In the vein of the American Atheist’s complaint against NASA, a variety of similarly-minded groups continue to bring accusations of wrongdoing against government-associated religious organizations. For example, the ACLU has criticized the Gideons providing religious materials while in some association with a government entity (including the Gideons’ interaction with the US military).
Controversies notwithstanding, the ubiquitous nature of the Gideons ministry almost inevitably leads to the never-gets-old joke:
How do they get those Bibles in all those locked hotel rooms?
Well, in 1996 evidence arose that the Gideons were successful in getting a Bible into one of the most inaccessible nightstands in the world; in fact, it’s not even in the world. Read more
On August 26th, NASA published a fairly detailed article on what the astronauts were taking up on Discovery when it finally launched last week, as well as the historical precedent that allowed astronauts to take up personal items (as noted in the previous post).
Two days after that article, American Atheists issued a press release criticizing NASA’s decision to allow Mission Specialist Patrick Forrester to take up a part of Nate Saint’s airplane. The group said the action was a “violation of the separation of church and state,” as well as Read more
As noted at CNN, this week is the 40th Anniversary of the flight of Apollo 8–the first space flight to circle the moon. Interestingly, CNN notes that the trip was one on which an “inspirational and soothing” event occurred:
Apollo 8 also produced what to many was one of the most inspirational and soothing moments in history when Lovell and crewmates Frank Borman and William A. Anders took turns reading from the Book of Genesis. It was Christmas Eve and the whole world was watching. NASA said at the time it was expected to be the largest TV audience to date.
The astronauts signed off with these words: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth.”
This same “inspirational” event was marked by a lawsuit in the US which influenced further “religious” acts in space, as previously discussed.
Jim Lovell was the third crewmember on Apollo 8; he is perhaps more famous for his role on Apollo 13, one of three astronauts that was supposed to land on the moon but never did.
In an ironically titled piece, the Wall Street Journal lists recent efforts of atheists or non-theists to “convert” others to their views. Stephanie Simon’s “Atheists Reach Out — Just Don’t Call It Proselytizing” addresses many of the recent mainstream attempts non-theists have made to make their perspective more well-known, and to win others to their cause.
As noted several months ago, while some groups have complained that religious groups “target” the military for conversion, military atheists have done much the same thing. Military atheists also recently called on President-elect Obama to install military policies to protect non-believers.
UPDATED 14 November 2008
When they say ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’ it’s slanderous…
As noted at the Stars and Stripes, the Secular Coalition for America held a news conference demanding new regulations to “protect young military members from…rampant religious discrimination in the services.”
In their press release, the Secular Coalition notes that one atheist military officer was “thwarted” in his attempt to lodge a complaint against a General officer who “opined that there were ‘no atheists in foxholes.'” The officer “contends this statement qualifies as unlawful discrimination under current Army regulations.”
As with some other complaints of religious issues in the military, the Coalition maintains that the perpetrators are Read more
According to a variety of press reports, Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has withdrawn its lawsuit filed on behalf of Jeremy Hall against the Department of Defense. The decision comes after months of delays in the MRFF’s deadline (and days prior to the current one) to file a response to the military’s motion to dismiss.
Some reports have implied that the decision was based on Hall’s plan to leave the Army next year; however, since the lawsuit was announced last year Hall has widely reported that he planned to leave the Army. The decision to abandon the case now is inconsistent with Weinstein’s frequent comments in support of it, including a recent assertion that a post-lawsuit IG visit would bolster the case.
The more likely cause Read more
Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has asked for two delays in the required timeline to file a response to the DoJ’s motion to dismiss the MRFF’s ongoing lawsuit. Reasons for the requests included the “number of pages” of supporting material in the DoJ motion, and the requests have been unopposed by the DoJ.
It appears, though, that the law firm representing the MRFF actually had other work keeping them busy: they have now filed a second lawsuit (text). Like the first, it takes a single “issue” (in this case, the requirement that soldiers attend events in which sectarian prayers are delivered) and lumps in every possible accusation against religion in the military. Much of the lawsuit is verbatim from other filings.
For example, it once again includes unspecified accusations against Officers’ Christian Fellowship. It also includes references to the Ft Wood “Free Day Away,” which, as noted, has already been investigated by the Inspector General and found to be in compliance with regulations. It also still includes complaints about the 523rd Fighter Squadron, which no longer exists, and hasn’t for some time.
Unlike the first lawsuit, it does say that the primary plaintiff, Specialist Dustin Chalker, sought permission Read more
According to a Kansas paper, Army Specialist Jeremy Hall (who is currently suing the Defense Department for “religious proselytizing”), was rebuffed in a visit to the IG to complain about “violations of his religious freedoms.” Weinstein said this “undermines” the DoJ’s move to dismiss, which cited Hall’s failure to use the in-place grievance systems.
According to the article, the visit occurred “earlier this month.” That would make it appear to be a response to the DoJ motion, which was filed last month, and possibly an attempt to generate content for Hall’s response to the motion, which is due next month. In addition, Weinstein (a former JAG) appears not to see a conflict of interest with the Army conducting an internal investigation about charges which are currently involved in, or related to, an ongoing federal lawsuit in which it is essentially a defendant.
According to the article, Weinstein also plans to bring up the fact that someone posted a mock Soldier’s creed (that ridiculed soldiers with medical duty waivers) in Hall’s platoon area. The article lists a previously unknown medical restriction for Hall. How Weinstein plans to integrate the faux creed about physical fitness into a lawsuit about religion is unclear. The sarcastic modification of military mantras is a fairly common brand of critical cynicism in the military, and is limited neither to the Army’s creed nor physical conditions.