FORT RILEY, Kan. -- When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending. But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. "People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!" Major Welborn said, according to the statement. Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement. Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall's right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.
So this is what eight years of BushWorld has led us to? A military which fights to protect the rights guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution- as long as that "right" is intolerant, Right-wing Christianity? Silly me; I'd always thought that freedom of speech, expression, and religion meant exactly that- the freedom to believe (or not) as you see fit. Somewhere along the line I must have missed the memo concerning the militant enforcement of everyone's right (and apparent corresponding obligation) to believe in Jesus Christ- or else.
It's not exactly a surprise that our military is an uber-Conservative, ideologically inflexible organization. Military service has always tended to attract those who view the world in black-and-white terms, where right and wrong, as well as good and evil, are juxtaposed in stark contrast to one another. Conservatives, particularly those of a highly religious bent, tend not to deal well with grey areas, and military culture in general abhors grey areas. Even so, until at least the last few years, our military has generally recognized that their role is to support and defend the Constitution- not to dictate to its member what they must of necessity believe.
Specialist Hall's lawsuit is the latest incident to raise questions about the military's religion guidelines. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. In general, the armed forces have regulations, Ms. Lainez said, that respect "the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs."
Silly wabbit.... That may once have been the case, but post-9.11, our nation- and the military that defends it- has become a much less tolerant and ideologically inflexible place. After all, what can you fight militant, hateful radical Islamofascism with...well, militant, hateful, radical Christianity (I'm not certain that "Christofascism" is even a word, but if it is, it would certain fit in well here.).
Once upon a time this really was the land of the free...or at least it felt like it in a way that hasn't been true since 9.11.
And Jesus wept....who says the terrorists haven't won?