MRFF Lawsuit Co-Plaintiff
Jeremy Hall Threatened
Saturday September 6, 2008 - 1:22 AM CDT
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2 minute 8 second video.
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It is not the intention of MRFF to share this video for sensationalist purposes. This video exemplifies the heinous acts that our fight for constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedom in the military is up against.
Click here to see Jeremy Hall's story
as featured on CBS Sunday Morning
with Charles Osgood
Fort Mills, SC
Atheist at Fort Riley
reports death threat
Monday September 8, 2008
By JOHN HANNA
TOPEKA, Kan. — An atheist soldier who's accusing the military of violating religious freedoms has received a death threat, the leader of a foundation involved in the soldier's federal lawsuit said Monday.
The Army post in Kansas said it is investigating a message left on Spc. Jeremy Hall's cell phone. Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, based in Albuquerque, N.M., have a lawsuit pending in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., with the Defense Department and Secretary Robert Gates among the defendants. Foundation President Mikey Weinstein provided a transcript of the message left for Hall early Saturday. The message is laced with obscenities and a racial slur commonly directed at African-Americans, though Hall is white. In it, the caller promises to slit Hall's throat and drink his blood. The caller also promises to sexually assault Hall's wife and mother.
Hall serves in a military police company at Fort Riley, and Weinstein said it's "highly probable" the caller was a fellow soldier. Weinstein said he notified Hall's company commander and battalion commander's office and wants the caller found - and court-martialed.
"We have the phone number this death threat came from and the actual voice recording," Weinstein said. "Even Inspector Clouseau would be able to nab this felon. How hard can this really be?"
Fort Riley spokeswoman Deb Skidmore said the call was being investigated by the post's director of emergency services, whose duties include responding to possible terrorist incidents.
"If they need to involve more people they will," she said.
In the lawsuit, Hall alleges that while he was serving in Iraq in 2007, an Army Reserve major prevented a meeting Hall planned with atheists and others, then threatened to take action against Hall. The major, also a defendant, has denied the allegations.
Both Hall and the foundation allege harassment of Hall by fellow soldiers continued while he was in Iraq and after he returned late last year to assume duties with his military police unit. They also allege a promotion for Hall to sergeant was blocked.
Weinstein said the cell phone message represents the first explicit death threat Hall has received.
Skidmore said making a threat violates the military's code of justice, but she wouldn't speculate on how severe charges could be. Weinstein said the matter is even more serious because Hall is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit.
"An attack on Jeremy is an attack on all of us," he said.
Hall and the foundation also allege in their lawsuit that the military permits religious discrimination by fundamentalist Christians who try to force their views on others, especially subordinates.
The post and the Army have said they don't condone discrimination, and the Justice Department has argued that the military has adequate policies for dealing with complaints. The Justice Department also has said allowing the courts to intervene would interfere with Army operations.
The Justice Department has asked to have the case dismissed, and Hall and the foundation have until Sept. 15 to respond.
Associated Press Writer John Milburn contributed to this report.
Hall and the foundation's lawsuit in U.S. District Court is case no. 08-cv-02098.
On the Net:
U.S. District Court for Kansas: http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/
Military Religious Freedom Foundation: http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org
Fort Riley: http://www.riley.army.mil
Baseball, Jesus, and
Alaska's Military Bases
Tuesday September 9, 2008
By: Chris Rodda
After reading about Sarah Palin's "coincidental" promotion of Alaska National Guard Adjutant General, Craig E. Campbell, from Major General to Lieutenant General as soon as he changed his tune about her involvement as commander-in-chief of his troops, I decided to take a look at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) files on Alaska's military bases to see if anything of concern is going on up there religious freedom-wise.
First on the list was the website of the U.S. Army, Alaska (USARAK) Command Chaplain's Office "Ministry Team," which serves Fort Wainwright, Fort Greely, Fort Richardson, and their tenant units, which include the Alaska National Guard, whose headquarters is located at Fort Richardson. The USARAK Command Chaplain's Office is blatantly and exclusively Christian, not even providing information for soldiers of other religions. Even the worst of the other military installations that provide no non-Christian services or programs at least provide contact numbers or listings of off-base houses of worship for non-Christians to find services of their faith.
This is the image that greets soldiers who go to the USARAK Command Chaplain's Office "Mission Statement" page:
In March 2007, Fort Wainwright hosted an Army "Strong Bonds" retreat, contracting an organization called Unlimited Potential, Inc. to provide "social services." Unlimited Potential, Inc. is an evangelical baseball ministry with a military ministry whose mission is: "To assist commanders and chaplains in providing religious support to military service members and their families by sharing the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ through the medium of baseball..." and "to use our God-given abilities in baseball to reach those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and to also encourage and challenge those who do.
I should back up here and explain exactly what Strong Bonds, a program currently being investigated by MRFF, actually is. Plain and simple, it's an evangelistic Christian program operating under the guise of a pre-deployment and post-deployment family wellness and marriage training program. A few years ago, Strong Bonds replaced a decade old, proven program called Building Strong and Ready Families (BSRF), which was a collaboration between the Army Nurse Corps and the chaplains. Strong Bonds cut out the Nurse Corps, creating a program run entirely by chaplains, eliminating the important physical and mental health aspects provided by public health nurses, and turning the whole thing into a program of Christian religious retreats -- paid for with your tax dollars. A lot of tax dollars.
