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Fw: MAAF meeting harassment!

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  • Clyde Baxley
    FW: MAAF meeting harassment! ... From: Bart Meltzer To: Directors ; Directors Prospective ; Staff Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2007 5:18 AM Subject: FW: MAAF
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 2, 2007
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      FW: MAAF meeting harassment!
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Bart Meltzer
      To: Directors ; Directors Prospective ; Staff
      Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2007 5:18 AM
      Subject: FW: MAAF meeting harassment!


      FOR WIDEST POSSIBLE DISEMMINATION. POST TO ALL LISTS, BLOGS, CHAT ROOMS, WHATEVER.


      The report below is forwarded from the Military Director for American Atheists, Kathleen Johnson who is currently serving on active duty in Iraq.

      This report is about an issue in Iraq. I don't think there will be any surprises in this report for most of you because this is the reason American Atheists exists. Just the same, it still has quite a bit of impact. This is the battle we are fighting and sometimes it can be tough. Not all of our battles are this hard, but they vary by degree only.

      I'm including the article in Stars and Stripes that Kathleen mentions in her report below at the bottom of this email. As per Kathleen's request, please send any emails of encouragement to the brave young soldier who is mentioned below by using Kathleen's email which follows.

      Kudos to this brave young soldier for having the courage to stand up for his beliefs and right to express them freely in the face of such drastic opposition. Kudos to the other brave soldiers who had the courage to participate. And Kudos to Kathleen Johnson for leading our cause in such a hostile environment. They all deserve medals for bravery. Not just for standing up for their beliefs, but also for being in Iraq in the first place. Whether you agree with this war or not, our troops deserve at least that much.

      It's my personal opinion that if all Atheists stood up for their beliefs and were as vocal as these soldiers we would not be facing the discrimination we are facing today. We would be perceived as a much larger majority that should not be trifled with. I'm proud to be a part of the national organization that fights for the civil rights of Atheists in the face of this discrimination.

      Kathleen's report follows.


      Bart Meltzer,
      Director of State and Regional Operations,
      American Atheists, Inc.
      bm@...

      (AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)



      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Bart,

      Thought you'd be interested in this report of the first-ever meeting of Atheist service-members in Iraq under the umbrella of the MAAF-Iraq chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. This meeting was put together by the same young MAAF member who recently had his second letter published in the Stars and Stripes.

      One of our members, a young Atheist enlisted soldier, thought he would like to see if he could generate some interest in MAAF meetings at his Forward Operating Base (FOB) here in Iraq (not the base I'm at, by the way). He got things coordinated and started hanging flyers, and after weeks of having to re-hang his flyers almost daily because some vandal kept tearing them down, he finally succeeded in having a small MAAF meeting. I wasn't there because the meeting wasn't on my FOB, but I knew he was holding it and was expecting to hear from him after the meeting. Keep in mind that this young soldier did everything right - he went through the Chaplain's office and jumped through all the hoops it takes to legally hold meetings that are religiously or philosophically based. Four soldiers attended this meeting - all of them very junior enlisted soldiers with the exception of one Major (an O-4), who claimed to be a "freethinker".

      Well, to make a very long story a little shorter, the Major turned out to be a fundamentalist Christian who verbally berated the other attendees, accused them of plotting against Christians and disrespecting soldiers who have died protecting the Constitution, and threatened them with punishment under the UCMJ for their activities (said they were "going down") and said he would do whatever it took to shut the meetings down. Keep in mind that by this point, he had two of the attendees (one soldier fled when the shouting started) standing at the position of attention so that he could yell at them, berate them, and humiliate them. This apparently went on for several minutes at which time the Major shut down the meeting by saying he wasn't some "push-over Chaplain" and that he would not tolerate the meetings to continue.

