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"Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats":

Very troubling, if accurate; the New York Times covers the story, but here are excerpts from the Complaint:

11. On July 31, 2007, plaintiff Hall attempted to conduct and participate in a meeting of individuals who consider themselves atheists, freethinkers, or adherents to non-Christian religions. With permission from an army chaplain, plaintiff Hall posted flyers around COB Speicher announcing the meeting. The meeting attendees included plaintiff Hall, other military personnel and nonmilitary personnel.

12. During the course of the meeting, defendant Welborn confronted the attendees, disrupted the meeting and interfered with the plaintiff Hall's and the other attendees' rights to discuss topics of their interests. During the confrontation, and because of plaintiff's actions in organizing the meeting, defendant Welborn threatened plaintiff Hall with an action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and further threatened to prevent plaintiff Hall's reenlistment in the United States Army....

21. When plaintiff Hall learned that he would be denied an appearance before the promotions board, he sought counseling from Sergeant Van Hise, who informed plaintiff Hall that since he was "under investigation," he was not eligible for an appearance before the promotions board. Sergeant Van Hise stated that plaintiff Hall was unable to put aside his personal convictions and pray with his troops. Sergeant Van Hise believed this to be a constraint on Army morale and would limit plaintiff Hall's ability to bond with his troops. Plaintiff Hall responded that religion is not a requirement of leadership. At this, Sergeant Van Hise questioned how plaintiff Hall could ask for religious freedom when in fact, as an atheist, he has no religion. Plaintiff Hall replied that the United States Army Chaplain's manual protects atheism.

By the way, I do agree that differences in religious belief — or for that matter, racial differences — may indeed impair morale in some measure. But it seems to me that both current military rules and broader American legal principles of racial and religious equality and tolerance should lead the military to try to deal with these morale problems by means other than racial and religious discrimination. So, as I said, if the allegations are accurate, this strikes me as very troubling. Here, by the way, is what the Times story says about the factual dispute:

Major Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, "I'd love to tell my side of the story because it's such a false story."

But Timothy Feary, the other soldier at the [atheist] meeting, said in an e-mail message: "Jeremy [the plaintiff] is telling the truth. I was there and witnessed everything."

I should note that it's not clear that some of the other conduct the lawsuit complains of (see paragraph 26) is unconstitutional (even if the factual account is accurate). For instance, "use of official military e-mail accounts to send e-mails containing religious rhetoric" might, depending on the circumstances, be permissible (for instance, if the message is the sender's own personal views, much as a President or other government official may often properly give a speech including religious rhetoric). But job discrimination against atheist military members, or attempts to break up atheist meetings, should be as improper as job discrimination against Jewish or Christian military members, or attempts to break up Jewish or Christian meetings.

Thanks to Adam Kaplan for the pointer.

ithaqua (mail):

Sergeant Van Hise stated that plaintiff Hall was unable to put aside his personal convictions and pray with his troops. Sergeant Van Hise believed this to be a constraint on Army morale and would limit plaintiff Hall's ability to bond with his troops.

And Sergeant Van Hise was absolutely right. See below.

But job discrimination against atheist military members, or attempts to break up atheist meetings, should be as improper as job discrimination against Jewish or Christian military members, or attempts to break up Jewish or Christian meetings.

But military service is not just a 'job'. Most 'jobs' don't require you to routinely risk your life, and, if necessary, give up your life for your bosses and your co-workers. Seriously, who in your department would you take a bullet for? :)

Some time ago (I'm too lazy to look up the link) we here at Volokh had a long series of discussions about women serving in the military, in which the consensus was, I believe, that even if a few - a very few - female soldiers were physically and emotionally capable of meeting the same requirements as male soldiers, the impact of women on unit cohesion and camaraderie was dangerous enough, given the prevailing expectation that women could not meet those requirements, and given the unique and essential role played by our military, that even those women who could meet the entry requirements should be barred. The military, that is, is a place where any reduction in unit quality literally costs lives; it is not a place for 'equal opportunity' or social engineering.

I would argue that the presence of atheists in the military is vulnerable to that very same argument. Never mind the question of whether an atheist can feel any genuine loyalty to a Christian nation, given that he rejects the core principles on which our nation was built; never mind the unlikelihood that someone who denies an afterlife would sacrifice his own life for any reason, instead of cutting and running like John Kerry; never mind the fact that atheism correlates with all manner of other moral degeneracies - "[Those w]ho changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections [...] Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful..." (Romans 1:25-31) - and so speaks to the moral character of the soldier; the simple fact is that we are a Christian nation with a Christian army, and our soldiers' strength and willingness to sacrifice their lives for the good of the United States and their fellow soldiers comes, in large part, from their Christian faith. An atheist cannot, by definition, share in that faith or that culture; he cannot pray with his troops or empathize with their worries and inmost beliefs; and how can a Christian soldier trust his life to someone who, the Bible makes clear, is hated by God and condemned to Hell? How can a Christian trust the leadership of someone who refuses to be led by God?

I'm sure (some) atheists would be able to serve with distinction in the military, just like some women could. But, again, the army is not a place for social engineering; the answer to prejudice in the military is not to forcibly integrate - with the attendant costs to unit cohesion and morale - and expect them to 'get over it' in situations when their 'getting over it' will cost lives. If (God forbid!) atheism becomes acceptable to the vast majority of the United States' civilian population, then it will be time to permit atheists to serve. Until then, our army is - and should remain - Christian.
4.28.2008 11:04am
bittern (mail):
What could an observant person expect, when posting such things in American military? It's like waving the flag in front of a bull.
4.28.2008 11:07am
Loophole1998 (mail):
Onward, Christian soldiers!
4.28.2008 11:07am
Burt Likko (mail) (www):
The Army's defense is going to have to be a simple denial. If Major Welborn did what the complaint accuses him of doing, the violation is glaringly obvious.
4.28.2008 11:11am
Brian Mac:
I think ithaqua's post qualifies as the most idiotic thing i've ever seen on the internet (and that takes some doing).
4.28.2008 11:14am
Happyshooter:
Why didn't they name the CSM sitting as board president? I know the fact that Freddy is commissioned makes him an easier legal target, but the board president is the one actually blocking the promotion.
4.28.2008 11:23am
byomtov (mail):
"use of official military e-mail accounts to send e-mails containing religious rhetoric" might, depending on the circumstances, be permissible (for instance, if the message is the sender's own personal views, much as a President or other government official may often properly give a speech including religious rhetoric)

I don't know if it's legally permissible or not, but the analogy is a poor one. When the President expresses religious views I can freely ignore or even mock them without fear of repercussions. But a soldier who gets a religious email from superiors is not in the same position.
4.28.2008 11:28am
Adam J:
ithaqua - Are you really trying to use the Bible as authority to why our nation can discriminate against atheists? How can our nation be a Christian nation when the highest law of the nation explicitly prohibits the establishment of a national religion? If you're going to post on a legal blog than you might want your posts to bear some relation to the actual laws of this nation.
4.28.2008 11:30am
Adam J:
Something tells me I'm just feeding the trolls...
4.28.2008 11:31am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Until then, our army is - and should remain - Christian.

Hate to break it to you Ithaqua, but our army is not Christian. In fact the Chaplain has Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and I believe Bhuddist Chaplains.
4.28.2008 11:31am
AnneS:

I would argue that the presence of atheists blacks in the military is vulnerable to that very same argument. Never mind the question of whether an atheist a black person can feel any genuine loyalty to a Christian white, racist nation, given that he rejects the core principles on which our nation was built . . . never mind the fact that atheism being black correlates with all manner of other moral degeneracies - "[Those w]ho changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections [...] Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful..." Romans 1:25-31) (substitute random out of context bible quote used to justify segregation - maybe something about Ham) - and so speaks to the moral character of the soldier; the simple fact is that we are a Christian white, racist nation with a Christian white, racist army, and our soldiers' strength and willingness to sacrifice their lives for the good of the United States and their fellow soldiers comes, in large part, from their Christian faith membership in the white race. An atheist A black person cannot, by definition, share in that faith race or that culture; he cannot pray socialize with his troops or empathize with their worries and inmost beliefs; and how can a Christian black soldier trust his life to someone who, the Bible makes clear, is hated disfavored by God and condemned to Hell subjugation? How can a Christian white man trust the leadership of someone who refuses to be led by God white men?


Also works if you substitute "Jew" for "atheist", or "Catholic" for "atheist" and "Protestant" for "Christian.

Git.
4.28.2008 11:43am
Temp Guest (mail):
One more example of the dangerous disconnect between the values of career military and the (current) political elite in this country. Career military personnel are largely drawn from a population that is mostly evangelical, born-again, and/or fundamentalist Protestant. If you deny these persons the right to express their religious beliefs -- beliefs which require active proseletyzing -- you may end up destroying the military. Even reinstituting the draft will not change the fundamental fact that career military are self-selecting volunteers from a religiouisly distinct US sub-population. By the way, I am not a co-religionist of these people although I do have a deep respect for the beliefs and values that sustain them in a difficult but noble career.
4.28.2008 11:47am
ithaqua (mail):
"12. During the course of the meeting, defendant Welborn confronted the attendees, disrupted the meeting and interfered with the plaintiff Hall's and the other attendees' rights to discuss topics of their interests."

Do soldiers in the US Army have a 'right' to, oh, plot treason? Would a gathering of Muslim soldiers have the 'right' to discuss whether or not the Koran demands they betray America to aid their fellow Muslims, ie, al-Quaeda in Iraq? You give up a certain amount of freedom of speech when you join the Army.

"How can our nation be a Christian nation when the highest law of the nation explicitly prohibits the establishment of a national religion?"

The United States was founded by Christians in accordance with Christian principles. See here. The First Amendment forbids the government from setting up a state religion, or - and liberals tend to ignore this part - 'prohibiting the free exercise' of religion by anyone, including government officials. The free exercise of religion in a Christian supermajority is going to lead to a Christian government, a Christian military, and so on. I'm not saying that atheists should be forced to accept Jesus as their savior, but they are not part of mainstream American society, and this has consequences for their assimilation into our Christian military.

"Hate to break it to you Ithaqua, but our army is not Christian. In fact the Chaplain has Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and I believe Bhuddist Chaplains."

