“Religious Freedom” a malapropism for the military
To: Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Howard McKeon and Representative John Fleming (R-LA) and Congressman Mike Conway who responded, again, when asked, again, about the expansion of military chaplaincy to include humanist chaplains, this way (*if sources are correct, these gentlemen may be making identical statements as some of the quotes are credited to all three): Chairman Howard McKeon said if there were atheist chaplains, they would tell dying soldiers they would be “worm food.” Alternatively, when Rep. Fleming was asked what a Christian chaplain would tell a dying atheist soldier whom he believed would go to hell. Fleming said that the chaplain should offer the dying atheist soldier salvation through the Bible.
Nonbelievers are the last maligned minority. Those who would hate have lost the chance to exercise overt discrimination against the other minorities one by one. This has been especially difficult for the religious bigot (in this instance, one who tells us what we believe, then hates us for it). They’ve not only lost the ability to openly denigrate and discriminate against gays and lesbians, but blacks, Hispanics, and other races. I expect that they even have to pay a cursory level of “lip service equality” to other religions. BUT NOT TO US: those who would say there is no supernatural realm.
Perhaps people of bias should not be in a position to affect lives this way. Are these people of ill will? The typical nonbeliever wouldn’t consider telling any dying fellow soldier they might be “worm food.” As for a humanist chaplain, it’s as ludicrous of a proposition that he or she would do anything less than hold high esteem for an individual of any or no belief. This is because the average humanist believes that we all have an intrinsic human worth and that the human spirit is noble and a Humanist celebrant or chaplain is going to embody those qualities at a minimum. I take it these congressmen don’t feel the same nor do they feel that the men and women in uniform deserve that either.
Isn’t it odd that it takes a believer to denigrate people so? And yet we must give many if not most believers the benefit of the doubt. They, too, are people of good will. Fortunately, people of ill will are self-outing. And they can sometimes be turned around. Look at the change in public sentiment towards the LBGTQ community in the last few years. The most dramatic conversions are those who have had the farthest to move. Perhaps we can be Representatives McKeon’s and Fleming’s salvation. Perhaps we can move them toward a more universal caring for all humanity.
Perhaps all Christians in the nation should weigh in. Tell these congressmen if you’re with them or against them. We especially need to hear from less radical positions. If we are not to judge you by your silence, speak up this one time.
This telling us who we are and what we believe, by a person of another belief, is a heinous violation of us as human beings. It dehumanizes us and I have to think that’s how xenophobia developed as a defense mechanism so that we could separate us from them—to hate the “other” who are not us. You can’t give someone an Old Testament stoning if you don’t dehumanize or at least denigrate them sufficiently first.
Rep. Fleming’s statements are a good reason why his Military Religious Freedom Amendment should NOT be passed (or overturned by the Supreme Court upon passage). Fleming said Christians should offer dying nonbeliever soldiers salvation through the Bible. With the Military religious freedom Amendment in place, evidently nonbelievers would have no religious freedom of their own protecting them from such inconsiderate behavior. Somehow this will be twisted to rule against any nonbelievers who should, in turn, wish to proselytize humanism (which none do)—probably because it’s not a religion, eh, Congressmen? Nor would they have recourse against those shielded by this amendment who choose to vigorously proselytize the one true religion—say the folks higher up the chain of command, for instance.
It isn’t difficult to imagine the theocracy these congressmen would put us all under.
Military service people have a different standard of justice meted out to them than civilians, if you haven’t already figured that out. It’s ironic that they have to swear they will uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution when their supposedly guiding document is the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the UCMJ. Don’t think for a moment that this misnomer indicates either justice or uniformity in its dispensation will come forth, especially if you’re a nonbeliever. Just reflect on the sexual assault record and what’s been done about that. And in the face of those huge numbers, we’re told service members need no justice from outside the chain of command. Where else would they get justice?
WWJD? Contrast the toleration of Howard McKeon’s and John Fleming’s words against those of Trent Lott that led to his resignation. The difference isn’t in the degree of bigotry demonstrated as it is no less. The difference lies in a much too broad acceptance of prejudice and discrimination against nonbelievers. We are here to help you see from our mountain top as others have led you in the past to theirs.
When we put someone in congress with a religious agenda, the strength of their commitment to that agenda determines if there is a point where they will put the American people or the U.S. Constitution ahead of their religious goals or not. It’s especially too bad when they have the power to influence service members’ reality to the extent these gentlemen do. Our service members aren’t in a position to fight for their own rights. They can’t redress the government with their complaints and they are held fast in a matrix of constraints. And their freedom and lives are also at the mercy of the UCMJ and who’s in charge of the UCMJ? Congress. This committee, this chairman.
Take it out on us, gentlemen. You have our service members at too much of a disadvantage. They deserve better from you than this punishment for not being believers. I can well imagine that you congressmen espouse the Golden Rule. Are you treating those of differing beliefs the way you want to be treated?
There’s freedom of religion in this country… as long as it’s Christianity.
* The Blaze reports it to be Congressman Mike Conway who said the things quoted while others said it was John Fleming. Also, you can see and hear Howard McKeon say them in recorded video. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/atheist-chaplains-worm-food_n_3393122.html?utm_source=Secular+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=4ce3760294-Call_Agenda_6_20_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4e255484ff-4ce3760294-61109045
Entry filed under: freethought.