      The young MAAF member who hosted the meeting is absolutely freaked out about what happened, but he said he's going to continue with the meetings and isn't going to be bullied by the prayer warriors. I've advised him to immediately notify the Chaplain sponsor of what happened to get guidance while I try to figure out what to do next. I should hear something back from him tonight sometime and there's even a small possibility I might be able to score a mission to his FOB and attend one of his meetings in the next few weeks (if I do, I'll meet with the Chaplain in person).

      As for immediate action, he's going to get me the names of his Chaplain sponsor and the name of the officer who disrupted the meeting. My intent right now is to make a formal report to the most senior Chaplain I can find along with possibly an Equal Opportunity complaint against the officer if we can get him fully identified. I may not be eligible to make that complaint because I wasn't there, but I can at least smooth the way for this young troop to make one if he elects to. At the very least, I can make the EO office formally aware of what happened there.

      More info will follow when I get it, but right now, feel free to disseminate this information since I've intentionally sanitized it for names and locations. I will be happy to forward any words of support to him if they get mailed to my milatheist@... address - he could really use some encouragement right now, I think.

      Kathleen

      Kathleen Johnson,
      Military Director,
      American Atheists, Inc.
      kjohnson@...

      (AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)


      http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=125&article=47626

      Read the Constitution

      It seems to me the author of "Atheist revival bad ." (letter, July 13) needs to read the Constitution he swore to uphold and defend, and study some American history.

      Our nation was not "founded under God, upon Christian principles." The first settlers of the new world were seeking, among other things, escape from religious persecution, not to form a faith-based colony. As Americans, we are granted the freedom of religion, which includes not having one, not the freedom to choose which form of Christianity we follow.

      The author seems to think Camp Quest is somehow dangerous to our country and our youth, when in fact it's people exercising their right to free assembly. The number of religious-based summer camps far outweighs the atheist ones, and those based on a system of beliefs will prove to be more of a "training ground" than any that encourages free thought.

      I highly doubt any of the children at Camp Quest would be chastised if they thought a higher power might exist. On the other hand, what would happen if a child at a Christian retreat voiced doubt that Jesus was the son of God?

      Atheists come from every walk of life and many are educated about several faiths. As a child I was fortunate enough to be allowed to attend many churches. By the third grade I knew there was no God, and still educated myself by attending a variety of services. This is common with a lot of atheists. Many people force their children into the family religion and shun other beliefs, that's the true "brainwashing."

      There is no atheist revival, we've always been here as a silent minority, most just choose to live their own lives and let you live yours.

      Staff Sgt. Gene Horrigan
      Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar

      Camp Quest is legal

      After reading "Atheist revival bad for U.S.," I couldn't help but laugh. Does no one research anything for themselves anymore? Or do they just repeat what they heard from someone else?

      The writer complains how atheist children have their own summer camp (Camp Quest). And that someone else is actually happy about it. Well, it's 100 percent legal, because of the U.S. Constitution.

      It's just as legal as any other private organization, such as Bible camps and churches. The next thing that bothered me was the claim that the U.S. was founded "under God." And that it was based on Christian principles and values. Well, that just sucks for a lot of people, doesn't it?

      Since America is a Christian nation, I guess everyone else is just second-rate! Sorry (insert religious minority here), you're not good enough. Nowhere in the Constitution is there a mention of a God. Religion is referenced as exclusionary. Such as stating that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust." (Article VI) That sounds secular to me.

      The U.S. is a free nation. The First Amendment applies to every private citizen. And that includes us atheists. It is the individual freedoms that make our nation great.

      Spc. Jeremy Hall
      Camp Speicher, Iraq



      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • rlbaty50
      ... Yep, Daniel Denham needs to be working over that Major! Sincerely, Robert Baty
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 2, 2007
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        Clyde's report stated, in part:

        > Four soldiers
        > attended this
        > meeting - all of
        > them very junior
        > enlisted soldiers
        > with the exception
        > of one Major who
        > claimed to be
        > a "freethinker".

        > (T)he Major turned
        > out to be a
        > fundamentalist
        > Christian...

        Yep, Daniel Denham needs to be working over that Major!

        Sincerely,
        Robert Baty
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