And how about atheist chaplains? :)
4.28.2008 11:48am
Tony Tutins (mail):
I see the misunderstanding here. "There are no atheists in foxholes" was an observation, not a command.
4.28.2008 11:53am
AnneS:
No one has a right to plot treason. Atheists are very much a part of mainstream Christian society. America was most decidedly NOT founded based on Christian principles, your alternative history notwisthstanding. You're not saying they should be forced to accept Jesus as savior, just that they should be punished for not doing so or for not lying about doing so. And judging from the behavior of soldiers (the womanizing, the drinking, the swearing), we absolutely do not have a Christian military in anything but the most cultural sense - most soldiers celebrate Christmas, for instance.

In fact, there is almost nothing you have said that is true.
4.28.2008 11:54am
18 USC 1030 (mail):
I really hope Ithaqua is trying to flame. If not wow. Just wow. But that said, there is, I think, an interesting question about whether being a religious person makes you better, worse, or equally successful as a soldier. Hopefully I don't sound like Ithaqua, but I think this issue could go either way:

In one sense one may say the religious person is better suited to serve in the military. This argument sort of follows the old tale about Stonewall Jackson when he was asked by a soldier if he had fear, and his response was that his death was ordained by god and there was no sense worrying about it. One could possibly argue that makes one a better soldier, if they truly don't fear the possibility of death they would be better suited to fight. It could be argued that the atheist, believing life is all you get, would fear the possibility of death and therefore may not be as suited for military battle.

Of course the opposite could be true: the atheist makes a better soldier because they have more to live for. If they die that's all they get, therefore they'd be more likely to fight for their life. And, they may be in a better position to keep others safe because they would be less likely to lead their men to be slaughtered.

Ultimately I really don't think it matters: personally if I were on the battle field I think I'd care more about whether the man/woman/transsexual/animal/robot/anything else next to me could shoot than whether they believed in the right god, or any god for that matter.
4.28.2008 11:55am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
And how about atheist chaplains? :)

You claimed that the military is Christian, it is not. It has a Chaplain corps that serves the spritual needs of all its members, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. There is no oath to any deity required of military members--only to defend the Constitution of the United States.

It is simply wrong to say that the military is Christian.
4.28.2008 11:55am
AnneS:
"Mainstream Christian society" should obviously be "mainstream American society".
4.28.2008 11:56am
ithaqua (mail):
AnneS: I saw that one coming a mile away :)

In modern America, where racism is dead - except among the Klan, the Nazis and their black counterparts, such as Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright - we look at a fully integrated military and hail Truman's wisdom. But that's because - no matter how liberals like to cheer on Truman's social engineering - society as a whole is no longer racist, not because racism magically disappeared from the Army at Truman's order.

I'd be willing to offer a compromise; perhaps a 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' for atheists? As long as an atheist gives lip service to the devoutly held beliefs of his fellow soldiers, he can serve alongside them without harming morale. How does that sound? :)
4.28.2008 11:57am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Well, I wasn't in the Army, I was Navy. As a Wiccan, I routinely organized services and meetings for pagan and neo-pagan devotees. Occasionally we would have a few christian, agnostic, and/or athiest sailors stop by to listen in and ask questions. Never a big deal, although there was one officer who really didn't like it. After one incident (the only one), I went around him to the ships Engineer, and he was told basically to leave us alone. Interfering with a soldiers' exercise of religion is directly against the UCMJ, and the Major needs prosecuted and discharged.

Happyshooter: I'm not sure, but the way I read the article implies that the Major placed him under investigation, and the promotion board rules made them unable to consider anyone under investigation for anything. As I said, I was Navy, not Army, so I don't know how accurate that is.

JF Thomas, There are even Wiccan and Jainite chaplains, when the base population of those religions warrant them. Where not, all soldiers and sailors have the right under the UCMJ to form their own group with what is called a lay chaplain (which is what I did above) under supervision of the chaplains office. these lay groups are supposed to be free of interference from the command.

Respectfully,
Pol
4.28.2008 12:00pm
AnneS:
Ithaqua - IF you saw it coming, one wonders why you walked right into it. So, by your reasoning, Truman should never have desegregated the military. And Jews shouldn't be let in. Neither should have Catholics, back when most Protestants were prejudiced against them. We should, by your logic, just keep doing the wrong thing because we've always done the wrong thing and it would be too hard for the poor majority to start doing the right thing. One wonders how society would ever change if it followed your wisdom.

Oh, and brilliant solution. Make the atheists lie with their acts. I'm pretty sure there's something in the Bible about that, but I can't quite remember what it was . . . Of course, you'd only use there forced dishonesty as further proof of their dishonor.

Fortunately, even the U.S. military realizes you're wrong, since the allegations, if true, violate the military's own rules.

I stand by my original judgment of you.
4.28.2008 12:03pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Career military personnel are largely drawn from a population that is mostly evangelical, born-again, and/or fundamentalist Protestant.

I don't think this assertion is true. The officer corps is less culturally conservative than portrayed in the media. Although they do tend to be drawn from more conservative parts of the country, I don't think they are necessarily more conservative than the urban populations of large midwestern or southern cities (say Dallas, Kansas City or Atlanta).
4.28.2008 12:04pm
NI:
Ithaqua, how long have you been struggling with your fears that maybe God doesn't exist after all? Nobody who is secure in his beliefs goes to the lengths you do to convince himself.
4.28.2008 12:05pm
SDProsecutor:
A troubling tale, no doubt, but not one that impugns "the military" as a whole. This is an isolated incident whose perpetrators are not unlike the hideous morons of the Army resrve Unit that committed criminal acts at Abu Ghraib. One can only hope that in this case, if this conduct was sanctioned by the chain of command, "the military" will hold that chain of command accountable.
4.28.2008 12:09pm
PLR:
I think ithaqua's post qualifies as the most idiotic thing i've ever seen on the internet (and that takes some doing).

You should read the Kagans more often.
4.28.2008 12:15pm
Brian Mac:
I'm genuinely amazed by ithaqua's comments.


The military, that is, is a place where any reduction in unit quality literally costs lives; it is not a place for 'equal opportunity' or social engineering.

Erm, maybe keeping atheists out of the military would more likely lead to an ever so slight decline in combat capacity, given that you're a little undermanned as things stand?


Never mind the question of whether an atheist can feel any genuine loyalty to a Christian nation, given that he rejects the core principles on which our nation was built

Has it occured to you that someone can adhere to the principles underpinning America's founding, without having to believe in the nomadic accounts/myths from which they were derived?


never mind the unlikelihood that someone who denies an afterlife would sacrifice his own life for any reason, instead of cutting and running like John Kerry

Yeah, go ahead and slander a substantial minority of your serving troops (kind of like John Kerry did, eh?).


never mind the fact that atheism correlates with all manner of other moral degeneracies

From my knowledge of the Catholic clergy, the correlation must be inverse.


how can a Christian soldier trust his life to someone who, the Bible makes clear, is hated by God

Your ignorance of the Constitution appears to be equalled by your ignorance of your own scriptures.


Until then, our army is - and should remain - Christian.

Only in the narrow sense that the majority of soldiers are Christians. Which is about as meaningful as pointing out that it is an army of men with two eyebrows.


Do soldiers in the US Army have a 'right' to, oh, plot treason?

Because that's what they were doing. Really.


In modern America, where racism is dead

It may not be a racist society, but racism isn't dead. You really should get out more.
4.28.2008 12:17pm
bittern (mail):
NI, that's a kind thought, but don't you think ithaqua would be happier moving to some theocratic nation, instead of being confronted by unconstrained free-thinking people on a daily basis? You know, as in America, love it or leave it.
4.28.2008 12:19pm
ithaqua (mail):
"Ithaqua - IF you saw it coming, one wonders why you walked right into it."

Can't be helped. You liberals love to play the race card.

For what it's worth, I reject racial discrimination of all kinds (although I also reject the government's attempts to limit freedom of association in the name of racial equality); but if you can't see the difference between judging someone for their skin color and judging someone for their beliefs (or lack thereof), that's your problem.
4.28.2008 12:23pm
Brian Mac:

but if you can't see the difference between judging someone for their skin color and judging someone for their beliefs (or lack thereof), that's your problem.

And if you can't see the difference between judging someone on the basis of their religious beliefs, and judging someone on the basis of their behaviour, then that's your problem.
4.28.2008 12:29pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Also works if you substitute "Jew" for "atheist", or "Catholic" for "atheist" and "Protestant" for "Christian.

Don't forget gays and women.

Seriously, this should remind a lot of people that a lot of these debates about whether the military should insist on unit cohesion uber alles or should work to integrate diverse personnel turn on whose ox is being gored.

To put another way, I am sure that if a particular unit, say in the special forces, had a critical mass of atheists and agnostics who complained about a couple of evangelical Christians in their mix and how the evangelizing was harming unit cohesion, that suddenly the same people who have no problem coming down on atheists would talk about the military's anti-Christian bias.
4.28.2008 12:30pm
AnneS:
I shouldn't, but I'll bite. Even if there is a difference in the BASIS for the discrimination, there is absolutely no difference in the arguments used to justify it. They fall into three categories: (1) Superstitious mumbo-jumbo (atheists are less trustworthy because they don't believe in life after death, blacks and whites should be separate because God declared it so, Jews are untrustworthy because they killed Jesus, etc.); (2) Lies (see all of the above, plus blacks and atheists engage in more immoral behavior than whites/Christians, Jews are greedy liars, and and the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation based on Christian principles); and (3) False, condescending "pragmatism" (the poor, prejudiced majority just isn't capable of tolerating the presence of blacks/atheists/Jews/lefthanded people).

If you can't see how all these are the same, that is not only your problem, but it proves that you are, in fact, a git.
4.28.2008 12:32pm
Dave N (mail):
I read the complaint and from what I got out of it is this (viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party in a hypothetical motion to dismiss on the pleadings):

Major Welborn interfered with and disrupted an atheist meeting Specialist Hall organized in Iraq. Subsequently, at Ft. Riley, Kansas, Hall took pictures of an Ann Coulter poster with an anti-Islamist message on it and sent it various news organizations(the relevancy of this to the complaint escapes me). Hall was denied the opportunity to appear before a promotion board.

The only remedy he seeks is an opportunity to go before a promotions board.

