A member of the US military wrote an article published online noting he was an Army Captain and Christian — and yet he opposed the existence of the Bladensburg Peace Cross:
My name is CPT Justin M. Lienhard…I am absolutely opposed to any public funds being used to support any religious institutions or beliefs. The Bladensburg cross at the heart of the ongoing Supreme Court battle is an example of exactly that, and it doesn’t represent my service, nor the service of the many people I worked alongside…
I am an avowed Christian. I know that Jesus is my lord savior.
Lienhard’s article is not compelling — and it’s also not entirely forthright.
First, he gives a passionate critique of several strawmen. The Bladensburg Peace Cross has nothing to do with “public funds [supporting] religious institutions or beliefs” — despite his categorical claim it was “exactly that.” He writes about not “march[ing] as a Christian army,” which has nothing to do with the Peace Cross — or just about anything else. Further, contrary to his passionate claim, the Bladensburg Peace Cross wasn’t erected to represent his service, nor honor all veterans. It was erected with the use of private funds to honor the families of 49 local citizens who were killed in World War I. That he would somehow personalize their memorial changes its meaning not one whit.
It is interesting that a US Army Captain would Read more
Over the past couple of years a group of self-described atheists and humanists has been hosting an alternative Sunday service for trainees at Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX. The effort was largely led by Victoria Gettman, a former US Army Sergeant on whose behalf Michael “Mikey” Weinstein once promised (and, predictably, failed to deliver) an “aggressive” federal lawsuit.
Gettman and her cadre have been lauding the attendance numbers at their non-theistic weekly gathering — including the fact it has now reached 1,000, the maximum capacity of the venue granted by the Air Force, meaning they have to turn trainees away. But Gettman’s explanation has an interesting caveat [emphasis added]: Read more
In 2012, then-US Army Major Ray Bradley complained that he was a humanist but was unable to put “humanist” in his military records as his “religion” in his military records (and reflected on his dog tags).
In 2014, the US Army added “humanist” to the list of faith codes.
In a new memo dated 27 March 2017 (PDF), the DoD Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs published a change that established standardized DoD-wide faith codes across the force — including “Humanist.”
For his part, Bradley had originally envisioned the recognition as the first step to achieving “lay leader” status as a humanist (with humanist “chaplain” to follow). That’s the same conclusion for which Jason Torpy pined when his MAAF reported on this new memo.
Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service — sitting Read more
A recent commentary noted the apparent rise of atheism within the US military and highlighted the atheist “church” that occurs at Air Force Basic Training at Lackland AFB — where, at the time, atheists were claiming nearly 1,000 weekly attendees.
The group has been putting up weekly photos of a few of their attendees (though none of the events themselves):
(Here’s something interesting: When a group of Army trainees took a similar-themed photo after their Christian service, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein called them a “national security threat” and used the image as a fundraising prop in his fight against Christians. Think Weinstein will consider these atheists a national security threat, too?)
According to the Read more
The US Navy Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (RearAdm) Margaret Kibben was the subject of a lengthy article at the Navy Times which summarized her tenure and her perspectives on the Navy’s chaplain corps. The reporter, Meghann Myers, did an admirable job of trying to craft an unbiased and well-researched article, and she gave Chaplain Kibben an opportunity to comment on two recent controversies involving Navy chaplains: a lawsuit by Jason Heap, as he seeks to become a “humanist chaplain” in the military, and the firing and subsequent exoneration of Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder over alleged comments regarding sexuality.
Regarding Heap, the article notes he and Jason Torpy’s MAAF rely upon the fact around 23% of the US military list “no religious preference” in their religious identification as support for their claim that atheists/humanists require their own chaplain. As has been discussed here several times before, this is a misleading Read more
Jason Torpy, a former US Army Captain and current atheist, recently claimed that Christians in the US military are “play[ing] the victim” while atheists are the real victims:
“We are not alone in suffering from what has been a largely successful tactic for a subset of Christians to play the victim,” said Jason Torpy.
Journalist Leo Shane of the Military Times made the regrettable decision to drop any qualifiers, presenting Torpy’s assertions as fact [emphasis added]:
Torpy and his group are hoping…the [IG] will go beyond the unsubstantiated problems posed by Congress and include some of the actual discrimination faced by humanists and atheists that he detailed in conversations with the office.
“We need to redirect to real problems,” [he said].
Some of the issues raised by Congress have Read more
In February Offutt Air Force Base approved “Offutt Humanists” to operate as a private organization:
I’ve been attending the base chaplain’s Bible study for over a year,” says Offutt Humanist founder, Tom Gray, “and he agreed with me that the needs of the non-religious would be better met outside of a religious context.”
“I appreciated his support as I went through the process to create Offutt Humanists,” Gray added.
Some atheists have claimed for years that they are “denied” access to military base or post facilities. As has Read more
Chris Stedman, the Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, took to the Religion News Service to express his view on recent events at the US Air Force Academy. Specifically, he addressed Todd Starnes’ comparison of how USAFA took down a Bible verse recently and censored Christian cadets in the past — but allowed atheists to advertise their beliefs. Stedman said:
The stated reason for removing the Bible verse—attempting to ensure that no person, perhaps particularly religious minorities, feels coerced or discriminated against—is a good one… Read more