HUFFINGTON POST – Army Threatened With Religious Freedom Lawsuit Over Alleged Sectarian Prayer

Selected Article Excerpts:

  •  Staff Sgt. Victoria Gettman is frustrated and disappointed by what she calls a “completely incompetent” response to complaints she filed in September to her chain of command after a Christian chaplain allegedly gave a sectarian prayer following a mandatory military event at Fort Sam Houston.Now, more than four months after the incident in San Antonio, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is preparing to file a federal lawsuitif the Army refuses to review — and appropriately respond — to Gettman’s complaints.Gettman’s story was first reported by The Huffington Post this past October: She recounted how she and her fellow soldiers from the 264th Medical Battalion were attending a mandatory suicide prevention session — part of the military’s resilience training — when a chaplain took the stage and led the room in a mass prayer that Gettman, an atheist, characterized as sectarian.
  • She now feels that she has exhausted all of her options. “I’m so frustrated, I’m so aggravated,” Gettman said. “I just don’t know what to do.”However, Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, doesn’t consider Gettman’s case closed, and he and his litigation team intend to pursue an “aggressive” federal lawsuit if the Army fails to rectify Gettman’s complaints.Weinstein said the foundation’s message to the Army is twofold: First, the Army should “move with light speed” to review and remedy this case. Second, if the Army decides not to review Gettman’s complaints, Weinstein said the Army should prepare to “tell it to the judge.”“We are waiting for the Army to put the final nail in the coffin of its administrative attempt to address what has happened here, which is nothing more than the most vitriolic, humiliating and dehumanizing reprisal and retribution [against] a wonderful soldier,” Weinstein charged.
  • Weinstein contends, however, that Gettman’s complaint is not an anomaly: Not only did 11 other soldiers attending the suicide prevention program file complaints, but there have been numerous allegations within the ranks of Christian proselytizing in recent years.Gettman said this whole incident has raised her concerns about young soldiers who are “very inexperienced with the rules and regulations” and may be dissuaded from filing similar complaintsin the future.“I am scared for the younger soldiers that try to go in there and make complaints because I know that it can be intimidating … I had to fight my way,” Gettman said. “I feel bad for all these young soldiers in this situation who are trying to get help.”

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