I find several things interesting:

1) The military chaplain did exactly what he was supposed to do--and there are no allegations to the contrary. Hall asked for a room to use for an atheist service (whatever that might entail) and he was provided it. Additionally, Hall makes no allegation that his ability to promote his meeting was in any way interfered with by military officials in Iraq.

2) His lawsuit provides two other examples of what he claims were discriminatory acts in Iraq, a Thanksgiving dinner where some NCO was upset and a prayer right before a military operation. However, Hall makes no allegation that there were any repurcussions as a result of either purported discriminatory acts.

3) There is a certain "cut and paste" element to this lawsuit. Could there be an airman with a similar complaint? I ask because paragraphs 26(g), 26(h), and 27 all have a distinct Air Force ring and Hall is a member of the United States Army.

I can only guess that paragraph 26 is included to provide evidence of a pattern--though none of it is evidence of a pattern to discriminate against atheists at the time of promotion board.

4) Given the remedy sought, is Major Welborn truly a necessary party--and is there any nexus between Major Welborn's conduct and the denial of promotion?

5) Without knowing more, could the Coulter incident, particularly if it resulted in a memo from the base commander (the contents of which were not provided), be the reason Hall's promotion board was cancelled?

By the way, were I judge, I would probably dismiss this case at whatever stage such a motion is brought unless a nexus between Major Welborn's conduct and the denial of a promotion opportunity is at least alleged.

This seems like a great "lawsuit" to try in the New York Times. A court of law, not so much.
4.28.2008 12:32pm
AnneS:
Oh, Dilan, let's not give him more fodder for a different variety of unit cohesion arguments.

And everyone knows that men who have sex with men make terrible soldiers. Look at the Spartans.
4.28.2008 12:35pm
Philosopher:
I guess Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferon forgot to get the memo that we're a "a Christian nation with a Christian army." It's comforting to know that Ithaqua would consider Jefferon a moral degenerate and unfit to serve in the army (much less be President!).
4.28.2008 12:40pm
Dave N (mail):
Oh, and given the remedy sought (appearance before the promotion board and no retaliation to Specialist Hall), I would rule that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation lacks standing.
4.28.2008 12:43pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Gen. Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the USMC (1936-43) argued that racially integrating the USMC during wartime would be bad for command, bad for morale, and bad for the troops. It would be especially bad for the Black Marines put into the Corps at a time when racial attitudes disfavored that move. He predicted that Blacks would be killed by their fellow Marines.

FDR told him to go ahead and integrate, that the price was one that had to be paid for the greater good of the country.

So he did integrate the Corps., African-American Marines were killed by their fellow soldiers, and eventually the Corps learned to live with it. Holcomb also integrated the Marine Corps by opening it up to women. Upon retirement, Holcomb received his fourth star, the first for a Marine. I guess he was forgiven for his hesitation.

His papers, discussing integration and other matters, are available at the USMC Museum at Quantico, if anyone's interested.

[Disclosure: Gen. Holcomb was my wife's grandfather]
4.28.2008 12:43pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

This argument sort of follows the old tale about Stonewall Jackson when he was asked by a soldier if he had fear, and his response was that his death was ordained by god and there was no sense worrying about it. One could possibly argue that makes one a better soldier, if they truly don't fear the possibility of death they would be better suited to fight.


Bravery is the mastery of fear, not the absence of it. Fear is a necessary survival trait, and soldiers who don't feel it are likely to take unwarranted risks that get people killed. I'd rather have the military full of people who value their lives and look for ways to kill the enemy while minimizing the risk to themselves.
4.28.2008 12:48pm
John Apple (mail):
Notwithstanding the contents of the complaint, the facts of this case are not really known, and won't be known until the investigation, and if there is one, the trial or court-martial has been completed. Being impatient and arguing the merits before then can only lead to a situation wherein emotions overrule reason.

Within the last 10-15 years, there has been an increasing tendency of some minorities* to use the distorting effect of modern media to create an impression of influence or concern all out of proportion to their actual size. Bluntly, this is dishonest, and leads one to question the veracity of everything they say.

To the point, common sense would suggest that an Army Major with probably more than 10 years of service, who is confronting a junior enlisted man still on his first enlistment, would not be so misinformed or stupid as to mishandle a religious issue such as this one. It's more likely that Hall will turn out like a new Scott Beauchamp.

Further, in military terms, there is a real discipline and order concern when you have junior enlisted men holding any type of meeting without either an NCO or an officer being present, AND IN CHARGE. These types of meetings could lead to mutinous situations or discipline problems, and can be a real morale (eg. fighting effectiveness) concern. This is especially true in areas where the military is either facing combat or has an imminent possibility of combat.

This is a classic red-herring, and I think this complaint was designed primarily for consumption here in the States for political reasons. The Army is not really concerned with the religiousness of its soldiers, but it is highly concerned with their military effectiveness. The military in general is one giant don't-ask-don't-tell organization, and unless the Army perceived some discipline and order problem, it is doubtful anyone would have worried about this meeting or even noticied it.

John
4.28.2008 12:53pm
ithaqua (mail):
"So he did integrate the Corps., African-American Marines were killed by their fellow soldiers, and eventually the Corps learned to live with it."

Exactly my point. Forced integration, before society is ready for it, costs lives.

Dave N: so this "soldier" tried to smear his fellow soldiers as anti-Muslim fanatics in the press, giving aid and comfort to our Muslim enemies, and now wants to blame his atheism for his lack of promotion? Heh. If military regs allow it, I expect an amicus curiae brief from the ACLU in this guy's favor any day now.

"And everyone knows that men who have sex with men make terrible soldiers. Look at the Spartans."

Be serious. There wasn't the slightest implication of homoeroticism in "300" :)

"It's comforting to know that Ithaqua would consider Jefferon a moral degenerate and unfit to serve in the army (much less be President!)."

There are many Presidents I consider unfit to have been President. But yes, someone who took a razor to the Bible and excised the Resurrection goes pretty high on that list.
4.28.2008 12:53pm
Ben P (mail):

There is a certain "cut and paste" element to this lawsuit. Could there be an airman with a similar complaint? I ask because paragraphs 26(g), 26(h), and 27 all have a distinct Air Force ring and Hall is a member of the United States Army.


I think this is explainable in his counsel/supporting group.

From the Article.

"Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group...."


"But Mikey Weinstein, a retired Air Force judge advocate general and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said the official statistics masked the great number of those who do not report violations for fear of retribution. Since the Air Force Academy scandal began in 2004,"

If Weinstein wrote or at least influenced the writing of the complaint it would account for an "air force ring" to it.
4.28.2008 1:02pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
REALLY!? The drafter of the Declaration of Independence and through the Virgina Constitution, a major influence on the drafting of the Bill of Rights was unfit to be president? REALLY!? Are you serious? I think if anyone knew the basis of this country, it'd be Jefferson and his fellow citizens...not you. Most of the framers were deists--not Christians. You sir, have no idea what you are talking about and it is people like you that do damage to the Constitutional Principles by which we all live--not some atheist dude that wants to exercise his Constitutional Right to practice no religion.
4.28.2008 1:04pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

never mind the unlikelihood that someone who denies an afterlife would sacrifice his own life for any reason,


I'll go on record saying that as a Marine, I have no intention of sacrificing my life at any time for anyone. My intention is to accomplish the mission, which might entail killing others and might entail some risk to myself, but I am not going to intend to sacrifice myself at any time. Even if the risks are virtually certain that I die, I will still not intentionally die while accomplishing the mission. Suicide sucks. I'll hang on to that last 0.1% chance of living as long as I can and continue the fight.

As a Marine who has been in combat operations in Al Anbar, I can assure you that there are plenty of people who are of all types of religious, unreligious, atheist, or uninterested ideologies. The religious ones tend to talk about their beliefs more, and thus assume others agree with them (out of politeness) but there is certainly NOT a requirement to be religious, let alone christian.

As an atheist, I do not object to expressions of religious belief from my Marines or from my commanders. The majority share these beliefs to some degree, and I'm not about to deny them whatever it takes to make them more effective killers. On the other hand, while I don't break ranks in formations that offer generic prayers, I do not bow my head or in any other way indicate agreement with such silliness.

Finally, atheists do not need to have meetings. Atheists do not have doctrine or teachings to discuss.

It seems to me that this young soldier was trying to be a rabble rouser for some reason. You can always find an excuse to pick a fight in court. You can also just live and let live.

But all that being said, it's quite possible that some overly zealous officer of the fanatical religious type honestly believed that he had a right to stop an "atheist meeting." He might have tried to use other excuses to disrupt the meeting, at least ex post facto. There are all types in the military, even people like Ithaqua who think that others are required to share their own beliefs.

This lawsuit is uninteresting because if it has merit the results are obvious. Whether it has merit is too petty an issue to be interesting as law.
4.28.2008 1:05pm
Ben P (mail):

Finally, atheists do not need to have meetings. Atheists do not have doctrine or teachings to discuss.


So there's no purpose for any religious meeting besides "discussing doctrine" or "teaching?"

Funny, I always thought "fellowship" counted for something.

But, in any case, I do see your point. The newspaper article is unclear on that point, but if he was actually doing something that might be considered disruptive by an objective observer, that should be taken into account when evaluating the officer's actions.
4.28.2008 1:14pm
Dave N (mail):
I should note that while I posted above that I would likely grant a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment against Specialist Hall, do not construe that as endorsement of Major Welborn's conduct.

If Major Welborn did as Specialist Hall alleges, then Major Welborn should be subject to discipline of some kind for his conduct.
4.28.2008 1:20pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
After years of meticulous study, I wouldn't say most of the framers weren't Christians but deists. However, ithaqua's link grossly misunderstands America's Founding. The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli accurately notes the US government is in no sense founded on the Christian religion. The Founders wanted to take such sectarian disputes out of politics and the American government could not be understood as a "Christian" entity and be free from such.

From my study of GW and the chaplaincy, he was very accomodating of the people's religion and took notice of "Christian" soldiers (if all of his soldiers happened to identify as Christian); but nonetheless believed respecting the rights of all regardless of religion, and wanted to make sure soldiers had chaplains of their denomination.

