Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Update on Military Atheism Lawsuit

There are a couple of new developments in the lawsuit filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation against the Pentagon on behalf of an atheist soldier who has experienced harassment in Iraq from Christian superior officers. The first one was certainly predictable; that soldier is now getting threats and even worse treatment from his “brothers” in arms:

On Friday, Mikey Weinstein, the foundation’s founder and president, released to The Associated Press copies of e-mails from Hall in which the soldier said he had been harassed and threatened on blogs with being killed by friendly fire for filing the lawsuit.

Some details:

Hall wrote in a series of e-mails to Weinstein that he feared for his safety after being “hallchecked” — being shoved against the wall in a hallway — by fellow soldiers who objected to his lawsuit. Bloggers on the Internet have also referred to “fragging” Hall, or killing him by friendly fire.

“I hope I am not the victim of a hate crime while I sleep tonight. I do not want to die for my country this way,” wrote Hall, who said a non-commissioned officer was threatening to beat him. “I’m doing my best right now. But I am still afraid that I might be harmed or worse.”

And it sounds like he has good reason to fear:

Some postings on military-related blogs have been critical of Hall, with some people wondering how atheists can claim religious freedom if they practice no sanctioned faith.

One individual, posting under the name “Hidog,” suggested Hall put on an orange vest and carry a sign “Bong hits 4 Allah” through the streets of Iraq, “because apparently, your Bill of Rights trump your CO’s (commanding officer’s) orders.”

Well yes, the bill of rights does trump the orders of a commanding officer when those orders violate the bill of rights. A superior officer does not have the authority to order a soldier to say a prayer, nor does he have the authority to forbid a soldier from forming a discussion group among his peers about atheism any more than he would have the authority to prevent Christians from forming such groups. This is pure Christian supremacy, plain and simple, and it is a clear violation of the Constitution.

The second development is that the original complaint got the name of the Major who broke up Hall’s meeting wrong. Jason Leopold reports:

An Army major who was sued last week for allegedly threatening to retaliate against a soldier, and whom Pentagon officials said could not be located, has been tracked down through his MySpace page.

Freddy J. Welborn was identified in a federal lawsuit filed last week by Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, 22, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog organization. Because his name was mistakenly listed in the complaint as Paul Welborne, the Army said it was unable to locate him.

However, Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said researchers working for his group discovered Welborn’s MySpace page on Sunday morning. Weinstein said the complaint his organization and Hall filed against Welborn, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will be amended and refiled in US District Court in Kansas City, Kansas on Tuesday to reflect Welborn’s proper identity.

I’m going to get a copy of the complaint so I can report on this in more detail.