Have Government Faith-Based Policies Hurt You? January 15, 2010

Have Government Faith-Based Policies Hurt You?

I’m doing a quick project and I could use your help.

Specifically, I’m looking for atheists who have:

  • experienced the coercive religious climate in the military
  • been affected negatively by the faith based initiative program or organizations that have received money through the faith based initiative program
  • suffered debilitating illnesses as a result of a parent’s medical neglect connected to “faith-healing” during childhood
  • witnessed how religious child care center’s lack of health and safety standards have put children at risk

If you have experienced any of this firsthand, please send me your name, story, city, and contact information. This is not for the blog and I won’t make this information public without your permission.

I need these by tonight! Thanks 🙂


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  • En Passant

    I have another suggestion that may be in the same vein. How about government-mandated recovery programs like AA? A US judge can force one to attend meetings that require submission to a higher power and all that. It still blows my mind that goes on. Fortunately, none of these situations apply to me, so unfortunately I can’t be very helpful.

    – EP

  • Ron in Houston

    I’m with EP on the whole 12 step AA programs. There is way too much interconnection between courts and these programs.

  • Molly

    I’m guessing you’re not looking for stories of unwanted sober Sundays from forgetting to get the beer on Saturday. Damn law making liquor stores be closed on Sunday!

    I like the suggestion about the AA meetings though.

  • Trace

    En Passant/Ron’s suggestions are very good ones.

    I heard in the Atheist Experience podcast, I believe, that you can request an alternative secular program.

    The problem though, seems to be that many people do not know any better or are in no condition (emotionally) to request such a thing.

    Good luck!

  • Robbo

    Sorry, but I’ve been in uniform since 1986 and I still haven’t experienced “the” coercive religious climate in the military. Met a lot of loons, but they’re not everywhere.

  • Deiloh

    Prop. 8 did not harm me directly, my neighbor had done unto her what I would not want done to me.

  • John Perkins

    Anyone who’s ever been in the military has witnessed the coercive religious climate. On Sunday, during Basic Training, you’re given the opportunity to attend any of the church services offered. As an atheist, I had to sit in the barracks by myself for a few hours.

    That was the only time I really noticed it though. However, I did have a very religious roommate for a day, until he saw my copy of The Satanic Bible sitting on the shelf and he requested to be moved. They moved him within a day. When I cam home to my replacement roommate passed out on the floor with pools of vomit all over the floor and down the hall leading to our room, it took them 4 months to move me.

  • Sorry, but I’ve been in uniform since 1986 and I still haven’t experienced “the” coercive religious climate in the military. Met a lot of loons, but they’re not everywhere.

    You’re lucky. It may not be overly “coercive,” but it can definitely be inappropriate and create a negative environment for those who do not believe. A very negative environment, especially amongst officers whose careers are based on the fitreps they receive. The upper echelons of the Navy are very religious-friendly, and if your CO knows you’re atheist, that can really hurt your standing in the wardroom and subsequent evaluations and promotions.

  • Ed

    EP wrote

    How about government-mandated recovery programs like AA? A US judge can force one to attend meetings that require submission to a higher power and all that.

    This not true anymore, it is actually illegal to court order AA, see this link A judge may mandate a recovery program, but they HAVE to allow a secular option like RR or Lifering or whatever else there may be.

    In fact, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the constitutional dividing line between church and state in such cases is so clear that a parole officer can be sued for damages for ordering a parolee to go through rehabilitation at Alcoholics Anonymous or an affiliated program for drug addicts. Source

  • En Passant

    That’s great news to me, Ed; thanks for sharing that info!

  • * experienced the coercive religious climate in the military

    I’m going to assume that you’ve already e-mailed Mikey Weinstein at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. I’m sure he can give you a long list of horror stories.

    * witnessed how religious child care center’s lack of health and safety standards have put children at risk

    Two words: Rod Parsley.

  • flyby

    I was deployed in Iraq for 15 months from ’07 to ’08. I worked in an intelligence sector and we had daily Battle Update Briefs. Each leader would update the commander on their section’s ongoings. We had a great chaplain who was very diverse and respectful of everyone, but he was replaced by another fundamentalist chaplain who insisted on praying for all unbelievers and the Muslims of that country to convert to “the love of Christ” at the beginning of each BUB. Of course no one said anything to stop him and I was at the bottom of the rank chain, being one of few Specialists in the building. Some of his prayers were very offensive towards non-Christians, but that is about the extent of it. Although he did praise the efforts of a group of chaplains who tried to make it their mission to convert non believing civilians in Iraq. Sorry, I don’t have details on that story. But it was awful because with all the stress we were under, the chaplain’s office was the only place soldiers could go to vent or cry or be counseled without fear of being punished. Since that chaplain replaced the old one, I no longer went there because he’d always push people to convert. It affected our stress levels since a lot of soldiers went to the chaplain as a stress outlet. There are no other confidential resoruces to go to. Even the mental health clinic has to report to the command if requested to do so.

  • mkb

    On the child care issue — I followed the link to the article about Rod Parsley. While the situations described were very sad I did not see anything that suggested that differential health and safety standards applied to religious child care were involved. They may have been, but that was not apparent from the article.

  • Robbo

    I don’t deny that some service members have experienced “a” coercive religious climate.
    The quotes in my comment meant that I thought Hemant made a small mistake by saying, “the coercive religious climate,” using the definite article.
    For example, I’ve spent over a hundred Sundays at sea, and I don’t remember ever being encouraged to go to worship services. I just read a book on the flight deck.
    Yes, there are loons, including some high ranking ones. I simply take issue with the phrase “the coercive religious climate in the military” because it is not everywhere, all the time.
    Of course, we still need to stamp out those pockets of religious intolerance that do exist.

  • experienced the coercive religious climate in the military

    I don’t know if I would specifically call it coercive, per se, but I would definitely call it awkward. I’m a reservist and I’ve been mobilized/deployed for almost the last two years to Iraq at this point, and normally I’m so busy that it’s never an issue. I work over 90 hours a week with no days off so there’s never really been any pressure from anyone in the command structure to do anything other than work and the gym and the occasional haircut.

    That being said it got really awkward around the holidays, because our leadership brought in the Chaplain to “give us a talking to” or whatever. He proceeded to make a big deal about respecting people of all faiths and the like and then proceeded to offer a prayer, after saying something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing here) how we were all doing God’s work. This was right after I’d finished reading Dawkins for the first time and was pretty hostile to the whole idea of it and found that last statement in particular rather offensive, but I didn’t really say anything because I’d heard the stories. So anyway about half of us were looking around the whole time.

    I wouldn’t have called it coercive, but it’s not like I could leave the meeting without causing a scene and the sense I got from talking to most of the people I worked with was that it was a waste of time which could be better spent on the mission. As far as I know only a couple of officers got anything out of it.

    Let me caveat that by saying that I’m an agnostic who happens to be a rabid empiricist, though, and not technically an atheist. I don’t know if that leaves me out of your desired group.

  • BoomerChick

    Faith Based Initiative Programs:
    Food Banks that get their food from the dept of agriculture often seize every opportunity to proselytize.

    Energy Assistance Programs from the state/county have asked recipients to participate in prayer and thank Jesus for the money.

  • I’m ex-military. I spent a year in Iraq. I think it contributed to my atheism as much as anything because I think I was a little more vocal about it because I knew I could in an effort to let other non-religious soldiers find me or be aware that it was okay. I don’t know how well that worked though.