But the bottom line is America's Founders didn't believe they were Founding the nation or the Army for "Christians" and not others. If they believe this, you'd have to define Christianity. And if such defines according to its Trinitarian orthodoxy (a good case can be made, that's the proper way to understand the Christian religion), then not just Jefferson, but Washington, Adams, Madison, Franklin, and others would NOT qualify as Christians. They didn't want government having to decide such issues of heresy which inevitably occurs when you say such things as the nation/government/military is for Christians and not others.
4.28.2008 1:24pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

So there's no purpose for any religious meeting besides "discussing doctrine" or "teaching?"

Strictly speaking, you're correct. But let's be realistic. When do atheists have meetings? Who has time to be organizing meetings like this? It seems to me much more likely that the young man was reacting to overt religious statements made by his officer and wanted to be rebellious. He's probably just immature and he's made a big thing out of a little thing and got bit, wrongly or justly.

But we don't know. I've seen all sorts of things in the Marines, and you can expect the best of people or the worst of people and you've got a chance of getting what you expect. Thankfully, there's a lot more good than bad people, but in any organization of that size you will always have some bad.

This is fodder for talk radio, and that's about it. It won't amount to much of anything.
4.28.2008 1:25pm
e:
I'm a non-believer and former naval officer. Never had a problem, though I was somewhat disturbed on discovering that one of my pilots was a creationist. I don't think that faith has to conflict with science, but the denial of scientific principles and evidence makes me question technical capacity in troubleshooting and emergency procedures.


I'm not sure why atheists would need to meet as such, or couldn't simply frame it as a secular philosophy and morality discussion. For those who think that non-religion should be given equivalent protection and the chaplain corps should include atheists, I suggest a constitutional amendment. Equating atheism with religion is part of the reason I'm hesitant to call myself atheist. It is sometimes annoying to hear people discuss god(s) as fact, but most of us atheists don't have a great problem with the faith of others. Yes we have to endure the frequent social references, but there are lots of other unsavory cultural references. We simply don't need or can't share that same faith.
4.28.2008 1:27pm
c.gray (mail):

FDR told him to go ahead and integrate, that the price was one that had to be paid for the greater good of the country.

So he did integrate the Corps., African-American Marines were killed by their fellow soldiers, and eventually the Corps learned to live with it.


The USMC was not integrated until the Korean war, by which time Holcomb had retired and FDR was dead. The process was begun by Clifton B. Cates, who had defended segregation in the corps when he began his term, but changed course when the Marine combat units faced serious manpower shortages during the Korean War. Both Cates and his successor (Shepard) repeatedly claimed that integration of combat units took place without incident.

If you actually know of a specific case where a marine was murdered by his comrades because of his skin color, you should report it to the Navy JAG.
4.28.2008 1:43pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
There are many Presidents I consider unfit to have been President. But yes, someone who took a razor to the Bible and excised the Resurrection goes pretty high on that list.

This seems to imply that one must be a good Christian to be a good President. I know many conservative Christians who don't believe this. Out of curiousity I might want to know why. I've read Adams' writings on religion in detail and know he was just as bad as Jefferson in denying the fundamentals of Christianity (his Federalist clergy supporters who railed against Jefferson's "infidelity" were apparently clueless on this). Right there you've got the 2nd &3rd Presidents -- 12 key years of American Founding era -- lead by heretics.

I also believe GW and JM were, like TJ and JA, not orthodox Trinitarian Christians (thus arguably not real Christians at all), but their writings lack the smoking gun quotations like the following from John Adams:

"An incarnate God!!! An eternal, self-existent, omnipresent omniscient Author of this stupendous Universe, suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has stupified the Christian World. It has been the Source of almost all of the Corruptions of Christianity."

-- John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816

"If I understand the Doctrine, it is, that if God the first second or third or all three together are united with or in a Man, the whole Animal becomes a God and his Mother is the Mother of God.

"It grieves me: it shocks me to write in this stile upon a subject the most adorable that any finite Intelligence can contemplate or embrace: but if ever Mankind are to be superior to the Brutes, sacerdotal Impostures must be exposed."

-- John Adams to Francis van der Kemp, October 23, 1816.
4.28.2008 1:48pm
musefree (www):
I think that we shouldn't forget the other instances of harassment that took place before the alleged meeting breakup. From the CNN report:


Known as "the atheist guy," Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and -- just as severe to some soldiers -- gay, none of which, he says, is true.


In an environment of harassment and discrimination, where the pressure to believe in God was so strong that that Hall was ashamed to say he was an atheiest and only 'came out' about it when questioned, it is not too surprising that he tried to hold a meeting with like-minded people. Nothing suggests there was any element of rebellion in that meeting.
4.28.2008 1:55pm
Ben P (mail):

I also believe GW and JM were, like TJ and JA, not orthodox Trinitarian Christians (thus arguably not real Christians at all), but their writings lack the smoking gun quotations like the following from John Adams:


Such quotes excepted, If you look at the picture as a whole, I think you generally can come to the conclusion that the practice of religion in the 1780's wasn't terribly different from religion today. A lot of people are what you might call "socially religious." They may or may not have had any deep commitments to religion, but they were members of a church because it was the expected thing, and it's easier to go along with it rather than speak out against it.

An individual who was as outspoken as Jefferson or Adams was the exception, but that doesn't mean there were only the outspoken deists and everyone else was "deeply religious."
4.28.2008 2:03pm
musefree (www):
“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 Hall's sworn testimony.

(Source: NY Times)

From most of the reports, it seems Hall did nothing more than 'live and let live' that someone advocated he should have. As mentioned, he 'came out' only when he was explicitly asked if he believed in God. If the reports are true, Major Welborn is just as offensive and ignorant as ithaqua above. I would trust neither of them in any position of authority.
4.28.2008 2:15pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

Nothing suggests there was any element of rebellion in that meeting.

Like I said, you get all kinds of good people and bad people in the military. If this guy ran into some bad officers and a bad outfit, he'll win. Or should win, there are bad courts, too.

But the legal issue is too simple to be interesting. No one with an ounce of objectivity in the matter would side with a command that condones punishing someone for his religious, or lack of religious beliefs. That it has gotten as far as it has can only be because something else is alleged that we're not hearing about.

There are certainly bad commands out there, I've seen them (on other issues) and they can be horrible to be in. But in the end, they get dealt with, and the military marches on. They may prevail or not, but they certainly do not set precedent or the standard. Even if all this soldier's allegations are true, this is the type of thing that will likely be swept under a rug. The major and others involved would be quietly punished, the soldier quietly pushed out someplace, without a promotion, and that's that.

When you have people getting killed and maimed, some sad sack's career seems petty. Even if he was wronged, he handled the whole thing poorly and this alone should reflect on his potential as a leader and his prospects for promotion.

Unit cohesiveness is all important. Sometimes the individual has to learn to keep his stupid mouth shut and not draw attention to himself. Not that his treatment was deserved, or that the commanders shouldn't be also punished, but I have little pity for his plight.
4.28.2008 2:17pm
Reb Yudel (mail) (www):
Regarding need for Atheist meetings -- check out this New York magazine article on the topic.
4.28.2008 2:30pm
John Apple (mail):
The issue of belief or non-belief is a personal one, and it seems to me that aethists/theists would be respectful of other people's choices, if only because they want other people to respect their choices. But some of the comments in this thread really seem over-wrought.

It always amazes me how defensive aethists/theists can get about these things, seeing apparent threats of religious coercion around every corner and in every situation. Maybe it is a product of perceiving themselves as an endangered minority, or maybe it is that they seeking outwardly something that they know can only be answered inwardly, i.e. within themselves.

From the German mystical poet Angelus Silesius: "The abyss in me calls out to the abyss in God. Tell me, which is deeper?"

John
4.28.2008 2:32pm
Carl Henderson (mail):
You all are being trolled. The giveaway is the initial poster's handle--ithaqua. Ithaqua is a name for one of the Great Old Ones (demonic entities of vast power) from Cthulhu Mythos.

Wikipedia on the fictional Ithaqua:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ithaqua

"Ithaqua is one of the Great Old Ones and appears as a horrifying giant with a roughly human shape and glowing red eyes. He has been reported from as far north as the Arctic to the Sub-Arctic, where Native Americans first encountered him. He is believed to prowl the Arctic waste, hunting down unwary travelers and slaying them gruesomely."

I seriously doubt someone who was truly such a devout Christian would be posting under such a name.
4.28.2008 2:32pm
Public_Defender (mail):

I would argue that the presence of atheists in the military is vulnerable to that very same argument. Never mind the question of whether an atheist can feel any genuine loyalty to a Christian nation, given that he rejects the core principles on which our nation was built; never mind the unlikelihood that someone who denies an afterlife would sacrifice his own life for any reason, instead of cutting and running like John Kerry; never mind the fact that atheism correlates with all manner of other moral degeneracies - [. . . ad nauseam]

People who join the military are entitled to strong religious beliefs, but any serviceman who can't work and fight with atheists is unworthy of the uniform.
4.28.2008 2:33pm
Mikeyes (mail):
Further, in military terms, there is a real discipline and order concern when you have junior enlisted men holding any type of meeting without either an NCO or an officer being present, AND IN CHARGE. These types of meetings could lead to mutinous situations or discipline problems, and can be a real morale (eg. fighting effectiveness) concern. This is especially true in areas where the military is either facing combat or has an imminent possibility of combat.


Does this include the base model airplane club or the enlisted club? While it is likely that the first will have an NCO present, when I was in the service these organizations did not mandate the presence of an NCO or Officer. We were in the midst of a war at that time too.
4.28.2008 2:36pm
Aaryn Laperle:
to anyone who cares, here is the legal authority stating the US is NOT a christian nation. Its in a treaty (The Treaty of Tripoli, i believe) ratified by the 5th Congress in 1797.

ARTICLE 11

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,4 - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, - and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
4.28.2008 2:40pm
bpuharic (mail):
Ithaqua is a great argument for why Christianist values are wrong for America and wrong for the military.

Our nation was not founded by Christians. Many FF's were Christians. Some, like Paine, Franklin and Jefferson, were not. If America were a Christian nation, our constitution would reflect that in law. It does not, so, as a matter of law, Ithaqua is wrong.

But there is a deeper aspect to his argument. His obvious hatred and bigotry against atheists (calling atheism 'immoral' and 'degenerate'), proves that his philosophy is plainly at odds with traditional American values as stated in the constitution.

Pat Tillman was an atheist. That alone is enough to render his argument ridiculous. But his position, apart from being insanely bigoted and hate filled, is wrong on its face.

