Air Force Pulls Chaplain Column, Atheist Article Remains

Update: The Air Force has restored the censored article.  Read more here, or the chaplain’s original article here.


Update: The Air Force has reportedly declined to explain what regulations prohibit the chaplain’s column, which Liberty University School of Law fellow Ken Klukowski says “looks like expression protected by the free speech and religious freedom provisions of the First Amendment.”


 A chaplain has been censored for expressing his beliefs about the role of faith in the lives of service members.  There has to be a recognition that this is discrimination against Christians… When anti-Christian activists like Mikey Weinstein are dictating the rules for what chaplains are allowed to do, then we must ask the question why we [even] have chaplains.

- LtGen Jerry Boykin, USA, Ret

The US Air Force reportedly pulled down an official article written by a Chaplain because someone claimed to be offended by the title.

A chaplain at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska was ordered to remove a religious column he had written titled, “No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave all in World War II,” because it allegedly offended atheists serving on the Air Force base.

Col. Brian Duffy, the base commander told Fox News the column was removed “out of respect for those who considered its title offensive.”

The article notes that the column, written by Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes, did not “attack or insult” anyone — it simply began with the question of the origin of the phrase.  It seems a few critics didn’t read beyond the title, and criticized a caricature of what Chaplain Reyes wrote, such as atheist Jason Torpy, who makes a point of addressing the “no atheist” cliché wherever he finds it on the internet: 

7/18/2013 4:21:49 PM ET
There are atheists in foxholes…Does CH Reyes really think everyone in combat suddenly believes in a god? Claiming such a thing is derogatory toward your fellow nontheistic soldiers just as it would be to claim that Christians lack courage in combat…This post should be rewritten to denounce rather than celebrate such a discriminatory sentiment…
Jason Torpy, United States

Chaplain Reyes said nothing of the sort.

Former West Point cadet (and now “special assistant” to Michael Weinstein) Blake Page wrote the letter to Col Duffy demanding the column be removed and Chaplain Reyes be punished [emphasis added]:

In his article, Lt. Col. Reyes violates AFI 1-1, section 2.11 which requires that “Leaders at all levels must…avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates…”

Beyond his most obvious failure in upholding regulations through redundant use of the bigoted, religious supremacist phrase, “no atheists in foxholes,” he defiles the dignity of service members by telling them that regardless of their personally held philosophical beliefs they must have faith.

AFI 1-1 has been the MRFF’s “go to” regulation nearly since its inception; its almost as if the AFI was written just for them.

Regardless, Page’s accusation is without basis.  A chaplain is perfectly within the AFIs when he writes such a column.  Importantly, contrary to the MRFF attack, Chaplain Reyes did not make the claim that there “are no atheists in foxholes,” which anyone who actually read the article would see. He merely mentioned it in historical context. Finally, Page again paints a caricature of the article, because the chaplain did not say everyone “must have faith.”  In fact, he actually said

Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular.   Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.

Col Duffy was apologetic in an email to the MRFF:

While certainly not intended to offend, the article has been removed from our website.  We remain mindful of the governing instructions on this matter and will work to avoid recurrence.

Col Duffy, a 24-year AF veteran, seems to have given the MRFF the impression he agreed with the analysis of the 25-year-old West Point dropout that the column violated Air Force Instruction 1-1 — and that it won’t happen again.

It is no small irony that the MRFF just weeks ago highlighted — positively — a similarly written article by an atheist in the Air Force.  The Air Force pulled down the chaplain’s column, which the MRFF claimed violated AFI 1-1 in its expression of beliefs and the Air Force said was offensive.  Think they’ll pull the atheist column for the same reason?  Atheist Senior Airman Jarrod Grammel said

I believe religion isn’t the only, and perhaps shouldn’t, be the only way to achieve spiritual fitness…

Maybe we don’t have a divine purpose, but rather that we must find our own.

Both articles are equally “offensive” — which is to say, they’re not offensive at all.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Weinstein lost the advantage in his primary weapon.  Weinstein has made an effective use of “bad press” to coerce the military to surrender to his demands, even if the demands are unwarranted.  In this case, the story made it to the news (lots of news) before Weinstein could sculpt the narrative — and the Air Force is getting “bad press” for bowing to Weinstein, yet again.  Even the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Facebook page was inundated with criticism — so much so they published a link to AF social media guidelines.

