Two major stories this past year in the Pagan world have been the fight over getting the Pentacle approved for military gravestones and markers, and the (so far unsuccessful) struggle over the approval of a Pagan military chaplain. In both cases accusations have been made that there is a unspoken bias against non-Christians in our military, and in the case of some religious groups, outright hostility. Now the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, seeking to prove claims of religious bias, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of U.S. Army Specialist Jeremy Hall.
“A U.S. Army soldier who unsuccessfully tried to hold a meeting for atheists and other non-Christians is suing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and an Army major, saying his right to religious freedom was violated. The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court alleges a pattern of practices that discriminate against non-Christians in the military. According to the filing, Spec. Jeremy Hall received permission to distribute flyers around his base in Iraq for a meeting of atheists and non-Christians. When he tried to convene the meeting, Hall says, Maj. Paul Welborne stepped in, threatening to file military charges against Hall and block his reenlistment.”
I think it is key here to look at the language that the MRFF is using. While Hall is an atheist, they are specifically including “non-Christians” in this mix, which includes Pagans, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and any other “non-Christian” faith. Allowing them to file numerous lawsuits (which they threaten to do), and draw on much larger body of evidence.
“Since he launched his watchdog organization nearly two years ago, Weinstein’s web site has been bombarded by over 5,000 active duty and retired soldiers, many of whom served or serve in Iraq, who pleaded for the Foundation’s help as they were pressured by their commanding officers to convert to Christianity, or face other consequences.”
Which raises the question, how soon before the MRFF subpoenas evidence relating to the alleged anti-Pagan documents from the VA, or material relating to Don Larsen’s convenient “catch-22” that effectively blocked him from being approved as the first Pagan chaplain. Will Pagan issues within the military get wrapped up in the MRFF’s larger struggle?