His attitude is exactly what I've learned to expect from so many Christianists who, like their Islamist co-believers, think that religion is a license to oppress anyone who disagrees with them. We don't need Saudi Arabia in America.
4.28.2008 2:45pm
Dave N (mail):
Musefree,

Not a single allegation in the CNN report (at least the part you quote) made it into his complaint, even though he did have a section where he made allegations of other activity that he found objectionable.
4.28.2008 2:49pm
John Apple (mail):
Mikeyes,

You took the post too literally. Both of the activities you mentioned had command sponsorship. The post referred to activities that give the commanders a reason for concern, which is obviously, highly subjective. In the case of this complaint, it is unknown what the background circumstances were, but, the military being what it is, you have to give deferrence to the senior member first. As someone mentioned, the Major may well have been wrong, but that's not the smart bet in this case.

John
4.28.2008 2:54pm
Ray Ingles (mail) (www):
The Treaty of Tripoli isn't really a great argument for the notion that the U.S. wasn't founded on Christian principles. A much better argument is to look at the actual principles themselves. I saw this on Usenet long ago, and I've never seen a good answer for it:

The_Doge's Christian Nation Challenge!

(So far completely ignored)

The challenge is simple, really; provide the Biblical passages from which the following essential aspects of the American legal/governmental system have been derived:

* Government by officials elected by the governed (republican democracy)
* Separation of powers (executive, legislative, judicial)
* Trial by a jury of one's peers
* Presumption of innocence
* Freedom from cruel or unusual punishment
* Freedom from involuntary self-incrimination
* Freedom of speech and assembly
* Prohibition of the establishment of religion (could be a toughie!)
* Right to keep and bear arms (or establishment of a militia; take your pick)
* The concept (embodied in both the DOI and Constitution) that the power to govern resides with the governed and is granted by them to elected officials

Secular and historical models and sources for all of these are available, some of them pre-dating your religion. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to come up with Biblical ones that are at least as clear. Without them, claims that the American system of government is based on the Bible are unsupported, no matter how many quotes you post demonstrating this or that founder's belief in a God of some sort and no matter how much idolatry you insist on practicing on public land.

Well?
4.28.2008 2:55pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
"Does the soldier follow orders in a swift and competent manner?" is the only question worth asking, regarding the effect of religious beliefs on service.

If Christians won't treat atheists like fellow soldiers should be treated (especially when ordered to do so) then it is the Christians that should be thrown in the brig and out of the army. Period.
4.28.2008 2:59pm
Roscoe B. Means:
"12. During the course of the meeting, defendant Welborn confronted the attendees, disrupted the meeting and interfered with the plaintiff Hall's and the other attendees' rights to discuss topics of their interests. During the confrontation, and because of plaintiff's actions in organizing the meeting, defendant Welborn threatened plaintiff Hall with an action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and further threatened to prevent plaintiff Hall's reenlistment in the United States Army."

That sounds to me like the typical, plaintiff-slanted description of a First Amendment exercise by the Major. The words "confronted," disrupted," interfered," and "threatened," all have sinister connotations, but they don't necessarily convey an objective image. It sounds like there was an advertised, open meeting, the Major accepted the invite, and he said some things that the plaintiff and maybe some others did not like. The paragraph pointedly omits the slightest mention of any reaction or lack thereof by others in attendance. I don't have any difficulty presuming that there was a reaction that could provoke a caution that certain anticipated misbehavior could lead to a grant of due process under the UCMJ. I note also that there is nothing in the complaint to show that the Major followed through in any way with the supposed "threats."

Unfortunately, I've tried a couple of such cases, and getting a judge to recognize that anyone other than the plaintiff has First Amendment rights is virtually impossible. The rule seems to be that "First Amendment" refers to the first to file suit.
4.28.2008 3:03pm
Dave N (mail):
Bpuharic,

Using a term like "Christianist" (boy aren't you clever that you can pirate a phrase from Andrew Sullivan!) certainly detracts from your argument. It is much like Republicans who sound like morons every time they refer to the "Democrat Party."
4.28.2008 3:05pm
Philosopher:
I applaud ithaqua for being honest enough to admit that, by his standards, Thomas Jefferson is unfit to be President. I suppose John Kerry shouldn't feel bad about being called "unfit" by ithaqua, given the company he's in.
4.28.2008 3:09pm
lesser ajax (mail):
Isn't this guy going to run into several problems with respect to claim about the meeting?

-The complaint says Bivens. Isn't Chappell v. Wallace going to be a problem? My recollection is that a suit by a subordinate against a superior based on conduct in a combat zone exactly the kind of thing that the Chappell court was trying to keep out of the courts...

-Also, isn't Goldman v. Weinberger problematic here? I mean, that Court basically said that any restriction by the military on religious activity was permissible as long as a weak and generalized justification was available (uniformity, etc). Of course, that was a regulation and this was apparently the individual discretion of the Major, but it seems similar all the same...
4.28.2008 3:26pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
America's Founders, when they didn't mind so much a connection between church and state, sought to extract from religion what was "reasonable," i.e., what would support republican government, and ignored or dismissed the rest.

This it seems to me is NOT a genuine "Christian principle," and could lead to all sorts of prostituting of the Christian religion. A number of notable orthodox theologians well-understand just how un-Christian America's origins were in this respect.

For instance, John MacArthur, one of the most distinguished, well respected biblical scholars of the "fundamentalist/evangelical" school, and like ithaqua, pulls no punches. However, he better understands America's political-theological problem. Here he is on Romans 13 and the War for America's Independence<:


To some people, evangelical Christianity was a proper justification for the American Revolution. They believe we had every right to load up our guns and kill Englishmen for the sake of our religious freedom. There are some Christians I know personally who refuse to pay their taxes because they believe that their freedoms are being violated. The truth is, the United States was born out of a violation of Romans 13:1-7 in the name of Christian freedom. That doesn't mean God won't overrule such violations and bring about good, which He did in this case, but that end doesn't justify the means.


America's Declaration of Independence, though theistic, is not at all a Christian document and doesn't even purport to be.
4.28.2008 3:33pm
oddjob (mail):
The Treaty of Tripoli isn't really a great argument for the notion that the U.S. wasn't founded on Christian principles.

Perhaps not, but that the statement cited upthread (later removed once it was recognized not to have been a part of the actual negotiated treaty wording) was unanimously assented to by the Senate during its ratification of the treaty rebukes ithaqua's ignorance of American history in the loudest terms I can think of. To assert the country was founded as a Christian country is simply to lie.

Those are the facts.

There is an enormous difference between a country of mostly Christians and a Christian country. That ithaqua and his/her ilk don't grasp this is as large a threat to our country's future as I can imagine. Such ignorance in the hands of those skilled in the manipulation of the ignorant is the ignorance that leads to tyranny.
4.28.2008 3:35pm
Ed in Reston (mail):
The idea that being a Christian helps one be a better soldier and patriot is simply ridiculous. These same Christian "patriots" were the main contingent who voted in George W Bush, the dunce who got us into this disaster in Iraq....
4.28.2008 3:51pm
EH (mail):
If you deny these persons the right to express their religious beliefs -- beliefs which require active proseletyzing -- you may end up destroying the military.

It's tough but fair.
4.28.2008 3:55pm
bittern (mail):
Ray Ingles posts an excellent challenge above, which he calls "The_Doge's Christian Nation Challenge!" Love to see an answer.

Carl Henderson calls ithaqua a fake. There's a lot of effort on the line. Is it true?

Dave N, Bpuharic is using a term coined by someone other than himself. Glad you caught him for plagiarizing a word! He didn't use the word "Christian" because he meant something different. Gracious sakes, he's not just a plagiarist, but a word-discriminator!
4.28.2008 4:03pm
So What (mail):
I applaud ithaqua and his supporters. Of course, I believe their positions read better in their original posts in The Al Qaida Daily.

The Al Qaida Daily, where the motto remains: All Government According to Deity.

What's really the difference between ithaqua, the strictest Wahabi Sunni Muslim, and anyone in the Settler Movement? All believe in extremist Conservative government according to deity.
4.28.2008 4:03pm
SenatorX (mail):
Puke.
4.28.2008 4:13pm
c.gray (mail):

What's really the difference between ithaqua, the strictest Wahabi Sunni Muslim, and anyone in the Settler Movement?



The difference is that Wahabi's and Settlers really believe something, for better or worse, while ithaqua is most likely a troll yanking your chain.
4.28.2008 4:19pm
Dave N (mail):
Bittern,

My criticism of the word "Christianist" has less to do with its origin than its deliberate offensiveness--thus my comparison with the use of the term "Democrat Party."
4.28.2008 4:23pm
Morat20 (mail):
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the current problems at the United States Air Force Academy with...overzealous Christians in positions of authority.

There's been quite a bit of stink about it, since they haven't been limiting themselves to atheists in their fervent desire to insure the USAF's next generation of officers are born-again believing Christians, and not -- say -- Jews.

IIRC, the Academy's chaplain office was part of the problem.
4.28.2008 4:25pm
bittern (mail):
Dave N, what's the proper term for a person who thinks their country should be run theologically with Christian rather than Islamic or any other flavor? i.e., what word would you prefer people used in its stead?
4.28.2008 4:29pm
ithaqua (mail):

The_Doge's Christian Nation Challenge!