The text of Chaplain Reyes’ article is below.  This is the text a “religious freedom charity” thinks is a “message of religious supremacy and disrespect towards the non-religious.”  The Air Force seems to have given the impression of validating that concern.  Judge for yourself:

“Chaplain’s Corner: No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II”
By Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes

Many have heard the familiar phrase, “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

Where did this come from?

Research I verified in an interview with former World War II prisoner of war Roy Bodine (my friend) indicates the phrase has been credited to Father William Cummings.

As the story goes, Father Cummings was a civilian missionary Catholic priest in the Philippines. The phrase was coined during the Japanese attack at Corregidor. During the siege, Cummings had noticed non-Catholics were attending his services. Some he knew were not Catholic, some were not religious and some were even known atheists.

Life-and-death experiences prompt a reality check.

Even the strongest of beliefs can change, and, I may add, can go both ways – people can be drawn to or away from “faith.”

With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese, Cummings uttered the famous phrase “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

In one of my many discussions with Roy, he distinctly remembered a period on the “Hell Ships” – these were ships the Japanese used to bring POWs from the Philippines back to Japan. They were unmarked and thus ‘fair game’ for attacks from the allies from the air and sea. Of the 3,000-plus POWs listed on the ships, only 180 survived the journey.

“When our own planes were attacking us,” Roy said, “I remember Father Cummings calming us down by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and offering up prayers on our behalf.  For a brief moment I did not hear the yells and screams of dying men as our boat was attacked by our own men.”

He went on to say, “There was a peaceful quiet during the attack that I cannot explain nor have experienced since.”  Later on during the trip to Japan, Cummings, after giving his food to others who needed it more, succumbed to his own need and died of starvation.

Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular.

Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.

The real question is, “Is it important to have faith in ‘faith’ itself or is it more important to ask, ‘What is the object of my faith?’”

Roy never affirmed or expressed whether his faith was rooted in religion or not, but for a moment in time on the “Hell Ships,” he believed in Cummings’ faith.

What is the root or object of your faith?

Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?

Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?

What is ‘faith’ to you?

Also at LifeSiteNews.

5 replies to “Air Force Pulls Chaplain Column, Atheist Article Remains

  1. wtoma

    As a taxpayer and therefore his employer, everyone reading this article should send a personal letter of censure and reprimand to Col. Brian Duffy, 673d Air Base Wing, JBER, Alaska.

  2. Linda in PA

    It offends me that Col. Duffy did not defend this chaplain, that this article was pulled, and that he stooped so low as to issue an apology. As one who has used that quote on numerous occasions, I found this article interesting. Col. Reyes is a CHAPLAIN! His articles SHOULD address issues of faith for those who are interested. His vocation is to provide spiritual guidance and leadership for our military who are fighting to defend, among other things, our First Amendment Right to the free exercise of our Faith. The chaplain is available for ALL who seek his services, regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof. For those in the military who ARE Atheists, they can choose NOT to avail themselves of the services of a chaplain. No one is being forced to believe in any particular way. This article was very generic. What a blessing that our military have chaplains to provide spiritual sustenance.

    Col. Duffy should be apologizing to Col. Reyes for taking the cowardly route. I am certain that Col. Reyes would forgive him for it. Col. Reyes did what he should be doing! Imagine – a chaplain who writes about faith!!!!!!!! God bless him, and God forgive Col. Duffy.

  3. Robert Sumner

    The Base commander is a very weak man of low integrity. Judgement and loyalty to his troops is a propriety in his command. I have read about his bowing and scrapping to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. What a load of crap. As a Marine Combat Veteran who defends religious freedoms for our Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and Sailors, I am disgusted with his lack of leadership. The Chaplin Corps are there for the war fighters, not the public civilians, who have no clue of what happens in combat. I would not follow your Commander into a hot zone for nothing. If I did follow him, it would be out of pure Curiosity. Since he has censored Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, he has done nothing more then aid the enemy in my eyes.

    Semper Fidelis to my God, Country, Corps:

  4. Ben Hart

    Another lie told by a “GOOD CHRISTIAN”. My uncle Capt. Vernon Hart M.D. ,was in Vietnam he was awarded two Bronze Stars for valor. He was an atheist. His dog tag said “NONE”. He saved more lives directly than any chaplain.
    Why do Christians think that have the right to put down atheists. And if we push back the bullies we are portrayed as the bad guys .

    1. JD

      You’re a little behind the news. You may want to read the updated article.

      What was the lie, by the way? And at what point did anyone put down anyone else (besides the MRFF denigrating the Chaplain)? Who bullied anyone (besides the MRFF bullying the USAF)?

      Perhaps you should try reading the what the chaplain wrote.

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