Sometimes, people in leadership positions just assume everyone believes in God. It’s not that they’re trying to force their religion onto you; they just don’t know any better — like a teacher who tells every student to stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, not understanding that it’s perfectly fine if a student doesn’t want to say that we’re living in a nation “Under God.”
It’s even worse in the military — when commanding officers tell you to pray along with everyone else, not realizing that some soldiers may not believe in god and don’t want to bow their heads. How do you tell your superiors that you’re not going to follow that particular order?
That’s the situation one 20-year-old soldier was placed in
yesterday last month during his graduation from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
During the rehearsals for the ceremony, “officials ordered the soldiers to bow their heads and clasp their hands during the chaplain’s benediction.”
“I immediately pointed out that not only is a prayer at a public ceremony unconstitutional, but to force someone to give the illusion of religion when the individual does not believe in any religion is blatantly wrong and very illegal,” the soldier said in an e-mail to the [Military Religious Freedom Foundation].
The rest of the platoon “groaned” at the soldier’s stance, but the soldier wrote that “I stood my ground.”
“When you stand up like this, you make yourself a tarantula on a wedding cake,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder of the foundation. Weinstein said the soldier was “brave” for taking a stand.
It takes a lot of courage to do something that unpopular — especially when you know people will wrongly assume you’re doing it to get attention or to make the ceremony “all about you.” That’s not the reality of the situation. No Christian soldier would want to pray to Allah or be forced to say “God doesn’t exist” and no atheist soldier should have to pretend like a Higher Power is watching over all of us.
After the unknown soldier protested, he braced himself for punishment:
Officials at Fort Jackson threatened to pull the soldier from the ceremony but then backed down, according to the soldier, after hearing that the soldier had contacted the religious freedom foundation.
When the soldier refused [to bow his head], citing a Supreme Court ruling that states there was no requirement to pray in public ceremonies, the officer then took the matter to the platoon sergeant, who also told the soldier to bow their head for uniformity purposes, according to Patrick Jones, a Ft. Jackson Public Affairs Officer.
Upon refusing again, the platoon sergeant contacted the company commander who then told the soldier that there was no requirement to pray or bow ones head, but was required to remain at “attention”, Jones stated.
I don’t know who the soldier is, but hats off to him and anyone else who is in his position. He did the right thing by standing up for his own beliefs and maybe some of the commanding officers learned about the Constitution in the process.
(Thanks to Jenea for the link)