Saturday, April 26, 2008
The Military and Atheism
According to CNN, Army Specialist Jeremy Hall is suing the U.S. for religious discrimination, naming Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the lawsuit. CNN states that "The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, a superior officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists in Iraq. Welborn has denied Hall's allegations."
Hall's case is currently being aided by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. According to the foundation:
All branches of the United States military are afforded the same rights to religious freedom as are American civilians. However, members of the Armed Forces willingly surrender on a temporary basis certain free exercise rights when it impinges on military discipline and the successful completion of a military objective. This guarantee of religious freedom is codified for the Armed Forces in Title 10, United States Code (USC), sections 3073, 3547, 5142, and 8067. Free exercise of religious freedom for military personnel is further detailed in Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 1300.17, “Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services,” which describes the commander’s responsibility to provide for religious accommodation.
I think the gray area in this case is a soldiers "willingly surrender on a temporary basis certain free exercise rights when it impinges on military discipline and the successful completion of a military objective." In other words: military first, religion second.