Pharyngula

Only Christian soldiers allowed

What kind of chickenshit outfit is this? The US military has been sponsoring evangelical Christian events for the troops, basically subjecting our soldiers to religious propaganda. This past fall, they endorsed an event called “Rock the Fort,” in which Christian rock groups, with the support of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, held a large concert on the main parade field of Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. This was clearly a sectarian promotion to a captive audience, and the officers at Fort Bragg knew it. They paid lip service to fair play at the time.

“I have taken steps to ensure that no soldier in my command is pressured in any way to attend this event,” wrote Helmick, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

Helmick also wrote that Bragg would provide the same opportunity to non-Christian religious groups that want to host similar events.

How long do you think it would take for the dishonorable commander to break that promise?

Not long at all. Justin Griffith began organizing another event, Rock Beyond Belief, that would be an equivalent opportunity for non-believers on the base. They went through all of the official protocols, got an excellent lineup of speakers (Richard Dawkins, Roy Zimmerman, Dan Barker, Mikey Weinstein), and watched their proposal get approved all the way up the chain of command…until it reached the garrison commander, who reversed all the previous decisions, cancelled any support, tried to get it moved to a lesser venue, imposed arbitrary demands on atheist speakers (such as requiring official statements of intent) that were not required of the Christians, and effectively shut down the event.

So much for the same opportunity. Apparently religious events that brag about their conversion efforts are privileged over secular events that go out of their way to state that they are not going to try and convert anyone.

The main performers have all expressed their surprise and dismay at the cancellation — all were looking forward to appearing.

This is an outrage, an example of clear discrimination and religious bias. What we need to do is make a noise: write to the people responsible. Demand equal support…and if they won’t do that, demand a complete ban on all future exercises in proselytization of our soldiers. The organizers’ site also has a list of options for civilians and soldiers. Do something!

At the very least, that page has a petition. Sign it! It was at 2200 signatures when I put my name on it, I’d like to see it hit at least 10,000 by the end of this day.

I’m the father of a godless US serviceman. I guess the military is willing to take my son, put him through the risky business of training and the even more dangerous business of possibly shipping him off to a war zone, but if he isn’t an evangelical Christian fanatic, he’s a second-rate citizen. I am not at all confident that they will offer due care for his welfare.

I remember Pat Tillman. This is how the leadership of our military regards our secular soldiers…as worm dirt.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It came as a shock. Halfway through a day of testimony about the Army’s mishandling of the death of Pat Tillman, Tillman’s mother, Mary, shared her outrage at remarks from one Army investigator that Tillman’s family found highly insulting.

MARY TILLMAN, MOTHER OF PAT TILLMAN: He said that we were — we would never be satisfied, because we’re not Christians, and we’re just a pain in the ass, basically. He also said that it must make us feel terrible that Pat is worm dirt.

MCINTYRE: The offending comment was posted on ESPN.com last summer. It suggested the Tillman family’s dissatisfaction with the Army was due in part to a lack of religious faith. And it quoted Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, who conducted the second investigation into Tillman’s death.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) LIEUTENANT COLONEL RALPH KAUZLARICH, U.S. ARMY: Well, if you’re an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what — what is there to go to? Nothing. You’re worm dirt. So, for their son to die for nothing, it’s pretty hard to get your head around that. (END AUDIO CLIP)

That state of mind continues today, it seems.