Reason Rally shows patriotism and military support
The Reason Rally recently hosted upwards of 20,000 atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheists on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The program included opening ceremonies hosted by the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers. Colonel (Retired) Kirk Lamb oversaw a tribute including a color guard of atheists in foxoles, the national anthem performed by Bad Religion lead-singer Greg Graffin, and a trio of ceremonial oaths from the assembled crowd.
The program began as the US flag, one flag for each branch of service, and the POW flag were carried on stage by current and prior military personnel, all atheists in foxholes. Following the national anthem, Colonel (Retired) Kirk Lamb spoke about the commitment of our movement to to American Liberty and to those who have secured our freedoms. The Reason Rally opening ceremonies began by showing support the Troops and by featuring the military backbone of our community.
The military community will have an encore presentation March 31st at Ft Bragg, NC with Rock Beyond Belief. Civilians and military are encouraged to attend this free event on the main post parade field.
Col (Ret) Lamb led the entire crowd in the secular World War II Pledge of Allegiance. Enlisted service members were given the opportunity to reaffirm their oaths of enlistment, and officers did the same for their oath. These oaths had the dual effect of allowing the crowd to show their commitment to American values, but also to educate the crowd. The oaths taken upon entrance to the military are to the Constitution, not to any religion. This also busts the myth that “So help me God” is a required portion of the oath.
Enlisted oath: I do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me,according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Oath of office: I do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
The Pledge portion allowed for the crowd as a whole to reaffirm their commitment to the One Nation, Indivisible, that won World War II. Only by exploiting the McCarthy-era Red Scare were religious special interests able to insert their beliefs into our national Pledge. At the Reason Rally, we committed to national values inclusive of all beliefs.
WWII Pledge: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The color guard consisted of former Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Steven Hewett, who protested the King, NC Christian flag war memorial, Midshipmen from the US Naval and Coast Guard Academies, a current Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. Carrying the POW Flag was former Senior Airman Joel Legawiec who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident after two tours in the Middle East:
It was amazing looking out 20,000 plus fellow non-believers. I am happy that I got the opportunity.
This program set the example how military personnel can properly separate private and official religious speech. Each person was acting privately, out of uniform, and with no active-duty personnel giving speeches as representatives of the event. Military personnel need not abandon their personal values and private activities, religious or secular, but care should be taken to ensure the private activity is not mixed with one’s official government position. Retired Colonel Kirk Lamb served honorably four years in the Infantry and 24 years in the Corps of Engineers. He oversaw the military program and presented these remarks:
I see before me thousands Rallying for Reason. Atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists … Americans. I see before me as well current and prior military personnel who have put their lives on the line to protect ideals of Liberty in thought and deed. Those men and women are among us, standing silently and modestly, doing their duty for the benefit of us all. They do their duty with the expectation that our elected leaders will employ them with justice and temperance. As war rages in Afghanistan, US military attacks have occurred in Egypt, Uganda, Yemen, and the specter of war looms in Iran and Syria, we as atheists and humanists promote Peace while honoring our troops and the Constitution they swore to defend.
In America today, people continually deny that there are atheists in foxholes. The accusation is that either we don’t have the conviction of our beliefs or that we don’t participate in the defense of our nation. Atheists, humanists, and other nontheists have served honorably throughout our nation’s history. You can show your appreciation by signing thank-you notes at the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers sponsor booth to be sent to service members still oversees. Next weekend, you can join atheists in foxholes at Ft Bragg, NC for Rock Beyond Belief. And here today, this military program will ensure that we here at the Reason Rally show our dedication to American values and the service members who defend us. Behind me are 7 flags, the United States flag, one flag for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, and the Prisoner of War flag. They are carried by current and prior military personnel.
To show the many veterans in the audience and to reiterate the dedication our community shows, I invite current and prior enlisted military personnel to reaffirm their oath of enlistment. I invite current and prior officers to reaffirm their oath of office. And I invite all in the crowd to pledge allegiance according to secular pledge that helped us triumph over fascism in World War II. By standing together, we will show, as the community of reason, not that we are dogmatically aligned to any leader or any action of our nation, but that we espouse the ideals of liberty and personal responsibility that has made our country great. And we show as well our appreciation and support for those military personnel who have helped us to be free.