Biggest Offender on 1st Amendment Rights-Your Military

On Monday, August 9th, I watched the 334th Brigade Combat Team have their final send-off ceremony before they head to Afghanistan in Des Moines, Iowa.  The ceremony was like most ceremonies, lots of big wigs were there; Gov. Culver, Senators Grassley and Harkin, Congressmen Boswell and many others. They each went on about how proud they were of our servicemen and applauded their commitment.  Things were going well until something happened. The Iowa National Guard Chaplain took the floor for invocation.  The auditorium fell hushed, everyone stood (including the soldiers who had to be there at attention) and bowed their heads as they listened to the chaplains invocation and how his deity was being called upon to keep the soldiers safe and bless each of them.

Well, almost all heads bowed.

I got to thinking about my time in the service both at home and over seas and how throughout all of the military get-togethers that I’ve attended have always had this same feature built into them.  They always had a chaplain on hand, they are almost always Christian, they are almost always required either tacitly or directly that all troops shall attend and be attentive to the specific religious speakings being given.

In basic training if you do not attend church you are typically punished or given extra duty during services.  Of course, this is not done maliciously nor outwardly ruthlessly to punish those that are not religious, but the fact remains – several young soldiers, myself included, attended church service in favor of doing additional physical training or cleaning the toilets with toothbrushes.

When we went through send of ceremony after ceremony, each with a different chaplain we found ourselves held at attention while some kind of prayer was said over our unit and the exploits we had done or were about to undertake.

When we were deployeed, if any soldier has any kind of personal issue secular or religious the only person they could turn to was a religious leader that made no secret of their religiosity and though trained to be as secular as possible, this is quite different when you go to the Chapel to see the Chaplain whose rank is a Christian Cross.

All throughout the military you will find that the separation of church and state is a forgone idea. Mandatory prayers for all those in uniform regardless of faith or lack there of. This violates a key part of our country’s Constitutional 1st Amendment in several ways.

First, the military holds religiosity above non-religiosity in practice and in deed by restricting counselor-ship and affording officership to those that have graduated seminary to be a chaplain.

Second, by requiring through military discipline the presence of all military personnel while prayer services are held over a congregation of troops be it a formation or a mess hall.

Third, by holding Christianity above other religions in that prayer services are universally afforded by an officer-Chaplain for Christianity and a vast minority or non existence for other less pervasive religions.

Fourth, by failing to provide alternatives that hold the same standing in the military to religiously affiliated counselors and personal advisors.

These are only but a few ways that our service men and women are being systematically denied their 1st amendment rights to not have a government organization dictate to them what is best when it comes to religion.

So the next time you’re at a send off ceremony, or watch a President get inaugurated or wish to attend a government rally just think how upset you would be were you a Helenic believer and the wrath Zeus would have for these paltry officials, or if you were awaiting Thor to smite down those who deem Christianity the “law and religion of the land and our armed forces”. Or what of Allah, Jehovah, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, or Krishna?

These men and women in uniform put their lives on the lines.  Let us not cheapen them by destroying what our country stands for to make a few Christians feel better about it.

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12 comments on “Biggest Offender on 1st Amendment Rights-Your Military

  1. Jay says:

    So are you saying there are atheists in foxholes?

    Sidenote: I attended my grandfather’s funeral this past year, and I found myself moved — not by the talk of Jesus and Heaven, or quotes from that Pete Seeger/Byrds song, but by the playing of taps, the folding of the flag and the three volleys of shots fired during his burial. Seeing that, combined with the presence of his children, his grandchildren and his great-grand children was a greater testament to his life and memory than any religious ceremony beforehand.

  2. Mike says:

    My question about this post and many of the posts on this site is this – please look if you will to the right of this comment. To the list of “tags” and what will you find? The word “tolerance.” Where is the tolerance? If you don’t want to bow your head while others do, that’s your right. NO ONE stopped and made you do so. So why are you so bent on preventing others the freedom to pray to God? Isn’t it tolerance to allow others to worship or not, even when we do not agree?

    • Jay says:

      Part of the point of the post was the lack of tolerance in the military itself, the failure to recognize that not everyone participates in the same religion. There is no desire to prevent others from praying, it’s a pushback at the requirement (“either tacitly or directly”) for the troops to attend or participate in religious services, whether they believe them or not. Imagine you were in the armed forces and required to go to a Catholic service every week and no alternative was offered. It would be annoying, huh? Let’s not have the government start telling us when, where, how and to who we can pray. They’re fighting to keep those decisions up to us.

