Soldier Fitness Tracker: How Would It Grade Pat Tillman?

DENIGRATION IS A FINE WAY TO TREAT A HERO - Many patriotic people stake a claim on Pat Tillman's heroism. However, it turns out he's an atheist (hero) in a foxhole denigrated, along with his family, by some Christians for his beliefs. Click here for more about his story >>

In joining the military, young troops give up some basic Constitutional rights given the civilian population. The vagaries of war sometimes require it. The military is not a democracy and that’s as it should be.

However, there are some rights they don’t and shouldn’t give up, including the right to worship or not worship as they see fit. A slew of recent events and complaints about the religious components of the Army’s mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) test show abuses that cannot stand.

I’m not a militant atheist. I’m not particularly troubled by most of the many Christian symbols and deeds that appear in clearly secular places. Whether you want to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or rocks and trees is none of my concern. I even say Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays on occasion.

In God Some of Us Don’t Trust

However, I strongly believe that one’s rights stop at the point where they infringe upon others’. Scribbling “In God We Trust” on a dollar doesn’t make it  worth less. It doesn’t infringe on my right to spend the dollar as I see fit. I prefer to see it as a label that identifies God’s cash when it goes into a collection plate or tithe, even though you’d think an omniscent being could figure it out on their own. No harm and no huge foul. More of a bum call actually, but nothing to get dangerously huffy over.

War is Hell, even if Hell is a religious construct. It’s a dark place that breaks bodies and minds and that’s why I’m not against SFT in principle. Everyone could use a little help on the battlefield. If God is your answer, who am I to deprive you of that comfort? If God isn’t, who are you to deprive me of that comfort?

My objection stems from non-Christians and non-theists being tested against a purely Christian scale. Not only are they deemed failures if they don’t answer questions “properly”, but they receive help clearly not right for them. In effect, they get no help at all. Worse yet, they’re compelled to see the chaplain about arrangements for being “born again” or attending Christian concerts.

The problem is less SFT than the measuring metrics used, how the Army interprets the results,  and whether or what kind of emotional support the non-Christians may need. There’s nothing in the test that can’t be remedied with more attention to the needs of all soldiers, not just the select few.

The Army is No Theocracy
As a group, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of those agreeing with such Christianization of the military are the same ones who prattle on about DADT victims being such grave dangers to “unit cohesion and morale”. Doesn’t it seem a soldier labeled a failure, told their beliefs are wrong, and deprived of support offered to Christian soldiers wouldn’t have such great morale and possibly feel alienated enough to damage unit cohesion? The Army may not be a democracy, but it’s not a theocracy either.

American Christians represent a far greater portion of the population than non-theists, polytheists, and non-christians combined. Yet, their constant hosannas are about their rights being lost to the Great Godless Hordes – even to the point that the new Alabama governor publicly suggests his relationship with Christian constituents is greater than his relationship with other Alabamans.

Christians’ insistent imposition of their beliefs on other Americans is exactly what drives the more militant Atheists to distraction. Christians have built a slippery slope not unlike the NRA‘s where many Atheists feel the need to fight every new slight as though it means the death of the Constitution and their inevitable excommunication as Americans. And we’re all – Christians and non-Christians alike – going for a long slide if it continues.

My Christian friends – this isn’t persecution of you, but by you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Soldier Fitness Tracker: How Would It Grade Pat Tillman?

DENIGRATION IS A FINE WAY TO TREAT A HERO - Many patriotic people stake a claim on Pat Tillman's heroism. However, it turns out he's an atheist (hero) in a foxhole denigrated, along with his family, by some Christians for his beliefs. Click here for more about his story >>

In joining the military, young troops give up some basic Constitutional rights given the civilian population. The vagaries of war sometimes require it. The military is not a democracy and that’s as it should be.

However, there are some rights they don’t and shouldn’t give up, including the right to worship or not worship as they see fit. A slew of recent events and complaints about the religious components of the Army’s mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) test show abuses that cannot stand.

I’m not a militant atheist. I’m not particularly troubled by most of the many Christian symbols and deeds that appear in clearly secular places. Whether you want to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or rocks and trees is none of my concern. I even say Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays on occasion.

In God Some of Us Don’t Trust

However, I strongly believe that one’s rights stop at the point where they infringe upon others’. Scribbling “In God We Trust” on a dollar doesn’t make it  worth less. It doesn’t infringe on my right to spend the dollar as I see fit. I prefer to see it as a label that identifies God’s cash when it goes into a collection plate or tithe, even though you’d think an omniscent being could figure it out on their own. No harm and no huge foul. More of a bum call actually, but nothing to get dangerously huffy over.

