July 8th, 2008
07:16 PM ET

The U.S. Christian military?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/07/art.soldiers.pray.jpg]
Randi Kaye
AC360° Correspondent

Is the United States Military becoming a Christian organization? That’s what one U.S. soldier tells us.

I met Army Specialist Jeremy Hall in Kansas City a few weeks ago. He’s based at Fort Riley, in Junction City, Kansas about an hour away.

At 24, he’s a remarkable young man determined to complete one final mission. That is to win a lawsuit against the federal government.

Specialist Hall is suing the Department of Defense and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for failing to protect his religious freedom. He says the military discriminates against non-Christians and his rights under the First Amendment were denied.

Hall has served two tours in Iraq as a gunner. He’s back at Fort Riley now only because he says his life was threatened after it became public he is an atheist.

“I don’t believe in God, luck, fate, or anything supernatural,” Hall told me.

It wasn’t always that way. Hall grew up reading the Bible every night and saying grace at dinner. Then, after his first tour of duty, he met some friends who were atheist and decided to read the Bible again. He read the whole Bible, and had so many unanswered questions, he says, he decided to embrace atheism.

In the army, he says, that cost him dearly.

Hall says he was denied a promotion because of his beliefs, and felt his life was in jeopardy. He says the army assigned him a full-time bodyguard because of threats.

At Thanksgiving, Hall refused to pray with his table and says an officer told him to go sit somewhere else.

Also, after he was nearly killed when his humvee was attacked, he says a fellow soldier asked him, “do you believe in Jesus now?”

Hall says he was ostracized because he didn’t embrace fundamentalist Christianity.

We checked and religious discrimination is against military policy.

Bill Carr, the man in charge of military personnel policy at the Pentagon, told me, “if an atheist chose to follow their convictions, absolutely, that's acceptable. And that's a point of religious accommodation in department policy, one may hold whatever faith, or may hold no faith.”

Hall doesn’t want money from the military. He just wants soldiers to be guaranteed religious freedom. He plans to leave the army next year, as soon as he can, and wants to leave it a better place than when he first joined it, he says.

What do you think? Should military members be allowed to proselytize? Do you believe the Pentagon when it says this isn’t happening?

Editor's note: See Randi's full report on AC360 tonight at 10PM.

Filed under: Keeping Them Honest • Randi Kaye • Religion
soundoff (312 Responses)
  1. Bruce

    Having left The US Navy in 1969, I felt that the military was anti non-Christian back then. I was clearly not the most loved but was the only Jewish person on my ship. One incident had me going to talk to my LT JG at the time and his response was that since there was no Jewish Chaplain on my ship (LST 1141-USS Stone County) I was on my own and no one to turn to for help. I truly believe it to be still happening today...

    July 8, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  2. Charlie Jacobson

    All the polls I have seen says the majority of U.S. citizens are christians. Why in a democracy where majority rules is there so much trouble caused by one person. If we are going to be politically correct lets rule in favor of the majority. Plus military service is voluntary and no one is making these kids sign up. Lets use some common sense in discussing the issue. The military doesn't want to risk losing new recruits. The issue will be resolved in short order to keep the United States well defended.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  3. Juda T. in Mn

    Hey Donna,

    the military may not be a religious organization, but believing in God and knowing that this world was not founded by the igornance of our knowledge helps them sleep at night. NOT EVERY DRILL SERGANT USES PROFANITY AND IF HE DOES HE CAN ALSO BE FORGIVEN.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  4. Herst Oryto

    A believer of a god is ones own mental indisposition. Therefore praying should be kept in the closet as is stated in the bible. Almost every war worldwide is fought over religion. Army Specialist Jeremy Hall should be given a medal of honor for being able to overcome the brainwashing.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  5. Suzette

    This is a CHRISTAIN NATION, founded on people with Christain Values, demostrated in our Constitution, Declairation of Independence.

    But you don't have to SUE the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT over it, Some Athiest are bad some are good, and some Christains shouldn't carry the title.

    But this is a Christain Nation. If you don't like this Nation, go to France, Iran (Muslim -Required), China (Budda) etc and believe in Nothing Their.

    We have gotten to OVER THE EDGE about CHRISTIANITY – (People are offended if you Teach and Have a Bible in your Pocket) –

    Why are we not OFFENDED over the Koran? Budda?