      Plus, if I think back to when I was Christian, I would probably have problems with these types of showy public prayers. Isn’t there some sort of prohibition on showy prayers in public? If I remember (and I don’t have my Bible handy) Jesus said to go to your room, shut the door and then pray. That’s what I don’t understand about all the overt public displays — they seem to be the thing he was railing against.

  3. Mike says:

    Jay,

    I understand that point about the Military as I am a veteran and you are correct, they should not “force” anyone.

    As far as, and its not my intention of being mean-spirited here, “but” even though you “thought” you were a Christian, you were not. The only Christians are located in the church of Christ. With that said, Jesus’ point about praying was the Pharisees and Sadducees attitude of being showy to make people think they were more religious. there is nothing wrong with public prayer per say, just as long as you pointed out, that it is not for the purpose of being showy. If that is the main thrust, then it is wrong.

  4. Dan Reed says:

    Yep. Seeing as how the vast majority of people who do want to practice religion as they see fit that are in the military are christian, it makes sense that they would offer up prayers to allah, and have a meditation ceremony whilst dwelling on buddah, all in the name of the god of fairness. Get real, would you rather sit through an hour long prayer that makes sure to cover all faiths, or endure a 2 minute prayer for all of the simple minded. The fact is, there is the way each person would like to see things happen, and then there is reality. Real life is unfair…maybe your mother never told you that one. Sometimes you have to sit through stuff that you don’t agree with, for example I have to sit down at Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws….

    What is up with the constant whining on some of these posts? I want to see change as much as anyone here, but it is unfortunate that whining proceeds change in this unfair world of ours.

    • jastiger says:

      The point is that instead of supplying religiosity to all religions the best way to ensure equality is to have none; specifically not having a mandatory religious saying for anyone. Just because there is something you do not agree with happening doesn’t mean that it is some how justified. Especially since we have laws and rules within our Constitution that prohibit such special treatment.

      By having a prayer for every single faith you are favoring religiosity over non religiosity and in our current situation, Christianity over non-theism.

      TO say “real life is unfair, so deal with it” is to intellectually resign yourself to the winds of change that whoever may blow upon you. I intend to stand against such injustice and speak my mind.

      • Dan Reed says:

        You are certainly free to speak your mind. My post is just pointing out that from here it certainly sounds like a lot of whining over spilled milk.

        • Jay says:

          We’re just wondering why people are continually and purposefully spilling the milk. I mean, I can understand if it happens every once in a while, but gosh, there’s a lot of milk spilling going on.

      • Dan Reed says:

        The injustice you speak of is a perceived injustice as well. To the non-militant non-religious, it is no big deal. To the spoiled brat with a huge entitlement complex, everything should suit his or her philosophy. I see a lot of that in your writings.

        • Jay says:

          What exactly is a militant non-religious person? A person that verbally disagrees with an infringement (however minor) of their rights? Am I getting too uppity against the status quo?

          To be honest, I’m not convinced that public officials that try to lead an audience prayer know that what they’re doing is not right. Does pointing that out to them make me a spoiled brat? Separation of church and state helps everyone, not just me! The laws are pretty clear here: Every person certainly has a right to pray, but officials that are funded by our taxes cannot ask us to worship at an official public event.

          You say you “want to see change as much as anyone here.” How do you think that’s going to happen if the offenses aren’t at least pointed out.

  5. Jay says:

    “would you rather sit through an hour long prayer that makes sure to cover all faiths, or endure a 2 minute prayer for all of the simple minded”

    I like the third option: Everyone prays however they want, on their own time. Why does my time need to be wasted?

    • Mike says:

      I totally agree with Jay. And I understand everyone’s frustration with the idiocy of having to be “politically correct” on every little thing; I wish there were no such thing. It is this attitude that brings about the ridiculous need to offer prayers on behalf of every possible belief under the sun.
      Whether you like it or not, this country was founded upon “Christian” principles, not Muslim, Jewish, New Age or any thing else.
      Please just keep in mind that it is those of your belief system that call for “tolerance.” I have yet to see it – but keep convincing yourselves that you possess that attitude.

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