Are Our Pagan Troops in Danger?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 10, 2007 — 1 Comment

The Pew Forum has posted a report from the Religious News Service on Atheist soldiers in the military. The report talks about recent litigation filed by Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, an atheist who claims his religious freedoms have been trampled, and the threats of “fragging” (friendly-fire killings) that have come in the wake of his actions.

“What most soldiers do not get, however, are threats of “fragging” — military slang for death by friendly fire — because of their beliefs. That’s what Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, 22, said happened to him after he organized a meeting of atheists at his base in Iraq in August. The threats came after Hall filed suit last month against the Department of Defense and Maj. Freddy Welborn. Hall said Welborn told a group of atheists that their unbelief was disgracing their country, and threatened to bar Hall’s re-enlistment. Since the threats, the Army has assigned a bodyguard to Hall for protection from his colleagues in arms.”

According to some sources on the ground in Iraq, anyone who doesn’t toe the conservative Christian line are harassed, denied basic rights, and threatened. This includes Pagan soldiers serving overseas.

Pagan soldiers at a nighttime ceremony. Photo: UMPA

“Master Sgt. Kathleen Johnson, 40, a career soldier from north Florida who enlisted in 1985, said many soldiers do worry about invisible things and pressure others to do the same … Johnson said she has been threatened with failing a mandatory course if she didn’t bow her head during prayer. One military chaplain bragged to her about how he had stalled some Wiccan soldiers when they asked for a place to gather until they finally just gave up.”

Are our Pagan troops in danger? Not just from road-side bombs and terror attacks, but from Christian members of their own military if they decide to get too “uppity” and advocate for equal treatment? While I’m sure some Christian commanding officers are fair and treat their troops justly, there is also an ominous pattern of resistance developing to non-Christian forms of belief in the military. People have been warning for some time that conservative Christian groups have been slowly taking over the military, are we now starting to see the bitter fruits of that project?

Jason Pitzl-Waters