(So far completely ignored)

The challenge is simple, really; provide the Biblical passages from which the following essential aspects of the American legal/governmental system have been derived:

* Government by officials elected by the governed (republican democracy)
* Separation of powers (executive, legislative, judicial)
* Trial by a jury of one's peers
* Presumption of innocence
* Freedom from cruel or unusual punishment
* Freedom from involuntary self-incrimination
* Freedom of speech and assembly
* Prohibition of the establishment of religion (could be a toughie!)
* Right to keep and bear arms (or establishment of a militia; take your pick)
* The concept (embodied in both the DOI and Constitution) that the power to govern resides with the governed and is granted by them to elected officials

The_Doge, whoever that gentleman might be, misunderstands or misrepresents the meaning of "Christian nation". The Founders (who, yes, were Christians, believing in one God and His Son, no matter how much liberal revisionists want to quote-mine them) had always before their eyes the great and terrible example of post-Reformation Europe, with its constant religious warfare, its oppression of believers whose beliefs were repugnant to their governments (many of which believers, fleeing oppression, became Americans) its doctrine of 'as goes the king, so goes the nation' and so on. They realized that the best way - indeed, the only way - to protect the rights of Christians to worship Christ in peace was to set up a government by the people, for the people, accountable to the people, one wherein the government of each state reflected the heartfelt religious beliefs of that state (states could even set up state religions!) but that no individual could be compelled to worship the religion of the state and could, if he wished, move to a community where his religious beliefs, and not some other groups', were laws. And so they created, *partially* from secular sources, while remembering always what Europe had forgotten, that all men were endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, the first government in history where Christians were truly free to worship Christ as they pleased. For example: the government 'elected by the governed' has its roots in early Christian church government, which in its turn looks back to the old Greek democracies, but the source isn't really the point: the Founders arranged for citizens to choose their government to protect them from religious discrimination, so that they could elect from among themselves a government that shared their view on Christ and His worship, one that had the power to punish amoral behavior but not religious belief. That's what a 'Christian nation' is, not some Biblical analogue of Iran.

Carl Henderson: Isn't that Santa Claus?

"What's really the difference between ithaqua, the strictest Wahabi Sunni Muslim, and anyone in the Settler Movement? All believe in extremist Conservative government according to deity."

To answer your question with another question: what's really the difference between a US Marine, a drunk driver, and Ted Bundy? All of them kill people, after all :P

"America's Declaration of Independence, though theistic, is not at all a Christian document and doesn't even purport to be."

Rubbish. It was written by Christians and ratified by Christians for the government of a Christian nation. Original intent matters; for example, the 'no establishment of religion' clause originally required Congress only to remain neutral with regard to the promotion of different Christian sects.

"Unit cohesiveness is all important. Sometimes the individual has to learn to keep his stupid mouth shut and not draw attention to himself."

DADT for atheists. Again, I'd be in favor of that :) Atheists in general need to learn to either respect the beliefs of others or accept the consequences for their attacks on others' beliefs. If they can't learn to do that, and can't accept that the US Army is composed mainly of Christians who don't want to put up with their blasphemy, they need to find a career where getting along with their fellow workers doesn't matter. Maybe they could be anchorites.
4.28.2008 4:39pm
Godless:
If people were as religious as they claim they would live their lives very different than they do.
4.28.2008 4:39pm
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
Never mind the question of whether an atheist can feel any genuine loyalty to a Christian nation, given that he rejects the core principles on which our nation was built; never mind the unlikelihood that someone who denies an afterlife would sacrifice his own life for any reason ...

I have been in combat. When it came time for the Chaplain to lead a prayer, about 10% of the unit left. I know that many, myself included, were atheists.

So, Ithaqua, you are dead wrong on that.

But then, unlike you, I have only first hand information to go on.

Later, when I was a commander, I refused to allow posting any notices of atheist meetings in any space subject to my command.

The same with Bible meetings. And Wiccans, Muslims, et al.

The rules required me to permit all if I permitted any.

But the rules didn't require me to permit any.
4.28.2008 4:40pm
Truthiest (mail):
I was an atheist in a foxhole and on the deck of a riverboat, having fought on Vietnamese riverboats in the U-Minh Forest of the Mekong Delta 1969-70.

I never hid my atheism. The dog tags issued to me at the Duke University NROTC unit said, "Religion: Agnostic" [it was an easier position to defend in arguments]. I served honorably, having been awarded two Bronze Star Medals with Combat "V". The clearest account of my service is given by a devoutly Christian sailor who served under me there. The third message down at http://www.ussmortondd948.org/Message_Board.html and in his account of one of our battles at: http://www.riverinesailor.com/McIver.htm.

My own accounts of my experiences in leadership roles are contained in: http://journals.aol.com/corwinabell/SeaStory/ One of the comments on that site is by the most devoutly christian officer that I have ever known, judging by his failed attempts that continue to this date to convert me to his medieval beliefs in an imaginary friend in the sky.

He wrote regarding my rescue, against orders, of 70 Vietnamese when I was captain of a destroyer: "Once again, our beloved skipper, CDR Al Bell, has taken the lead by initiating a well-written website containing a most miraculous story of human kindness in the wake of devastating war. As his Chief Engineer (prior to deployment), I never knew a time when he wasn't a CLINIC on how to lead; he was the consummate compassionate leader! I consider myself fortunate, indeed, to have had the privilege of serving this great country of ours under his command. Bill Sperberg."

I deeply resent those people who denigrate the service to our country of atheists. I love my country, which protects me against both Christian and Moslem mullahs.
4.28.2008 4:46pm
Public_Defender (mail):
This is one of those subjects over which there is only one reasonable position: A service member who cannot work and fight with atheists is not fit to wear the uniform. Period.

Maybe the facts aren't what the NYT reported. It's certainly fair to argue that there are facts that change the question about how to deal with this specific situation.

But it's not worth arguing with anyone so batty that he thinks that atheists shouldn't serve in the military. Yeah, I know, I made the mistake earlier in this comment thread. That was my mistake. Sorry.
4.28.2008 4:54pm
Arkady:

Until then, our army is - and should remain - Christian.


Jesus H. Christ on a crutch! (A commonplace expression of disbelief when I was in the Marine Corps.)
4.28.2008 5:15pm
Ukko (mail):

... what's the proper term for a person who thinks their country should be run theologically with Christian rather than Islamic or any other flavor?


One possible choice would be dominionist which I believe is mostly synonymous with christionist. I myself would have preferred the latter as it is clearer in meaning to someone who just encountered the word. But, as this discussion illustrates people may just interpret it as a sneer like "democrat party" so that may not hold IRL.
4.28.2008 5:32pm
PersonFromPorlock:
John Apple:

...common sense would suggest that an Army Major with probably more than 10 years of service, who is confronting a junior enlisted man still on his first enlistment, would not be so misinformed or stupid as to mishandle a religious issue such as this one.

I don't know the facts of this case, but the idea that a Major might be a dolt won't shock too many veterans, even former members of the officer corps.
4.28.2008 5:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
As in any hierarchy, the hier you go, the fewer slots there are. Thus, any promotion is a competition. Some lose.
Complaints like this are either a scam to get reconsideration, or a personal excuse, or true.
It would be silly to ignore the first and second.
4.28.2008 5:51pm
Theory:
Judging from Major Wellborn's myspace page, everything in that NYT article rings true.

http://www.myspace.com/freddywelborn

Yikes.
4.28.2008 5:53pm
libarbarian (mail):

Pat Tillman was an atheist. That alone is enough to render his argument ridiculous. But his position, apart from being insanely bigoted and hate filled, is wrong on its face.



Yes, and about the time that that fact came out and his brother started asking questions, the RW noise-machine went from praising Pat Tillman to slandering him.

Ithaqua may be a troll but there are those who really do believe that the only way to love America is in exactly the same way that they (supposedly) do.
4.28.2008 5:56pm
SenatorX (mail):
Christian bigot ithaqua is one small step from making non-Christians second class citizens in this country. The only thing that matters in the military is what you do not your mentality for doing it. I suppose he thinks less of young people who join the military for cash bonuses.

He clearly doesn't understand the purpose behind the separation of church and state too. I won't hold it against Christianity in general though because I don't think it's a "Christian problem" but just a scum bag bigot problem.
4.28.2008 5:58pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Thirty-odd years ago, my Civi Air Patrol chaplain found out that I --- cadet commander of my CAP unit --- was a Buddhist, not a Christian.

The following week I was no longer the cadet commander.

Since then, I've seen Jews, atheists, and Catholics take substantial abuse in military contexts by military officers who weren't thinking about their obligation as officers of the United States Army, which include an oath both to uphold the Constitution and to obey the orders of their superiors; this behavior does neither.

I've also seen officers threatened with "conduct unbecoming" for violating of these orders to keep their religious practices to themselves.

Ithaqua, I recommend moving to a country which has an established religion.
4.28.2008 6:05pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
ithaqua

I think it's time you give up the flame. You are now 180 degrees from where you started. First it was anyone [Jefferson] who takes a razor blade to the Bible is unfit to be president. And now it's that the Declaration of Independence was written, not with a deity in mind, but with the Christian trinity in mind....Well I don't know what your revisionist's compendium on all subjects says about the Declaration of Independence, but last I checked it was written by the same man who you said was unfit to be president because he took a razor blade to the bible...So let's get this straight:Jefferson was unfit to be president because he was not a Christian, but Jefferson did write the Declaration as a Christian?

Further, the committee that reviewed it was made up of a majority of non-Christians: Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin--all of which argued against the Trinity; though I am not sure of the views of Livingston and Sherman on religion. So at best it was 3-2...hardly helps the argument that the Declaration was a Christian document.
4.28.2008 6:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
ithaqua:"For example: the government 'elected by the governed' has its roots in early Christian church government, which in its turn looks back to the old Greek democracies, but the source isn't really the point"

And those old Greek democracies were of course pagan, so I guess we shouldn't look too closely at your argument.

Occasionally I like to ride my bike through Arlington cemetary and read random tombstones of those who have died but served our country well. They were all buried with full honors. Some of those tombstones have crosses on them to reflect that they were Christian. Some have the star of David. Some have the symbol of Buddhism. Some have the atom which represents atheism.

That fact alone should show the wrongness of your arguments.
4.28.2008 6:10pm
bittern (mail):
Ukko, dominionist certainly has a more genteel feel than SenatorX' suggestion, scum bag bigot, but "Dominion" makes me think of Canada. And secondarily of Genesis 1:26-28. Hey, cool. I never do Bible references.

Democrat party is substituting for an obvious term, Democratic party. So it's clearly just a poke in the eye. Though as long as we're winning, it's a poke in the eye that doesn't bother me a bit.

Christianist is intended to be distinct from Christian and was used that way upthread.
4.28.2008 6:11pm
libarbarian (mail):

Ukko, dominionist certainly has a more genteel feel than SenatorX' suggestion, scum bag bigot, but "Dominion" makes me think of Canada.



Really?

I think "Dominionist" is good because it is so close to the word "domination" and thats what Dominionists are after - to dominate both non-Christians and Christians who differ from them (don't think for a second that they would hesitate to persecute Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or others).
4.28.2008 6:18pm
Randy R. (mail):
Since ithaqua ignores the plain meaning of the Treaty of Tripoli, which denies that our nation was founded under Christian principles, I will go ahead and make the argument for him. Caveat: I will use his style of argument.

