Military Atheists Target Fellow Religious Troops. Again.
In what appears to be a trend, a few atheist members of the US military seem to have taken on a “militant” practice of their faith — by aggressively going after their fellow religious troops.
In May 2012, Army Sgt Justin Griffith led his “internet atheists” against a prayer event hosted by the families of his fellow Fort Bragg Soldiers — while those families’ Soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan.
In March 2013, an Air Force Chief Master Sergeant proudly announced that he’d purged his squadron of posters for “Christian” events — even official events sponsored by MWR.
In August 2013, Captain Sara Sharick — an Army recruiter — indicated she might use her Army position to try to steer a potential recruit away from his school of choice, Christian-founded Liberty University, because it was home to “the crazies.”
Later in August, Daniel Smith — a civilian commissary store director — claimed the presence of Gideon Bibles in Air Force Inns was unconstitutional. He lodged complaints with the intent of removing those Bibles, so traveling active duty Airmen wouldn’t have access to them.
Now, another incident from earlier this year has recently come to light.
It seems another Army atheist took issue with his fellow Soldiers and their families participating in a “prayer walk” around his home post of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The event was a “prayer walk around Schofield Barracks Garrison,” and was held on a Saturday morning, as was publicly announced on the local chapel’s Facebook page [redacted]:
US Army Specialist Thomas Faulkner, calling himself a “new age atheist,” took issue with the poster, calling the planned event “illegal” and “morally unacceptable:”
Ok, this is [redacted]. Not to mention it is illegal to protest on a military post(silent or not), it is morally and socially unacceptable! How do you claim you are taking back land for YOUR GOD. That is teaching the CHILDREN of this post and the people of the world to “fight” the enemy in the name of CHRISTIANITY!
This is what the Specialist planned to do in response [emphasis added]:
this Saturday, (if i cannot get JAG to back me up and stop this nonsense) I will walk behind them and stand up for the little man. I will be decked out in my Scarlet Red Atheist Hat and my “There is no God” t-shirt…
The atheist group’s intent wasn’t to participate, it was to find fault in the religious acts of their fellow Soldiers and their families:
I am going to be out there with them at 0930 tomorrow to see if they are doing anything wrong and take a couple pictures.
The atheist group further called it a “threat to morale” and “an EO violation.”
Faulker did attend the Saturday morning event and was apparently dressed as he described, as were his friends:
Ill be in my blue “Religion: Together we can find a cure.” t-shirt.
Here’s Faulkner’s own description of how his “protest” was received [emphasis added]:
There were no signs so it didn’t violate post regulations, but there was confrontation…We walked up to the group of people gathered at the Main Post Chapel where we were simply observing and taking notes of their actions when a COL approached us with concerns of our presence.
We explained that we are simply here to observe and see if there was any religious discrimination. Needless to say it was not Secular at all. They strictly read from The Bible nor was our presence very welcome. They accepted us to watch but didn’t let us in where they would be. The Christian groups immediately left in their vehicles and took posts.
Our groups couldn’t find any of the walkers but we did make it away with the original poster.
To summarize: An active duty US Army Soldier took issue with an Army chapel group’s religious activity on a weekend, intentionally wore provocative clothing as a protest while he “observed” that religious event, and then he and his group tried to track down those people while they were participating in that religious event.
Somehow a few military atheists think their actions were a good thing. (Infamous atheist Jason Torpy “liked” the summary above.)
In an interesting follow-up, Faulkner is now applying with the Schofield Chaplains to be a humanist “lay leader,” and he appears to be meeting resistance:
I am still catching [redacted] for that prayer walk incident. Every chaplain here knows my face.
The role of the chaplaincy — and the lay leaders who support them — is to protect the religious liberty of US troops and their families. Thus, “resistance” to his application may be understandable given how he treated the religious liberty of fellow Soldiers and their families. As it stands, Specialist Faulkner currently leads the Schofield “Military Atheists and Secular Humanists,” an adjunct of atheist Jason Torpy’s MAAF. If that’s how he acts when he leads an unofficial group of military atheists, what is to be expected if his position is made official?
Religious freedom is generally valued and protected in the US military, in many respects because the military may put troops in places where that freedom is a scarce commodity. If Faulkner had taken issue with the way the prayer walk was advertised, as he first seemed to, his stance would at least be defensible as not attacking the exercise of faith but merely the communication of the activity. But for a member of the military to actually harass a group of fellow troops as they try to exercise their faith is virtually unheard of.
It is fortunate that neither Faulkner, the Chief, Capt Sharick, or Sgt Griffith represent all atheists, as several other atheists have strongly insisted. As has been noted before, most atheists are content to let people of faith exercise their religious liberty — because those atheists realize they have that same religious liberty.
It is unfortunate that these men and women — some of significant rank and position — have decided not to practice their own religious freedom, but instead insist on interfering with the exercise of religious freedom by their fellow troops and their families.
What role does atheism have in the US military if it serves only to denigrate and attack religious faith? How does their conduct affect morale, good order and discipline — or the trust and confidence the public has in the military?
Given that a seemingly growing group of Christians appears to be claiming the US military is restricting their religious liberty merely because of their beliefs, one would think the conduct of these military atheists would be noteworthy. Where’s a “military religious freedom” group when you need one?
Maybe you should ask Faulkner.
One his group’s Facebook “likes” is Michael Weinstein.