I know this news is a bit old, but I feel it should not stop being discussed until it is resolved. Being made to feel uncomfortable in society because of my differences in beliefs with my peers is nothing I am a stranger to. Annoying, yes, but I forge on. When you are in the military though, you should not have to endure the demeaning nagging of evangelical fundamentalists.
With the impending repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy concerning openly gay individuals serving in the military, I think added significance should be given to Spc. Jeremy Hall’s situation. Obviously, people are starting to realize that one should not be forced to hide their sexuality to serve their country in the military, so why should someone have to hide their lack of religiosity in order to serve (without harassment)?
I realize they are different situations. Atheists are not forbidden from serving in the military, but you are almost certainly in for a rough ride. If you decide that you want to join the military and potentially give your life in its defense, it is not too much to ask that others keep their noses out of your business.
This reminds me very much of the story of a British sailor who faced unnecessary media criticism for wishing to be recognized by the Royal Navy as a Satanist. Leading Hand Chris Cranmer, had to make his case before a panel to achieve religious recognition in order to ensure that his funeral be carried out in accordance with his beliefs. Luckily for him, the Royal Navy is a tad more progressive than the United States Navy.
I was affiliated with the U.S. Air Force at the time this story broke. My detachment displayed a bulletin board with current events related to military units around the world. Leading Hand Cranmer’s story made it to the board. I happened to be reading the story at the same time as another individual in my detachment. Upon completing, she shook her head and made a throaty, guttural sound as if to say, “the nerve of these freaks.” I immediately engaged her, though I had to choose my words carefully, as she was a higher-ranking and I was a closet atheist.
She seemed to think that proper funeral practices should only be extended to people from “normal” religions. I tried to explain to her that LaVeyan Satanism was not the baby-killing, goat-sacrificing belief system that she thought it was. She rebutted that she had written a paper on Satanism, and that I was wrong as well as naive.
Unfortunately, I had to end the conversation at that point. But why? Why did I feel that I had to stifle my First Amendment right to freedom of speech. I would have loved to have continued to have a civilized conversation on this topic (though I’m quite certain Ms. Thang would have introduced incivility rather quickly), but the fear of being seen as insubordinate and the fear of retribution silenced me.
Thus is the plight of the most hated and reviled minority in the United States.