, do you think it is acceptable? Read the article at www.cnn.com/2008/US/07/08/atheist.soldier/index.html
1 person likes this
5 responses
@Taskr36 (13925)
• United States
9 Jul 08
Why can't some of these morons just live and let live. I really can't imagine a time when I'd feel it necessary to criticize or threaten another person just because he chose not to be Christian. Religion should be everyone's personal choice and not be something that is rammed down someone's throat. The military hiring a bodyguard for him is meaningless if they allow the offending soldiers to continue without reprimand or reassignment. Hiring a bodyguard for one guy isn't going to stop them from harassing other soldiers who don't have bodyguards. I personally do not think the military has become a Christianity promoting organization. I think that there are a few bad seeds in there and there always will be.
2 people like this
@fiona08 (454)
• United States
9 Jul 08
Thank you for your response. You are definitely right about the bodyguard being useless when the abuse is aloud to continue. I hope you are right about there just being a few bad seeds, but from the article I read, some high ranking officials have taken part in Christian promoting organizations within the military. Two groups named, were the Christian Embassy, and the Officers' Christian Fellowship, vie for a "spiritually transformed military." Also this soldier says he was told he didn't get a promotion because he could not put aside his personal beliefs and pray with the troops, which took away from his leadership skills. That is religious discrimination. Sounds like more than a few bad seeds to me.
2 people like this
@Taskr36 (13925)
• United States
9 Jul 08
Well those high ranking officials still have the right to be in those religious groups. Their rights are protected by the constitution as they have the right to assemble and the right to practice whichever faith they wish. They are protected by the same rights that should be protecting the atheist. They just shouldn't be using those groups as a tool to exclude and fail to promote a soldier who does not share their beliefs.
1 person likes this
@fiona08 (454)
• United States
10 Jul 08
Yes, and they shouldn't be filming faith promoting films in uniform, or trying to "spiritually transform the military". They should absolutely practice whatever they wish, personally, but trying to proselytize is against policy.
1 person likes this
@paid2write (5202)
9 Jul 08
I find it amazing that evangelical Christians should join the military. How can anyone who is outraged by homosexuality, atheism and abortion choose to ignore the commandment that says "thou shalt not kill", and what about Christ's teaching of the need for universal love and peace. It seems some people want to pick and choose what they believe in and still call themselves Christian. Everyone should have the right to practice, or not practice, the religion of their choice when they serve their country, and I think they should look into their own hearts and minds before they try to pressurise anyone else into their philosophy or beliefs. Sadly I think it is the same with all nations. The state religion or the religion that is most associated with that nation will be used in military ceremonials, as if any religion can justifies the killing and destruction of other people's lives. All religious belief is based on helping others not killing them.
@fiona08 (454)
• United States
9 Jul 08
I cannot feel critical about Christians joining the military, because we do need people who are willing to defend our country. I see your point though, about picking and choosing which Christian beliefs are important to follow. Christianity, at it's very base, should frown upon bullying someone because of his or her difference in faith (or lack of faith). To go so far in this bullying, that a body guard is needed, certainly seems to be the opposite of Christ-like behavior. Our military should be absolutely unbiased when it comes to religion. A government body should be a secular organization. Thanks for your response.
2 people like this
@Taskr36 (13925)
• United States
9 Jul 08
"Thou shalt not kill" is a commandment with more loopholes than you can imagine. Especially since that very commandment has used different language in different bibles including "Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou shalt not take part in unlawful killing". Since laws vary from one place to another it is quite easy to define military combat as lawful. Aside from that we all know the church has promoted killing many times in our past. Everything from the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to the Salem With Trials.
1 person likes this
@lvaldean (1612)
• United States
10 Jul 08
I read about this and he isn't the only one. I find it amazing that high ranking officers are using their personal beliefs to determine the direction of the military. Where does it end?
@fiona08 (454)
• United States
10 Jul 08
It is frightening to me. This is a perfect example, of why we must insist upon a separation of church and state. (one of many perfect examples. As a school teacher, I see many reasons for keeping it separate.)
• United States
14 Jul 08
I want to start my statement by saying that this is not acceptable, and that the soldiers that harassed Hall should have faced punishments. I'm actually a little surprised, because my husband is Air Force, and I've met very few people on base who are strongly religious. Still, the Army has many differences from the AF so maybe this is one. If you consider that the majority of people joining the military are very conservative politically and religiously, tolerance is not their strong point. hopefully this law suit will lead to changes, but nothing changes quickly in the military (unless it will save money).
@fiona08 (454)
• United States
14 Jul 08
I hope the law suit will bring about changes too. Maybe it will, at the very least, serve as a wake up call to those who have gotten off track with what Christianity teaches. I do believe, tolerance is one of the Christian teachings. It is too bad some Christians are just too darn holy to remember that.
• United States
14 Jul 08
I agree that its seems like many Christians forget things like tolerance and love your enemies. That's why I love the sticker that says "Jesus called, He wants his religion back".
@ElaanR2 (277)
• United States
14 Jul 08
Bias usually takes very subtle forms. It is becoming increasingly clear that although the nation provides for religious freedom, Christians in America keep assuming that the nation is a Christian nation. For example, Obama being branded a Muslim from the beginning is based on the assumption that America is a Christian nation that would never make a Muslim its leader. If you look closely at some of the postings here on mylot concerning religion, you will find that the religious right is often very judgmental towards those who practice other religions or believe in practices that run counter to what some of Christianity's teachings. Here, because of the security provided by technological hide-and-speak, people can voice their biases freely, sprinkling some insults into the bargain. In the community, however, people just look through you as if you don't exist. They avoid you like a plague and tell their children to avoid playing with your children. In the military, it can be very dangerous. Given the level of traumatic experiences and the availability of instruments for human destruction, the manifestation of such bias can move an individual to the point where he would rather serve the interest of the enemy by becoming a danger to members of his company. In the same way that politics has been banned on the field, soldiers on the field must be made to practice their religions privately and desist from religious discussions.
@fiona08 (454)
• United States
14 Jul 08
I agree with you one hundred percent. I have had my own son excluded from a basketball team all his friends were on, because one of his friend's dads was the coach. These were 9 year old boys, at the time, and the friend told my son his dad did not pick him because he did not attend the church they did. The irony there was that I had taken this boy into my home on many occasions, when his parents were working and had locked him out of the house. I guess it was Ok to associate with us heathens, in a crisis, just not out in public. The military is one example where this type of discrimination could be deadly. It should never be tolerated within our military. Maybe this will actually wake some people up.