Atheist sues Defense Department for violating his civil rights

Yes, there are a few of us in foxholes. I’m sympathetic, just like I’m sympathetic to the 96% of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s soldier-clients who are Christian but evidently not Christian enough. The tricky part of these cases, of course, is balancing the rights of the soldier with the military’s need to restrict some of those rights to promote discipline and improve morale. Hard to see how threatening a kid for being godless does either:

When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement…

Major Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, “I’d love to tell my side of the story because it’s such a false story.”

But Timothy Feary, the other soldier at the meeting, said in an e-mail message: “Jeremy is telling the truth. I was there and witnessed everything.”…

In November 2007, Specialist Hall was sent home early from Iraq after being repeatedly threatened by other soldiers. “I caution you that although your ‘legal’ issues are yours and yours alone, I have heard many people disagree with you, and this may be a cause for some of the perceived threats,” wrote Sgt. Maj. Kevin Nolan in Specialist Hall’s counseling for his departure.

I’ve written posts about the MRFF before and the comments tend to split between “they’re exaggerating” and “yeah, it happens, but to an acceptably small degree.” To the extent that that’s originating from a slippery-slope concern about litigation making commanders worry overly about their rhetoric in war zones, fair enough — but we’re not talking about a live-fire situation here. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that one of our more knowledgeable readers thought the Foundation was wrong on the law when it complained about Pentagon brass violating DoD regs by appearing in a video for a Christian ministry. They’ve also got a nasty habit, all too common among my fellow atheists, alas, of letting their own rhetoric run away with them: Witness the press release comparing Hall’s treatment to “rape” or Mikey Weinstein’s infamous threat to leave “sucking chest wounds” on his opponents. Or better yet, just go watch the first 20 seconds of the group’s introductory video. That analogy is sufficiently disgusting that it should keep any conscientious atheist away.