It began with the Department of Defense (DoD) paying an advertising agency $100,000 to "sell" the Strong Bonds program to Congress. The result of the DoD's ad campaign was an unprecedented amount of funding, now being spent liberally on religious retreats, typically held at ski lodges, beach resorts, and other attractive vacation spots, luring soldiers who would never attend a religious retreat to sign up for the free vacation. MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein sums up this form of coercion with the following analogy:
|"It's like a time share sales promotion. You get an all expenses paid vacation at a great resort -- the only catch is you have to sit through a sales pitch for Christianity paid for by the United States armed forces, courtesy of the American taxpayer. The Strong Bonds program is nothing less than an unconstitutional scandal and an outrage."
MRFF has already amassed quite a collection of DoD contracts for Strong Bonds retreats, which include funding for travel and accommodations, training materials, outside trainers, child care, and, of course, Christian entertainers. That one Unlimited Potential baseball ministry thing at Fort Wainwright, for example, cost taxpayers $38,269. And, this same ministry has been "Serving Christ Through Baseball" at number of other Army bases in the United States, including Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, and Fort Drum, as well as many bases overseas, presumably at a similar cost per event.
But, of even greater concern than the clear constitutional violation of the spending of tax dollars on this scheme to promote Christianity, qualified health professionals like the Army Nurse Corps are being edged out of programs dealing with issues like PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide prevention in favor of a religious approach. And, Strong Bonds isn't the only place this is happening. MRFF has uncovered that suicide prevention in the military now often includes materials such as the teachings of Rick Warren and, completely unbelievably, the teaching of creationism.
MRFF Trial Attorney Pedro L.
by Greater Kansas City
Women's Political Caucus
2008 Mel Carnahan Good Guy Award
MRFF Trial Attorney Pedro L. Irigonegaray will be awarded the Greater Kansas City Women's Political Caucus "Good Guy Award" at the GKCWPC 17th Annual Torch Dinner on September 24, 2008.
The Mel Carnahan Good Guy Award is awarded to a male community leader who has supported the Caucus’ mission of promoting women and women’s issues.
MRFF offers its most sincere congratulations to Mr. Irigonegaray for earning this prestigious civic award.
Pedro Irigonegaray is the lead attorney in MRFF's current federal lawsuit filed in the Federal District Court for the District of Kansas City, Kansas
Mr. Irigonegaray and his two partners, Elizabeth R. Herbert and Robert V. Eye, are instrumental in fighting the legal battles for MRFF's vital cause.
For more information on this event, please click here.
September 10, 2008
My report is a couple of years old now. Unfortunately, I was not aware of your organization when I went through the following ordeal. I was stationed in [ place and name withheld]. About a year after I was stationed there, I met and fell in love with my wife. Before I was granted permission from the Navy to marry my wife in Japan, at a Japanese municipal ceremony, I had to comply with [fleet name withheld] prerequisites (COMNAVFORJAPAN INST 1752.1Q). I could have ignored the prerequisites, but I would have been in violation of a direct order. In all fairness, the [fleet name withheld] instruction offered a couple different ways to fulfill the requirements. I could either wait for the marriage seminar classes offered on base once every six months or so (normally during my deployment). Or, I had the option of having three "pre marital counseling sessions" with the chaplain. Initially, I resisted the chaplain route because I am Atheist and I dislike the Chaplain Corps. However, after failed attempts to circumvent the requirement or get a seat in the seminar (which may also have been religious) I acquiesced. I requested that my chain of command waive my requirement, but they refused. The chaplain was a pleasant LT. I cannot remember his name, although I might still have the paperwork. I did what I normally do when I am faced with these situations, I simply said that I wasn't religious. I don't care to get into arguments over beliefs and saying, "not religious" does not stir the pot like telling them your are an Atheist. The chaplain was a polite and interesting man. As a leading petty officer, I have to offer to refer my airmen to the chaplain when I counsel them, so I tried to look at the situation as an inspection for my religious juniors. My wife was not required to attend but the chaplain inquired about my wife's religion and I told him that she was a Thai Buddhist. At my third and final meeting with chaplain, he gave me the letter that I needed to complete my marriage request package (at the time CAG5's request specifically required a chaplains letter), and he also gave my religious literature from his parent church in the States. Not wanting to be disrespectful, I did not complain. The chaplain then insisted that I pray with him. I politely declined, but he refused to take no for an answer. I just sat there quietly with my face turning red as he got on his knee and began to pray... to... for... at.. me. I reported the incident to my chain of command when I returned. Several in my chain said that, "that's not right!" I did not pursue the matter and never heard from my chain, further regarding the matter. When I checked out of [withheld], I had my out brief with the Commanding Officer. He was not the CO at the time of the incident, but I told him that it had greatly offended me. He seemed very upset that the chaplain had behaved that way and assured me that he had not been informed of the incident prior to our conversation (he had been the XO when the incident occurred). I do not know what the present requirement is because I am no longer in Japan. I am attaching the instruction that I followed. Note paragraph 6-a-1. The requirement to see the chaplain is said to be optional. However, the chaplain can give counseling all of the time. The seminar was only available two times a year, usually during CAG5 deployments. Additionally, you have to consider the working requirements of a forward deployed squadron. Even if space was available in a seminar. I would not have been able to take the time from work to attend. The chaplain could schedule meetings around my work schedule. So, even though it is listed as optional, seeing the chaplain was in fact the only option I was afforded. If you have not been made aware of it yet, I will fill you in. The Navy gives the chaplains several hats to wear. In many instances, the only person a sailor can turn to for mental or emotional issues is a chaplain because they fill the void of a trained psychologist. I guess if god can't help you... no one can.
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