    Why are their No Law Suits from the ACLU (Whos suppose to protect our rights), but what about the Christan they are condemed by them.

    Why do we have to always SUE against Christianity, (People complaining about people having Prayer Service – if you don't want to get involved in PRAYER SERVICES – Please do leave the table, why would anybody want to stay – WERE ALL FREE HERE IN AMERICA WHETHER IT'S AT WORK OR AT HOME.

    Why don't they do something for PEOPLE who curse, say Bad Language, disrespect their parents, politicians or the Government.

    Why? Because their is a LOWER POWER – Called the DEVIL = (minus the D = Evil – Practices, beliefs.

    If you DON'T BELIEVE – That's fine – Don't try to take away Rights of those who do and Want to be FREE to Practice, whether at Home, Work or at the Dinner Table in Public – IT'S NOT A CRIME TO PRAY IN PUBLIC – (If you don't want to be involved don't, but don't Sue). MY GOD (In Heaven and in Earth) HAVE SOME RESPECT.......

    This Countries in Bad enough shape. Get a hobby and Let people leave their life that are not out their Hurting other people. Having Belief in something shouldn't be condemed but blessed.


    July 8, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  6. Mark

    I have been serving in the Marine Corps for over 18 years. I can't speak for the other services, but I believe the Marine Corps is a Christian based organization. For example, at the beginning of official events, a Chaplin will give an invocation. In my experience, the Chaplin has always been Christian. In my company, there are people from other religions and they find this offensive, but we have to conform to this. Also, my company hosted a prayer breakfast in the chow hall and attendance was mandatory. There was a Christian Chaplin giving a Christian invocation. The non-Christian members were allowed to sit in another section of the chow hall, however they could still hear and see the event. Other events, like company Christmas party, are also mandatory. I think the Department of Defense should establish a policy to protect service members 1st Amendment rights, both Christian and non-Christian.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  7. Juda T. in Mn

    The military has enough pressure on them. Pray for this nation, and who ever hurt this young man's heart.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  8. Jorge Azcarraga

    I don`t understand why Americans spend so much time abusing the legal system by suing practically for anything.

    As an outsider, I see the US as the cradle of Democracy, and after analzing why it is so strong and lasted so long. I am convince that it has a lot to do with values and principles that are based in Christianity. I am sure that democracy would have never endure if it would have been base in an atheist doctrine.

    I understand that we should not descriminate, but if the majority of the people in a groudçp decides to believe in God throuhg Christianity, why democracy does not prevails? The majority rules. That has to be respected.

    From Panama City, Rep of Panma

    July 8, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  9. Ateo

    Hey Lee Collins,

    You wrote: "Who does he think has keep (sic) him alive in the war. I can’t blame any of the other soldiers at all for their actions because mine would have been the same."

    So your god is responsible for keeping Mr. Hall alive? What about the 4,000 plus troops who weren't so lucky? Or the more than 30,000 who have been wounded? What was that?

    Soldiers are of course entitled to their superstitions and delusions, but once they are put in command positions, they are not allowed to discriminate against subordinates who do not share them.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  10. Tim C (Texas)

    The majority faith in the United States is Christianity. This includes protestants and Catholics and other derivatives of individuals who believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God and died for their sins. It is certainly expected that Christians would have an overwhelming presence in the military. In addition, given that our military goes in harms way, it would be expected that soldiers would get closer to their religion. I do not believe for a moment that the military is a Christian organization. I do believe that it has a very large number of Christians. The mere fact that a couple of people have the right and priviledge to sue because they believe their performance has not been recognized and are looking for a justification for not getting a promotion should not be used to indict the the military for discrimination. I am a Christian and have been in firefights earlier in my life. You think a lot about God and the meaning of life when this happens. My son is not a Christian and is serving his 2nd tour in Iraq. He just got promoted. These guys sound like whiners and unfortunately got unwarranted press coverage. I hope the military is able to send them the bill for the litigation costs. If you really believe that the military is a Christian organization, go listen to a drill sergeant for an hour.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  11. Mark

    In George Washington's first inaugural speech, he said "it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the council of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by them for these essential purposes"

    I sometimes wonder how the "Father of Our Country" would be viewed in today's society.

    July 8, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
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