Heroes September 26, 2007


(L-R: Sgt. Mike Aguilar, SPC Christopher Carr, SPC Jeremy Hall, SPC Tony Hernandez, and SPC Dustin Chalker)

The one in the middle, Jeremy Hall, is joining the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in suing the Department of Defense (here’s a PDF of the lawsuit):

The suit, in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., alleges that [Maj. Paul] Welborne threatened to file military charges against Hall and to block his reenlistment for trying to hold a meeting of atheists and non-Christians in Iraq.

In naming [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates as a defendant, the lawsuit alleges he permits a culture that sanctions activities by Christian organizations, including providing personnel and equipment. It also says the military permits proselytizing by soldiers, tolerates anti-Semitism and the placing of religious symbols on military equipment, and allows the use of military e-mail accounts to send religious rhetoric.

There’s currently an issue about who/where Welborne is. The lawsuit has now been amended to charge Freddy J. Welborn, not “Paul Welborne.”

Over at The Second Enlightenment, we hear about the response to Hall:

One unfortunate consequence of this is that, according to SPC Chalker, SPC Hall has been receiving death threats, ostensibly from some of his fellow soldiers, and has been assigned a bodyguard because of it (the person behind the camera, accord to SPC Chalker). I guess the theistic asshats making the threats never understood the concept of “brothers in arms,” because this sure isn’t any way to treat a fellow soldier, regardless of what religion he follows (or doesn’t as the case may be).

Why this is an issue baffles me. If the soldiers want to have a meeting for atheists, let them. End of story. This is the military, not church. Do the Christians who are stopping these meetings have nothing better to do in Iraq?

(via The Second Enlightenment. Thanks also to Richard for the links!)

[tags]atheist, atheism, military, army, religion, Jesus, Christian[/tags]

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  • Mriana

    It’s about time! I get so sick of that remark about no atheists in foxholes. It’s just not true and even more so, because there are many who, like my great uncle, become atheists while fighting in a war. Thus, there are even new atheists in foxholes.

  • Anon

    It’s funny how the oath that all service members take specifically mentions supporting and defending the U.S. Constitution, yet so many soldiers do the exact opposite with their willingness to discriminate on the basis of religion and other aspects of people.

    It was my parents who thought I was crazy for wanting to join the Marines.

    Now, with only a few years left until I have the possibility of going to Officer Candidate School, I’m starting to doubt my own sanity for wanting to join as an Atheist.

    I have more respect now for those 5 soldiers than I do for anybody else I’ve heard of in the military. They’re of the few that have the integrity as humans to actually uphold an oath that they took.

    Wait a minute! Isn’t it ironic that the oath they take to defend the constitution is, by its last line, unconstitutional?… “So help me God.”

  • So. They’re receiving death threats?

    And people wonder why more atheists don’t come out of the closet, or sign their real names to comments like this.

  • Bad

    Given what happened to Pat Tillman, it’s no wonder people are scared to reveal who they are.

    As to the oath though, are you sure “So help me God” is an official part of it, I mean, in the regs itself? The oaths of office for the President and Congress, for instance, do not officially include it: people just have traditionally added it on their own to demonstrate their piety.

  • Anon

    You’re right, it’s not official. My mistake.

    But it is said at every ceremony be the person who leads the oath, and I was required to say it when I was obtaining my citizenship for this country.

    Still, it’s hypocritical that the Major, and anyone else that has thrown death threats at them, is doing such things after taking the oath (which isn’t unconstitutional, as I’ve just learned, and thus a valid promise that is made by service members).

    BTW. That’s my real name. I’m not afraid of death threats.

  • Heroes indeed. These guys are risking their lives for something they believe in without the promise of some afterlife. GG Guys.

  • Sherry Young, USAF 76-85

    Had I asserted my rights twenty years ago during the “Cold War”, perhaps our bravest wouldn’t be facing such persecution during this “Hot War”.

    I’m ashamed of myself and very proud of these young men.

  • I got a comment from a friend of Jeremy Hall. He said he was happy to see so much support for him on this issue.

  • Thanks for the link love Hemant!

    -Will (Paranoid Android @ Second Enlightenment)

  • SteveB

    Is it possible that he’s receiving threats not because he’s an atheist, but because he filed suit against his own command, not to mention the entire military? Or that he has spotlighted his unit and drawn a lot of negative attention?

    Not defending what might have happened to him, but I doubt he’s being harrassed just for being an atheist.

  • Polly


    BTW. That’s my real name. I’m not afraid of death threats.

    Well, net privacy is important whatever one believes. Are you from Turkey, originally?

  • Anon

    I’m a first gen U.S. citizen, but I am indeed 100% Turkish when looking at my ancestry. I’m fluent in speaking Turkish but not in writing.

    I was actually born in Germany, went to Turkey a few months later, and after another three months, came to the U.S.

    And as important as net privacy is, half my spam mentions my full name and location anyway. And I doubt anyone is going to search for and kill me because I said I’m not afraid of death threats.

  • Dustin Chalker

    Hi guys, this is SPC Dustin Chalker (in the picture, far right). I want to thank you all. It’s great to see the positive support out there for Jeremy’s case and for our cause in general.

  • Polly

    And as important as net privacy is, half my spam mentions my full name and location anyway.

    Arrrgh. I hate it when they know more than they should. It makes me wonder who’s selling all my data.

    And I doubt anyone is going to search for and kill me because I said I’m not afraid of death threats.

    Quite right. It’s the SPAM that’s the real threat. 🙂

  • I figured you’d like an update on SPC Hall’s situation. He’s being sent back stateside for his own safety, apparently.


    –Will (Paranoid Android @ Second Enlightenment)

  • Mriana

    That is sad. 🙁 When will people grow up and stop acting like more like children than children do?

