US Navy Ship Raises Christian Flag, Atheist Has Conniption

Two days ago, the USS Arlington posted a photo of two Seamen raising a church pennant above the American flag on its Facebook page:

Quartermasters Seaman Rashaun Plowden and 2nd Class Mary Carlton raise a church pennant above the American flag during worship services aboard USS Arlington (LPD 24) on Jan. 13, 2013.

An atheist (who is not in the military) took umbrage, unaware of his self-contradicting outrage.  First [ellipses original]: 

Who knew Navy ships were Christian…?

Apparently, the atheist thinks the display of a Christian cross declares the religion of a boat.  But then:

I’ve never seen a Muslim or atheist or Hindu or Jewish or any non-Christian symbol hoisted above the American flag before…

So which is it?  Would a Jewish flag make it acceptable, or would it make the ship sarcastically “Jewish?”

In truth, vocal atheist Hemant Mehta had probably never seen any symbol hoisted above the American flag before.  As some like to say, however, the fact that one has never seen it does not mean it hasn’t occurred.  A prior article covered the story of a burial at sea, which involves the raising of the pennant, and it also talked about the Jewish pennant as well:

Had Mehta taken some time to research his subject — rather than just spouting off — he would have found what even some other atheists tried to tell him (to their credit).  He gave a half-hearted ‘correct me if I’m wrong’ — and, a few hours later, managed to say it was “weird” but ‘apparently within regulations.’

The church pennant is a longstanding naval tradition that says nothing about the religiosity of a boat or its crew.  It says simply that religious services are occurring.  Some history seems to indicate this was intended to let other vessels know; others, that it was a sign among the crew to show respect and tone down the volume as services were being held.

In addition, the US flag code specifically describes the use of the church pennant on naval vessels — above the American flag.

Raising the pennant as depicted is not required by any faith, but it is also not illegal or unconstitutional.  Congress can change the flag code and/or the Navy can cease its tradition as they see fit.  What the government cannot do, however, is prohibit an otherwise benign act simply because of its association with religion.

As is wont to happen, the atheist’s unthoughtful diatribe inspired a few fellow atheists to take equally unthoughtful offense — with some calling for court-martial of those involved and declaring the act “treason.”  (Again, to their credit, some commenters defended the legality of the act and the innocence of those involved, even if they disagreed with it.)  The disgruntled atheists then apparently took to the ship’s Facebook page — largely a site for friends and family of the crew — with equally unthoughtful comments.

The ship removed the photo.

Mehta said he found the decision to remove the photo a “strange thing to do if everything is on the up-and-up” — again clueless as to the whole point of the Facebook page for the crew and their families.

If one has a problem with the law or tradition, fine, work to get it changed.  The speed with which some atheists assumed something was an inappropriate or illegal act — and demanded the heads of those involved — serves to demonstrate the hypersensitive herd mentality of those who will believe (fervently, even) anything they read on the internet (a fault that crosses ideological lines).  Michael Weinstein’s MRFF sycophants are much the same, though that is a topic for another time.

While many atheists (including some who chided Mehta on his oversensitivity) care not one whit about the cross or a pennant announcing services, it seems Mehta is joining Jason Torpy as one offended by the mere sight of the Christian cross.

Which brings to mind a citation:

1 Corinthians 1:18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (NIV)

One other comment is worth repeating:

Rich Wilson
To be fair, they are flying the atheist pennant when atheist services are under way.

Well played.