JUNCTION CITY, Kansas (AP) — Like hundreds of young men joining the Army in recent years, Jeremy Hall professes a desire to serve his country while it fights terrorism.
But the short and soft-spoken specialist is at the center of a legal controversy. He has filed a lawsuit alleging that he’s been harassed and his constitutional rights have been violated because he doesn’t believe in God. The suit names Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
“I’m not in it for cash,” Hall said. “I want no one else to go what I went through.”
Known as “the atheist guy,” Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and — just as severe to some soldiers — gay, none of which, he says, is true. Hall even drove fellow soldiers to church in Iraq and paused while they prayed before meals.
“I see a name and rank and United States flag on their shoulder. That’s what I believe everyone else should see,” he said.
Hall, 23, was raised in a Protestant family in North Carolina and dropped out of school. It wasn’t until he joined the Army that he began questioning religion, eventually deciding that he couldn’t follow any faith.
But he feared how that would look to other soldiers.
“I was ashamed to say that I was an atheist,” Hall said.
It eventually came out in Iraq in 2007, when he was in a firefight. Hall was a gunner on a Humvee, which took several bullets in its protective shield. Afterward, his commander asked whether he believed in God, Hall said.
“I said, ‘No, but I believe in Plexiglas,’ ” Hall said. “I’ve never believed I was going to a happy place. You get one life. When I die, I’m worm food.”
The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, a superior officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists in Iraq. Welborn has denied Hall’s allegations.
TOPEKA, Kan. – A soldier claimed Wednesday that his promotion was blocked because he had claimed in a lawsuit that the Army was violating his right to be an atheist.
Attorneys for Spc. Jeremy Hall and therefiled the federal lawsuit Wednesday in ., and added a complaint alleging that the blocked promotion was in response to the legal action.
The suit was filed in September but dropped last month so the new allegations could be included. Among the defendants are.
Hall alleges he was denied his constitutional right to hold a meeting to discuss atheism while he was deployed inwith his military police unit. He says in the new complaint that his promotion was blocked after the commander of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley sent an e-mail post-wide saying Hall had sued.
Fort Riley spokeswoman Alison Kohler said the post “can’t comment on ongoing legal matters” and offered no further statement.
According to the lawsuit, Hall was counseled by his platoon sergeant after being informed that his promotion was blocked. He says the sergeant explained that Hall would be “unable to put aside his personal convictions and pray with his troops” and would have trouble bonding with them if promoted to a leadership position.
Hall responded that religion is not a requirement of leadership, even though the sergeant wondered how he had rights if atheism wasn’t a religion. Hall said atheism is protected under the Army’s chaplain’s manual.
“It shouldn’t matter if one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist,” said Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney whose firm filed the lawsuit. “In the military, all are equal and to be considered equal.”
Maj. Freddy J. Welborn was named in the lawsuit as the officer who prevented Hall from holding a meeting of atheists and non-Christians. It alleges that Welborn threatened to file military charges against Hall and to block his re-enlistment. Welborn has denied the allegations.
The lawsuit alleges that Gates permits a military culture in which officers are encouraged to pressure soldiers to adopt and espouse fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and in which activities by Christian organizations are sanctioned.
Hall’s attorneys say Fort Riley has permitted a culture promoting Christianity and anti-Islamic sentiment, including posters quoting conservative columnistand sale of a book, “A Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam,” at the post exchange.
has said that the military values and respects religious freedoms, but that accommodating religious practices should not interfere with unit cohesion, readiness, standards or discipline.
Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the religious freedom foundation, said the lawsuit would show the “almost incomprehensible national security risks to America” posed by the military’s pattern of violating the religious freedom of those in uniform.
“It is beyond despicable, indeed wholly unlawful, that theis actively attempting to destroy the professional career of one of its decorated young fighting soldiers, with two completed combat tours in , simply because he had the rare courage to stand up for his constitutional rights,” Weinstein said in a statement.
Weinstein previously sued the Air Force for acts he said illegally imposed Christianity on its students at the academy. A federal judge threw out that lawsuit in 2006.
Guess what? Apparently the all mighty powerful creator of the universe requires humans to form armies and carry out his will, because, you know, he’s not able to do it himself, instead he needs us puny humans to do his dirty work. Good thing nut cases like Huckabee are up to the task.
WINDHAM, N.H., Jan. 6 — A pastor from Texas was scheduled to deliver the sermon Sunday at a church here called the Crossing.
But instead this small evangelical congregation heard from a different special guest: Baptist minister and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who delivered a sermon of more than 20 minutes on how to be part of “God’s Army” in the middle school cafeteria where the congregation meets.
“When we become believers, it’s as if we have signed up to be part of God’s Army, to be soldiers for Christ,” Huckabee told the enthusiastic audience.
Days after winning the Iowa Republican caucus, where Christian conservatives powered him to victory, Huckabee now finds himself in a state without an extensive religious base. While more than 60 percent of GOP voters were estimated to be evangelicals in the Iowa caucuses, they accounted for only about one in five New Hampshire Republican voters in 2000, the last time the state held a competitive GOP primary.
Huckabee’s campaign did not allow cameras into the church, and the candidate did not make an appeal for votes as part of his sermon. But a church official invited members to attend an event a mile away, where Huckabee held a rally with actor Chuck Norris and where free clam chowder was served.
Huckabee mixed homespun jokes into his sermon and added a more religious tone than in his political speeches, not just quoting from the Bible but citing specific verses and talking about the serious side of faith.
“When you give yourself to Christ, some relationships have to go,” he said. “It’s no longer your life; you’ve signed it over.”
Likening service to God to service in the military, Huckabee said “there is suffering in the conditioning for battle” and “you obey the orders.”
In his campaign stops in New Hampshire, Huckabee has generally focused on appealing to nonreligious voters, playing the bass guitar and emphasizing his support of small government, local control of schools and gun rights — popular causes among Granite State Republicans. Norris, who has endorsed him, has been at his side at nearly every event. His campaign has not run an ad, popular in Iowa, that dubbed him a “Christian leader.”