Saturday, May 23, 2009

[Real World Atheism] Atheists cite "pattern of proselytizing" in military

AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC.
http://www.atheists.org
http://www.americanatheist.org

For more information, please contact:
Dave Silverman, Vice President and Communications Director 732-648-9333
Kathleen Johnson, Vice President and Military Director 318-542-1019

ATHEISTS CITE "PATTERN OF PROSELYTIZING" IN MILITARY, CALL FOR
CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT, PROBE

An Atheist public policy group today called upon the U.S. Congress to be
more pro-active in monitoring what it described as a "pattern of
proselytizing" within the military.

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, said that
recent events "raise critical concerns that the Pentagon brass is not
doing enough to prevent unconstitutional and inappropriate religious
proselytizing both at home and abroad."

He cited a recent incident where the Al Jazeera television network aired
a segment showing troops in Afghanistan discussing the distribution of
bibles printed in the native languages, and exhortations for a military
chaplain telling soldiers that they should "hunt men for Jesus."

"In this case, the military did the right and destroyed the bibles; but
what about other religious materials that U.S. - based churches are
printing up for distribution by our military troops in Afghanistan and
elsewhere? Congress needs to identify the scope of this problem."

Mr. Silverman added that any investigation should look into whether or
not any troops have been killed or injured while handing out bibles or
engaging in other proselytizing acts. "Are individual soldiers and even
units of military personnel endangering their own safety, or that of
civilians, by engaging in this unconstitutional activity? We need to know."

Kathleen Johnson, Military Director for American Atheists added that
some officers are "pushing religion" on to rank-and-file personnel. It
has become common practice for the most senior members of our government
to use their rank and positions as a bully-pulpit to spread their faith
on the grounds that any attempt to rein-in these activities violates
their right to free exercise of religion, which includes the right to
proselytize," said Johnson.

Johnson warned that proselytizing by U.S. troops could fuel perceptions
that America is engaged in an "anti-Muslim holy war" and play into the
hands of al Qaeda and other faith-based extremists. "We can't defeat
terrorism by becoming modern-day Christian Crusaders," Johnson added.

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

American Atheists, Inc.
PO BOX 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Tel.: (908) 276-7300
Fax: (908) 276-7402

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