Atheist group seeks to ban “religious preference” from military documentation
As with most things MAAF does (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) this seems to be solution in search of a problem.
Last we heard from MAAF was when they were going after a cross at Camp Pendleton that Marines had put up to honor their fallen brothers. That effort angered even their fellow atheists:
I am a fellow atheist and have been for over ten years. I joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and continue to serve today. Never in that time have I been asked to change my beliefs or encouraged to be silent about my religious opinions… I will say that the opposition to that monument by this organization disgusts me and takes away from our brotherhood and all that we stand for.
More than once I’ve wondered if they weren’t secretly a religious group trying to discredit Atheism because the battles they pick to fight seem so utterly ridiculous.
A support group for atheist servicemembers has launched a petition drive to have President Obama end the requirement that the services solicit the religious affiliation of personnel, including recruits.
But a week after the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers submitted the petition on WhiteHouse.gov the effort has garnered just 25 of the 25,000 signatures it needs by Feb. 5 to get any kind of response from the White House.
MAAF President Jason Torpy, a West Point graduate and former Army officer, acknowledges there is a long way to go but says he remains “optimistic that we’ll get the signatures once some other groups pick this up.”
As of last time I checked, a few minutes ago, it was all the way up to 30 signatures. I’m fairly confident I could put up a petition calling on the federal government to indict Spongebob Squarepants for crimes against Starfish and have 50 people sign it by lunch just by putting it on my Facebook page.
Nonetheless, they do have what I consider a legit concern on one thing:
“What MRFF [MAAF allies Military Religious Freedom Foundation] has received complaints about is the fact that a service member's religion is listed on forms where there is no legitimate reason for it to be listed, such as the Army's ORB (Officer Record Brief) … forms whose purpose is to provide a summary of a service member's education, special skills, and service record,” said Chris Rodda, a writer and a researcher for MRFF.
“There is no reason that religion should be a factor in any career or assignment decisions that the information on these forms is used for,” she said.
I honestly didn’t know it was on any of those forms, and I am at a loss to explain why it should be, so I definitely can see their point there. And if that is what this petition said, I would have pushed it through a few different mediums. As far as I can tell there is no reason anyone on a promotion board or similar group should know what God or Deity one ascribes to, or chooses to disbelieve. I just don’t see how it is germane.
Every new military recruit is asked the question, "What is your religion?" This causes undue stress and pressure to conform as the recruit considers the predominant Christian culture of the military and the US. Having the "right" answer on ID tags and official records might make the difference in peer treatment and in equal opportunity in military assignments and promotions.
That first part seems absurd and insulting. You mean that our brave men and women signing up today are so susceptible to peer pressure that they would conform to something contrary to their moral underpinning? Maybe I just served in the most enlightened units of all time, but I never saw even a hint of this. The guys I served with had WIDELY divergent religious views, and no one had a problem with it, except the one dude who found out that he only had to work certain hours during Ramadan and promptly became a Muslim. And the only ones truly hostile about that were the other Muslims in my unit who knew the guy was using it as a scam.
In my Infantry Platoon alone we had a Muslim, a Mormon, several Catholics, a ton of Baptists, a Universalist Unitarian, two Buddhists, and atleast one Wiccan. (I’ve also served with Jewish guys and people who worshipped Odin.) Most the rest I didn’t know or had no religious affiliation. None of it mattered, no one cared. The only time it ever came up was if we were discussing something theological, and that was just for debates. (We would sometimes put the Muslim, Mormon and Catholic in the same Guard Tower so they could fight it out rhetorically.) If someone’s religious views are so milquetoast that they would change them because of peer pressure, then they probably weren’t all that devoted to their religion in the first place.
What the article neglects to mention at all is the actual reason for having a religious preference on military forms. That was brought home to me last night in a sad story that my friend Amy told me about. Her son is at Navy Basic Training, and his unit lost a man yesterday:
A recruit at Naval Station Great Lakes died Wednesday morning during a physical training exercise, according to the Lake County coroner.
Christopher Walker, who turned 19 in December, suddenly collapsed on the base near North Chicago, said Lake County coroner Artis Yancey.
He was rushed to James Lovell Federal Health Care Center but was pronounced shortly after at 9:57 a.m., according to Yancey.
Authorities said Walker was a Pennsylvania native.
It seems to me that Mr. Walker’s grieving parents would appreciate that the chaplain that came to the door to pass on this horrific and tragic news would be of the same religious persuasion as Christopher himself. Sending a Sikh chaplain to inform the parents of a deceased Catholic soldier wouldn’t seem to make much sense would it?
Lastly, the whole doing away with “No Religious Preference” thing seems just politically correct to me. How does a blank space convey something different than that phrase? Add “Humanist”, add "Spiritual But Not Religious”, add “First Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”; it won’t make any difference to me. When I joined the army I became green. We may self-identify as white, or Christian, American-Indian or Buddhist, but we identify those around us more easily: because they are all our brothers and sisters, regardless of any other affiliation.
EXIT QUESTION: Someone either below of possibly in an email to me said that the DoD choses what religions it recognizes, and that some people practice ones not recognized by the DoD. Can someone name me a religion not recognized by the DoD and someone who wishes it were practiced? An actual religion mind you, not some made up one that is clearly farcical. I am actually curious, and would like to explore it with the DoD, but I need an actual example.