  • Karen

    I figured you’d like an update on SPC Hall’s situation. He’s being sent back stateside for his own safety, apparently.

    Wow, that’s just horrible. It occurs to me that shipping him home, along with protecting him (apparently), is also a good way to stop or slow the momentum of the group he was organizing. Sad. 🙁

  • Jeremy Hall

    Thanks for all of the positive feedback. For awhile, in the beginning of all of this I thought I was one of a kind. Appearantly not! I also want to thank Dustin Chalker for the photo idea. *High five dude* I am doing well and things seemed to have regained some composure. Lastly I would like to bring a very unselfish organization to light. “Operation Foxhole Atheist”. I believe they are the first of there kind and they deserve applause for the unprecedented support they have given non believers here in Iraq. Thank you!

  • Lauren Peoples

    While it’s sad that it’s come to this (death threats, lawsuits, SPC Hall having to be sent home, etc), I think some good has come out of it. Finally, people are beginning to realize that there *are* atheists in foxholes. You guys are so brave and have certainly earned my respect. Keep standing up for yourselves and stay safe out there!

    — AANR addict Lauren Peoples

  • Dagny Landis

    This is amazing. Thanks, Jeremy Hall & Co.! I’m glad there are people like you in the military. I grew up in a Navy town (Norfolk, VA) and a lot of the guys I met were evangelical assholes…it’s nice to know that “military” and “Christian” aren’t synonymous.

  • Gerrit Barrere

    Foxholes aren’t always in combat either. I had a cerebellar stroke and a near-death experience a few years ago. I was fully conscious and felt myself dying. It was a terrifying and even exhilarating experience, but at no point did I feel like I had to make a last-minute conversion. The overwhelming feeling was “so this is what it’s like”. In the weeks afterward, through the paralysis, rehab, and emotional rollercoaster ride, I was never tormented with thoughts of “why me, Lord?”, or trying to decide if this was putting my karmic bank account on the credit or debit side. Things like this just happen. I simply dealt with things as they came along. In this respect my lack of faith was a great comfort to me. I don’t see how the comfort which religious people claim they derive from their faith can outweigh the torment and guilt which also part of religion.

  • Phil Dirt

    when I was in army officer candidate school two decades ago, I was all-but-forced to attend Christian Sunday service even though I was (and am) an avowed atheist.

    in the end, I realized fighting it would jeapordize my military career. I could easily see myself in SPC Hall’s place. He’s a brave soldier! Fight the good fight!

  • It’s odd. I’m agnostic and vocally so. My wife is Wiccan. While in training, she served as a Religious Activities Rep, was officially authorized to wear a pentacle ON HER UNIFORM for recognition, and held a couple of rituals with approval and with attendance by some of her chain.

    I’ve met a good number of hardcore creationist literalists and Evangelicals, but the worst I’ve run into is just their assumption that a public prayer is acceptable.

    I simply don’t participate.

    Obviously, though, there are at least some who have taken extreme positions–note the “folding the flag is really a tribute to God” BS the fundies at the USAFA created a few years back, then acted as if it existed since 1776.

    I’m watching this. The time to address a problem is while it’s still (relatively) small.

  • HALL is a FAKE

    Hey Hall quit being a fake ass. You know that you use to attend church when you went Basic training and and Fort Riley. You are trying to gain some attention. Quit making the Army and others look bad because no likes you. You tell the rest of the people how much of a pansy you are, had your weapon takin away on your first combat tour (decorated war hero my ass) let the truth come out. When you say people rough you up because you are a freking idiot, hyper active little kid, wearing all black and jumping on hesco barriers here with nvgs, come on grow the f**k up. Get over it no one likes you for who you are they dont care about what your religion is, or want it to be. Lets let everyone else know how much of a war hero you really are and there are many many people who would contest to any of this so let the people here this one

  • sah

    it’s funny because it’s in precisely in the foxhole where one becomes an atheist, because one starts wondering so many things and question the contradictioons in the bible. That happened to me in very trouble times. So, yes, that statement is funny indeed.

  • CPT H

    If more people had the intelligence and strength to question the distorted realities of religion, we probably would not be fighting today’s wars. Unfortunately, too many humans are too frightened to face the reality that there might not be life after death or a god that watches over us. This life is the only one we have so we might want to make the best of it and be kind and accepting of others. Thank you, Jeremy, for fighting for all of us who dare to think and question. As a scientist and a reserve officer, I want you to know that I am proud of you and stand by you. I only wish there were more people like you in the American military. Keep up the good fight.

  • Still Alive

    Good job Hall. Keep fighting and never give up what you believe in!
    These sentences below are from world famous atheists.
    Take care man.

    “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.”
    – Voltaire, French writer, essayist and philosopher

    “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for a reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”
    -Albert Einstein, German-born American physicist

  • Q

    I recently did my oath of enlistment. I asked if I had to say “so help me God,” and they told me that yes, I had to say it.

  • That’s BS. You don’t have to say it. You can affirm on your word. A number of Christians, including Quakers, refuse to swear by God because they believe it is taking his name in vain.

    You need to contact the staff at MEPS and make them address that issue.

  • CPT H

    WOW, it’s refreshing to see that there are more people in the military who think like I do. I am quite tired of all this delusional god stuff. If people really take a hard look at their lives and think about the actual likelihood of a god watching over them, they would notice how little sense it actually makes. I agree that reality is hard to swallow. It could even be quite depressing, but that’s nature. We need more people who think and ask questions. The army should have nothing to do with religion in a country that has separation of church and state. I took the oath of office and muttered the words about god, but I felt strange saying them. They meant nothing to me.

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