[Vision2020] Fort Riley Soldier Sues Department of Defense Over Religious Freedom

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Wed Sep 19 17:18:30 PDT 2007

>From today's (September 19, 2007) Daily News Roundup edition of the Army
Times -


Riley soldier sues DoD over religious freedom

By John Milburn - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Sep 19, 2007 9:59:44 EDT

FORT RILEY, Kan. - An 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

The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court alleges a pattern of practices
that discriminate against non-Christians in the military.

According to the filing, Spc. 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 said, Maj. Paul Welborne stepped
in, threatening to file military charges against Hall and block his

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,
which is helping with the lawsuit, said it is the first of many to come.

"We're going to expose the pernicious practice and pattern of these massive
violations of the Constitution," Weinstein said. "That we had to go to this
extent is just a heinous disgrace that defies any possible explanation."

Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said
he was not aware of the lawsuit but that the military places a "high value"
on the right of military personnel to practice their faith.

"It is DoD policy that requests for accommodation of religious practices
should be approved by commanders when accommodation will not have an adverse
impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, standards or discipline,"
Withington said.

The lawsuit claims Hall was forced to "submit to a religious test as a
qualification to his post as a soldier." Hall and the foundation are asking
the court to block Welborne from establishing "compulsory religious
practices" and order Gates to prevent Welborne from interfering with Hall's
free speech rights.

Since its founding in 2005, the foundation has received nearly 6,000 calls
from men and women in the military raising concerns about violations of
religious freedom, Weinstein said. Most of the calls, he said, were
Christians concerned about coercion from superior officers trying to push
their beliefs.

A federal judge in Colorado dismissed a lawsuit in 2006 by Weinstein and
four other Air Force Academy graduates who claimed that particular religious
views were being pushed on cadets.

Last year, Weinstein threatened to file a lawsuit over what he and others
called "anti-Semitic" Bible studies posted by the Fort Leavenworth Command
Chaplain's Web site. The documents, which were first posted in 1999, were
removed after the complaints were raised.


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil
and steady dedication of a lifetime." 

--Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

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