Atheists in the Military Seek Obama’s Blessing

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As Barack Obama prepares to take office, all sorts of advocacy groups are angling for his attention. And atheists, too, are seeking his blessing. This week the Secular Coalition for America, a national lobbying group for “atheists, humanists and freethinkers,” released its wish list. The group is not looking for Obama to remove “In God We Trust” from US currency. It has a more a modest agenda: countering what it claims is discrimination against atheists and non-Christians in the military.

The group is requesting that Obama appoint leaders who are committed to a secular military and that he issue a directive to the military that explicitly prohibits proselytization, prayers at mandatory events, and official statements endorsing a particular faith. The proposal also advocates creating a “commission for religious accommodation” within the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.

According to the group, major news outlets have reported at least twenty incidents in which military personnel have been coercively proselytized in the past five years. In 2005, Air Force Academy alumnus Mikey Weinstein filed a lawsuit (ultimately unsuccessful) against the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy, alleging that non-Christians at the Academy faced discrimination from evangelical Christians. That same year, The New York Times quoted the Air Force Chief of Chaplains, Cecil Richardson, as saying chaplains “reserve the right to evangelize the unchurched.” Recently General David Petraeus endorsed the book Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, which is not officially affiliated with the US military.

Surveys show that 21 percent of military personnel identify as atheists or as having “no religion.” But when it comes to persuading Obama to take these protect-the-secularists steps, there’s no telling if these atheists have a prayer.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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