An atheist U.S. Army soldier, joined by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has brought a lawsuit against the Army accusing them of a pattern of ‘Christian bias’. The examples of this ‘bias’ include quotes from a chaplain and another soldier about their desire to convert Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, a suicide prevention manual that encourages ‘connection to the divine’, and a few other laughably inconsequential things.
First, it is worth noting that Spc. Dustin Chalker is completely entitled to his own religious views (and, yes, I define atheism—a belief that there is no God—as a religion). But it is also worth noting that Spc. Chalker has been unable to present any evidence whatsoever of any criminal discrimination against atheists or other non-Christians. Statements made by other members of the military do not equate to official military policy, and a single sentence in a single suicide prevention manual is hardly evidence of any endemic ‘bias’ in the Army.
As a matter of principle, I agree completely with the Constitutional protection of free religion. This is a civil liberty. I also generally agree with the revisionist doctrine of a separation of church and state, though that’s not what the Constitution says. But neither equates to a freedom from religion. My right to practice my Christian faith does not mean I have a right to go through life exposed only to Christian practice. An atheist’s right to practice his religion does not mean he has a right to go through life without running into others practicing their religions either.
The original meaning of the First Amendment would have allowed government support of religion—even a single, particular religion—provided it was not ‘established’ by the government and the government didn’t limit anybody else’s religious practice. We’ve moved to a much more expansive read of the text, and that’s probably okay in this case, but members of the military still have a fundamental civil right to practice their religion. Spc. Chalker doesn’t have to like it, and I’m sure he doesn’t since the majority of our brave soldiers are Christians, but his suit is entirely without merit.