War is Hell, even if Hell is a religious construct. It’s a dark place that breaks bodies and minds and that’s why I’m not against SFT in principle. Everyone could use a little help on the battlefield. If God is your answer, who am I to deprive you of that comfort? If God isn’t, who are you to deprive me of that comfort?

My objection stems from non-Christians and non-theists being tested against a purely Christian scale. Not only are they deemed failures if they don’t answer questions “properly”, but they receive help clearly not right for them. In effect, they get no help at all. Worse yet, they’re compelled to see the chaplain about arrangements for being “born again” or attending Christian concerts.

The problem is less SFT than the measuring metrics used, how the Army interprets the results,  and whether or what kind of emotional support the non-Christians may need. There’s nothing in the test that can’t be remedied with more attention to the needs of all soldiers, not just the select few.

The Army is No Theocracy
As a group, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of those agreeing with such Christianization of the military are the same ones who prattle on about DADT victims being such grave dangers to “unit cohesion and morale”. Doesn’t it seem a soldier labeled a failure, told their beliefs are wrong, and deprived of support offered to Christian soldiers wouldn’t have such great morale and possibly feel alienated enough to damage unit cohesion? The Army may not be a democracy, but it’s not a theocracy either.

American Christians represent a far greater portion of the population than non-theists, polytheists, and non-christians combined. Yet, their constant hosannas are about their rights being lost to the Great Godless Hordes – even to the point that the new Alabama governor publicly suggests his relationship with Christian constituents is greater than his relationship with other Alabamans.

Christians’ insistent imposition of their beliefs on other Americans is exactly what drives the more militant Atheists to distraction. Christians have built a slippery slope not unlike the NRA‘s where many Atheists feel the need to fight every new slight as though it means the death of the Constitution and their inevitable excommunication as Americans. And we’re all – Christians and non-Christians alike – going for a long slide if it continues.

My Christian friends – this isn’t persecution of you, but by you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Pakistani Killing Latest in Deadly Debate around Blasphemy Laws

The recent murder of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer for opposing blasphemy laws tragically showcases the high stakes of the fight for religious tolerance and against extremism.

Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Pakistan and a member of the nation's ruling Pakistan People's Party, was allegedly murdered by a member of his security team as a result of his opposition to blasphemy laws and for speaking out against the proposed death sentence of a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, accused of blasphemy.

Taseer's murder is the most recent illustration of how deadly the debate over blasphemy laws has become—but unfortunately there is a long list of cases where laws have been used to squash religious freedom and repress religious minorities.

There's more...

Protecting Refugees: an American Commitment and Tradition

 

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980, a landmark piece of legislation that changed the U.S. approach to refugee protection by creating the legal status of asylum and a formal process for resettling refugees from around the world. It affirmed the U.S. commitment to providing refuge to victims of religious, political and other forms of persecution.

Every day at Human Rights First we see up close the ways in which the Refugee Act makes a difference in the lives of individual refugees. There is no more concrete reflection of the Refugee Act's achievements than seeing refugees and their families find safe haven in the United States.

Watch our video highlighting what this Act meant - including how it helped one of our clients restart his life.

While the last 30 years has seen much progress in protecting refugees fleeing persecution, we also have seen in our work at Human Rights First where the United States has at times faltered in it its commitment - interdicting Haitians at sea without adequate protection safeguards, allowing political preferences to undermine the objectivity of asylum adjudications in the 1980s, and nearly shutting down the resettlement system in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Particularly in the last fifteen years, a barrage of new laws, policies and legal interpretations have undermined the institution of asylum in the United States and led this country to deny asylum or other protection to victims of persecution. Detention has escalated dramatically, and refugees with well founded fears of persecution are barred from asylum due to a filing deadline that limits access to asylum.

We can do better. Our history as a country of refugees, our tradition as a safe haven and beacon of hope for the persecuted, and our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol all tell us we must do better.

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the signing of the act, Human Rights First held a symposiumbringing together policymakers and experts in U.S. refugee and asylum law to discuss how we can overcome the current challenges in the U.S. refugee resettlement and asylum systems. It was an inspiring meeting that gave me hope for future reform.

This week we have seen movement: Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Daniel Akaka (D-HI) have introduced the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 (S. 3113), legislation designed to strengthen America's commitment to protecting refugees by repairing many of the most severe problems in the U.S. refugee and asylum systems. Human Rights First commends these Senators for their leadership. You can demonstrate your support for their efforts here.

Millions of Americans are here today because at some point they or their parents - or grandparents - had to flee from oppression or persecution and were either granted asylum or resettled as refugees here in the United States. After reflecting on the last 30 years since this law was passed, we have a lot to be proud of, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Together, we can ensure that our nation lives up to the promise of the Refugee Act.

 

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