The Treaty of Tripoli really proves that our country was founded upon Christian principles because a few of the people who voted for it were Christian. The Treaty established peace, and since Jesus preached for peace, the Treaty is supporting his teachings. Futhermore, only God can truly create peace between nations, not men, and therefore any peace that exists would naturally be the result of God's intervention, something that our Christian founders surely understood. Although they may have written the words that deny the obvious, they only did so to fool the Devil, otherwise known as Satan. Otherwise, Satan would surely have brought his full anger down upon such an upstart and strong defender of the Bible.

Therefore, the Treaty of Tripoli establishes clearly and without further argument that we are a Christian nation.
4.28.2008 6:18pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Temp Guest sez: 'Career military personnel are largely drawn from a population that is mostly evangelical, born-again, and/or fundamentalist Protestant.'

That's nonsense.
4.28.2008 7:21pm
libarbarian (mail):


ithaqua:"For example: the government 'elected by the governed' has its roots in early Christian church government, which in its turn looks back to the old Greek democracies, but the source isn't really the point"



And those old Greek democracies were of course pagan, so I guess we shouldn't look too closely at your argument.



Randy,

I'm going to do you one better and say that "government elected by the governed" was simply NOT invented by the Greeks much less the Early Christian churches.


Leaders chosen by popular consent is pretty much a standard feature for many nomadic or "barbarian" peoples who live in relatively small (a few thousand tops) kin groups. They are NOT "democracies" but they do operate on the theory that the final authority is the consent of the group and that no one is obliged to follow someone purely on account of birthright or other non-popularly-bestowed authority.

For example, Germanic tribes did not adopt real Hereditary Kingship until they started moving into the Roman empire and adopting Roman political structures. Even then it took a long struggle before the leading families were able to cement their authority on a hereditary, as opposed to popular, basis. Before then, kingship was a largely ritual office which was determined by popular choice out of a pool of all adult men of royal descent. Warleaders, who tended to be the real leaders, were chosen by popular consent without any hereditary requirement at all.

In fact, much of our own vision of democracy is rooted in English customs and common law which itself owes more to the Germanic tribal customs of the Anglo-Saxons than it does to the Athenian political system.
4.28.2008 7:28pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

Rubbish. [The Declaration] was written by Christians and ratified by Christians for the government of a Christian nation.



You've been sold a bill of goods. Jefferson, Franklin, and J. Adams wrote the Declaration, with Jefferson as its author. They rejected original sin, the trinity, incarnation, atonement, eternal damnation, infallibility of the Bible. You can do this and still be a "Christian"?

Further the Bible says nothing about men being endowed with unalienable rights and having the right to revolt against governments that don't secure such; rather Romans 13 intimates the opposite.


Original intent matters; for example, the 'no establishment of religion' clause originally required Congress only to remain neutral with regard to the promotion of different Christian sects.


That's not what the Constitution says. It uses the term "religion" not "Christianity." You are reading things into the Constitution that aren't there.
4.28.2008 7:29pm
Bama 1L:
Wow, bad luck on the first response here. Maybe Professor Volokh can try again, because this is a sort of interesting situation.

Discrimination on the basis of religion is held to about the same standard as discrimination on the basis of race, correct?

One could make a very strong argument that an NCO might not be able to lead soldiers because of racial issues. There is actual social discrimination and bigotry. It's regrettable, but, hey, it's real, and it could lead to bad results on the battlefield. So the military should be able to discriminate on the basis of race, right?

But if courts accept these arguments, then where are we?

So, of course it shouldn't. Indeed, the military is uniquely suited, among our nation's institutions, to root out racial bigotry.

Now, how is religion different?
4.28.2008 7:32pm
bittern (mail):
libarbarian, it was the "Dominion of Canada" historically (see Toronto-Dominion Bank), having been dominated by the U.K. The trouble with Dominionist is that it's not specific about who wants to dominate. And Dominionistic Christian is too long for me. "Christianist" sort of parallels "Islamist", which seems a feature, not a bug. I suppose that grates on your Dominionists. "Bullies" probably wished there was a nicer word for them, too. So?
4.28.2008 7:34pm
donaldk:
This is what the 18th Century's most successful soldier thought.

Frederick the Great

He described Christianity as “an old metaphysical fiction, stuffed with miracles, contradictions and absurdities, which was spawned in the fevered imaginations of the Orientals and then spread to our Europe, where some fanatics espoused it, some intriguers pretended to be convinced by it and some imbeciles actually believed it.”
4.28.2008 8:03pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
18 USC 1030,

I'm not sure about Livingston. I don't think his exact religious views have been subject to serious scrutiny. But Roger Sherman was an orthodox Christian. Still, the point you made stands -- Jefferson (the author), J. Adams, and Franklin comprised a majority of the drafting board of the Declaration. And they weren't orthodox Christians.

This kind of tallying further illustrates problems with ithaqua's idea that the Founders established democratic rule "so that they could elect from among themselves a government that shared their view on Christ and His worship,..." Jefferson and Adams without question fervently denied the Trinity. It's also doubtful that Washington and Madison (or Monroe for that matter) were real orthodox Trinitarian Christians. Washington systematically avoided communion in his church leading his own minister, Dr. Abercrombie, to term him not a "real Christian." This was after another minister testified Dr. Abercrombie told him "Sir, Washington was a Deist." Dr. Abercrombie, in 1831, wrote a newspaper to "clarify" that he didn't remember calling Washington the "D" work, but:


Sir, I cannot consider any man as a real Christian who uniformly disregards an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a channel of divine grace.


[Check out my links to the primary sources here.]

There are lots of other figures who testified they believed GW was a real Christian; but coming from his own minister is pretty telling. (Dr. Abercrombie by the way had the balls to publicly chastise Washington in Church for his habit of getting up and turning his back on communion when it was served).

The point is out of the first 4 President/key Founders, with out question, 2 &3 were theological unitarians, and it's possible that none of the first 4 was orthodox Christian and "shared the[] view on Christ and His worship" that the traditional Christians did. That's 2 for 4 at best or 0 for four at worst.

It seems to me the best way to guarantee REAL Christian leaders was not the "new" democratic-republican way of electing leaders under the newly formed US Constitution; but the OLD way of making those politicians submit to a religious test, taking an oath to the Triune Christian God. What's conspicuous about the US Constitution is Art. VI. cl. 3 forbids such a test making it easier to elect heretics and infidels to office, which is exactly what happened!
4.28.2008 8:39pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
never mind the unlikelihood that someone who denies an afterlife would sacrifice his own life for any reason
"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." -- Gen. George S. Patton
4.28.2008 8:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
The ancient Greeks had a true democracy because each person (as defined as male and free), had a direct vote. There was no representative democracy as we have. Furthermore, they engaged in much same-sex sexuals relations yet they were able to defeat the Persians, who were a much mightier army. They also fought many other wars for centuries before finally petering out.

Also, Frederick the Great, the 18th centuries most successful soldier, was also a homosexual.

Gays and pagans can be great warriors? Someone should inform ithaqua, but I suspect he won't believe it. Closed minds are like that.
4.28.2008 9:18pm
bpuharic (mail):
DaveN needs to learn about an idea known as the 'internet'. He can actually research the term 'Christianist' and find out it was not invented by Andrew Sullivan. (cf:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0520/p18s04-hfes.html)

In addition, ALL words start somewhere. If you want to use words that have never been used before, be my guest. You'll be more misunderstood than you are now.

Not too bright an argument...
4.28.2008 9:44pm
bpuharic (mail):
Bittern also apparently thinks all words have to be unique...wonder if he's ever heard of...or used the term 'Islamist'. Because I'm willing to bet he didn't invent it.

If the term fits, use it. And it does. Christianists, like Islamists, are a danger to the US.
4.28.2008 9:47pm
bittern (mail):
bpuharic, I'm on your side on this.
4.28.2008 10:28pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
I suspect that there is more to this than the complaint suggests. It is not uncommon, as any manager knows, to have EEOC complaints filed in response to any unrelated disciplinary events; it's pretty much expected.

When I was in the military, I remember talking to a friend of mine who was a Baptist Chaplain. He was busily studying Satanic rituals because a person in his unit was a Satanist of some sort, and he was obligated to provide services for him. He wasn't thrilled, but he considered it his military and professional duty.

Personally, a number of people in my unit were atheists when I was in the Army. While it was a source of many interesting conversations, it was never an issue.

In my many years in the military, there was never any policy against atheists nor were there any actions, formal or informal, to minimize their worth. I suspect that, as is so often the case, when all of the facts come out, the underlying issue will not be related to religion at all.
4.28.2008 11:27pm
Kirk:
Good grief, bittern! Could you explain why "Democrat" is offensive, and how poor non-party saps such as myself are supposed to remember which one of Democrat/Democratic is correct--especially when the popular brief term is, in fact, "Democrats", not "Democratics"?

Harry, Temp Guest may be wrong, but isn't changing "mostly evangelical..." to "more evangelical ... than the population at large" all that's required to correct his statement?
4.29.2008 4:51am
Guest Joanne (mail):
John Apple:

The Army is not really concerned with the religiousness of the soldiers . . . and unless the Army perceived some discipline and order problem, it is doubtful anyone would've worried about this meeting or even noticed it.

Obviously, the individual major who disrupted the meeting did notice it and was worried about it. It appears from the Complaint as quoted in the blog, that Plaintiff's problems are with the behavior of the specific major, not with "the Army" as an institution, except in so far as it has failed to control the unconstitutional behavior of its member(s).

Further, in military terms, there is a real discipline and order concern when you have junior enlisted men holding any type of meeting without either an NCO or an officer being present, AND IN CHARGE.

And

Both of the activities you mentioned had command sponsorship. The post referred to activities which gave the commanders a reason for concern, which is obviously, highly subjective.

Was it not the job of the chaplain on site, who gave permission for the meeting to be advertised and held, to make a decision about all this "discipline and order" stuff? And if the chaplain thought an officer or senior NCO needed to be present, couldn't he/she have made it a condition for holding the meeting? Also, doesn't the chaplain's permission pretty much equate with what you called "command sponsorship" in this context?

The military being what it is, you have to give deference to the senior member first.

I surely hope you don't mean to say that you would or should always believe the person with a higher rank just because they outrank somebody who had the guts to call them on some misbehavior.

Additionally, I don't know the rank of the chaplain who gave permission for the meeting, although I don't suppose it was higher than that of the major who disrupted the meeting. However, leaving pure rank aside, shouldn't that major have given deference to the chaplain's decision to allow the meeting? After all, it was the chaplain's job to make decisions about these things; it was not the major's place to interfere in the chaplain's running of his department by second-guessing that decision.

Guest Joanne
4.29.2008 6:31am
Guest Joanne (mail):
John Apple:

The Army is not really concerned with the religiousness of the soldiers . . . and unless the Army perceived some discipline and order problem, it is doubtful anyone would've worried about this meeting or even noticed it.

Obviously, the individual major who disrupted the meeting did notice it and was worried about it. It appears from the Complaint as quoted in the blog, that Plaintiff's problems are with the behavior of the specific major, not with "the Army" as an institution, except in so far as it has failed to control the unconstitutional behavior of its member(s).

Further, in military terms, there is a real discipline and order concern when you have junior enlisted men holding any type of meeting without either an NCO or an officer being present, AND IN CHARGE.

And

Both of the activities you mentioned had command sponsorship. The post referred to activities which gave the commanders a reason for concern, which is obviously, highly subjective.

Was it not the job of the chaplain on site, who gave permission for the meeting to be advertised and held, to make a decision about all this "discipline and order" stuff? And if the chaplain thought an officer or senior NCO needed to be present, couldn't he/she have made it a condition for holding the meeting? Also, doesn't the chaplain's permission pretty much equate with what you called "command sponsorship" in this context?

The military being what it is, you have to give deference to the senior member first.

I surely hope you don't mean to say that you would or should always believe the person with a higher rank just because they outrank somebody who had the guts to call them on some misbehavior.

Additionally, I don't know the rank of the chaplain who gave permission for the meeting, although I don't suppose it was higher than that of the major who disrupted the meeting. However, leaving pure rank aside, shouldn't that major have given deference to the chaplain's decision to allow the meeting? After all, it was the chaplain's job to make decisions about these things; it was not the major's place to interfere in the chaplain's running of his department by second-guessing that decision.

Guest Joanne
4.29.2008 6:32am
bittern (mail):
Kirk, you night owl. Somebody far upthread was complaining somebody used the word "Christianist" because that is supposedly offensive. They compared using "Christianist" to using "Democrat party" which has been discussed elsewhere as being a deliberate slur. The complaint of the slurring cognoscenti is that there is nothing democratic about the Democratic Party. Whatever. When deliberate, it's juvenile, but whatever. If you can't remember the names of the two major parties in the country, I don't care. If you find it an effective taunt, I'll try not to care too much. But it's true that some people don't like it. My minor point was to disagree that "Christianist" is just like "Democrat Party". My larger point would be that nobody has suggested a less "offensive" term for Christianist, to mean a Christianity-imposer or Christian Dominationist. Mountain of a molehill. Complainers need to stand up, though.
4.29.2008 9:49am
ParatrooperJJ (mail):
Won't it be thrown out due to the Feres doctrine? Active duty military can't sue the military.
4.29.2008 11:24am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Paratrooper,

He's suing for performance of an administrative body. It's not a tort for wrongful death, thus the Feres doctrine should not apply.
4.29.2008 12:14pm
Stash:
Hmm. Think about if Ithaqua's argument had been made during the draft! Instead of going to great lengths to prove religious conviction of being a "conscientious objector" one could merely disqualify oneself from service by stating one was an atheist, or non-Christian of any type. As the founders realized, the worst thing for religion is its establishment by the State. How many draftees might have suddenly discovered real doubts about their Christianity during the Viet Nam war? Instead of going to Canada, they could just have converted or repudiated Christianity. Heck, if it was that easy, many who went reluctantly would have opted out. Much easier than going to college.

And, as far as good soldiers are concerned, there are pacifist Christians. How does loving your enemy, turning the other cheek and "Thou shalt not kill" make a great soldier?

Also, if "unit cohesion" trumps freedom of religion, it would seem that to serve that end, the armed forces could prohibit proselytizing generally, to prevent religious friction. There are plenty of "Christians" who believe that neither Catholics nor Mormons qualify for that designation.
4.29.2008 12:44pm
Kirk:
Bittern, OK, thanks. I could never figure out what was inherently insulting about it, but certainly to deliberately misstate the name (regardless of the back-story) is juvenile.

And as far as being a night owl goes, I may actually be that--but in addition the server hosting this conspiracy clearly resides (or thinks it does) in a time zone far to the east of me. :-)
4.29.2008 2:10pm
Army1 (mail):
ithaqua, there are times when I criticize those I disagree with as being foolish or ignorant, even downright stupid. But after reading your intial post, I believe that you are a horrible excuse for a human being, and are an American in address only. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, I believe that your citizenship should be revoked, and you be confined to some distant prison where you can no longer infect the rest of the sane world with your madness.
4.29.2008 2:45pm
wfjag:

He's suing for performance of an administrative body. It's not a tort for wrongful death, thus the Feres doctrine should not apply.


Skyler -- you might wish to do the least, little bit of legal research before opining. It took me about 3 minutes to find the following:

Ricks v. Nickels, 295 F.3d 1124 (10th Cir. 2002) (Feres doctrine barred suit alleging Bivens action in which plaintiff sought seeking injunctive, mandamus, and monetary relief, for alleged violations of his First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment rights), cert. den., 537 U.S. 1056 (2002);

Orloff v. Willoughby, 345 U.S. 83, 93-94 (1953):


"Judges are not given the task of running the Army. The responsibility for setting up channels through which . . . grievances can be considered and fairly settled rests upon the Congress and upon the President of the United States and his subordinates. The military constitutes a specialized community governed by a separate discipline from that of the civilian. Orderly government requires that the judiciary be as scrupulous not to interfere with legitimate Army matters as the Army must be scrupulous not to intervene in judicial matters.";


United States v. Stanley, 483 U.S. 669, 683-84 (1987):


"We therefore reaffirm the reasoning of Chappell that the "special factors counselling hesitation" -- "the unique disciplinary structure of the Military Establishment and Congress' activity in the field," id., at 304 -- extend beyond the situation in which an officer-subordinate relationship exists, and require abstention in the inferring of Bivens actions as extensive [*684] as the exception to the FTCA established by Feres and United States v. Johnson. We hold that no Bivens remedy is available for injuries that "arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service." 340 U.S., at 146.";


Crawford v. Texas Army Nat'l Guard,, 794 F.2d 1034, 1036 (5th Cir. 1986):


"[T]he common characteristic of [the Supreme Court decisions allowing constitutional claims against the military] is that they involve challenges to the facial validity of military regulations and were not tied to discrete personnel matters. The nature of the lawsuits, rather than the relief sought, rendered them justiciable. The injunctive-relief exception to Chappell advocated by appellants could swallow Chappell's rule of deference.";


Dibble v. Fenimore, 339 F.3d 120 (2D Cir. 2003), cert. den., 541 U.S. 1010 (2004):


PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiff former member of the New York Air National Guard sued defendants, the commander of the New York Air National Guard and the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, claiming that he was unlawfully denied the opportunity to reenlist. The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York denied the commander's motion to dismiss the action, based on a claim of intramilitary immunity, and the commander appealed.

OVERVIEW: A former member of the New York Air National Guard sued the commander of the New York Air National Guard and the Secretary of the Air Force, claiming that he was unlawfully denied reenlistment in retaliation for his constitutionally and statutorily protected activities as a union steward. The trial court remanded the member's action against the Secretary of the Air Force to the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records, and denied the commander's motion to dismiss the member's action against him. The appellate court held that (1) the trial court's order denying the commander's motion to dismiss the action based on a claim of intramilitary immunity was immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine; and (2) although not all military personnel decisions were nonjusticiable under the doctrine of intramilitary immunity, the trial court should have dismissed the member's action against the commander because, to find that the commander violated the member's constitutional rights by not allowing him to reenlist, it would have been required to make a particularized inquiry into the commander's mindset, a process that could have affected military discipline.


OUTCOME: The appellate court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case with direction that the trial court dismiss the member's action against the commander.


The Complaint, at most, states the basis for an IG complaint. There is no allegation of exhaustion of administrative remedies (there are several which appear to apply, including 10 USC §938), for all of which the jurisprudence is fairly uniform that the administrative remedy must be exhausted or the USDC lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

Dear Professor Volokh:

The only aspects of this matter I find "[v]ery troubling" are (1) why this suit isn't identified as a publicity stunt by an organization to get press coverage, such as the NYT article, in view of the apparent jurisdictional defects; and, (2) why the USDC should not issue a Rule to Show Cause why plaintiff's counsel should not be sanctioned under Rule 11, Fed. R. Civ. Pro.?
4.29.2008 3:32pm
Dustin Chalker (mail):
To ithaqua:

I am an atheist soldier, Iraq veteran, and a recepient of the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat and the Combat Medical Badge for providing treatment under enemy fire. Do you think that anyone alive today because of my actions would have a lower morale because I am an atheist? Do you think their buddies give a damn about my disbelief in bronze age mythology?

I don't.

America is not a Christian nation. Good luck finding the words "God", "Jesus", or "Christ" in the Constitution. Read the Treaty of Tripoli, which explicitly states that the US "is not, in any sense, founded upon the Christian religion."

Ours is most emphatically *not* a Christian Army. I took an oath to uphold a godless Constitution - not the Bible.

But what about the Declaration of Independence? True, it mentions a deity (albeit a generic, deistic creator). But the Declaration did NOT establish our government, it merely abolished the old one. It is a historically significant document, but not a legally recognized one.

You have a twisted view of history, which I suspect is largely based on Dominionist propaganda. I suggest you lower your blinders for just a moment and take a peek at reality without the tint of your delusions. Humanity is slowly outgrowing ancient fantasies - largely thanks to America's founders that you've misrepresented so thoroughly.

I leave you with a quote:

Numbers 31:17-31:18
"7 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (KJV)"

If ours were a Christian army, I would expect to see much more infanticide and child rape. Luckily, secular values have diluted your insanity to such a degree that you don't even know how ANTI-biblical your own way of life really is.
4.29.2008 7:03pm