A Tale of Three Christmases at NSA Bahrain, Schofield Barracks, and Fort Belvoir

Military Personnel marching in Waianae Coast Rotary Christmas Parade

Update: NSA Bahrain spokesperson Jennifer Stride confirms to MAAF that the Nativity celebration will be held in the chapel December 24th. This is the win-win outcome requested by MAAF and originally reported in this article. The prevailing right wing narrative, “Navy Cancels Nativity over Atheist Complaint” was misleading at best when posted and is now proven to be factually incorrect. There should be mass retractions of any such reports and follow-up to ensure better fact checking and better reporting is done in the future. As originally posted in this report, MAAF applauds the chaplaincy for providing the live nativity celebrations for its Christian members outside the context of general-audience, command-sponsored events. 

Here at MAAF, we receive lots of complaints around the holidays. Several have come in the last few weeks, and I’d like to highlight three: Ft Belvoir is holding concerts, a tree lighting, and other activities to officially observe a full month of Christian Advent. At Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, sixty soldiers were detailed to march in and support a community Christmas parade. At Naval Support Activity Bahrain in the Middle-Eastern nation of Bahrain, the garrison command scheduled a live nativity with real people and animals as part of its official Christmas festivities. MAAF received complaints about each of these issues. One is unresolved. One is was resolved after investigation. One seemed to be an appropriate celebration with no misuse of authority.

The way the right-wing media tells it, we secularists literally raise Hell every time we hear the word Christmas. Not so. Christmas is a federal holiday because of its broad appeal and secular celebration of American values like family and charity. Many non-Christians enjoy Christmas carols, presents, decorations, and the general holiday cheer. Some even enjoy religious Christmas celebrations so long as they are outside the context of official government endorsement and mandatory military events. Participating in caroling, listening to a choral presentation at a church, or participating in a Christmas charity can be enjoyable and empowering for all as long as they don’t involve government coercion or funding. As a general guideline, MAAF sees a Christmas tree, presents, some songs, and even Santa Claus as trappings of secular Christmas. Angels, nativity scenes, crosses, prayers, and carols focused explicitly on Christianity (e.g., Silent Night) cross the line into a religious devotion rather than a neutral, secular celebration. These examples may help military leaders better understand how to maintain neutrality toward religion while still providing for both secular and religious holiday celebrations.

Note: There are many details left out of these examples, but the information provided is intended to be representative of the incidents without unnecessary discussion.

NSA Bahrain: MAAF received a flyer advertising a “Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony”. The flyer gave top billing to the live nativity scene planned. This event was promoted and endorsed by the command as a featured event for the year in the main courtyard on the installation. NSA Bahrain held a Gospel concert in the same location and a religious Christmas celebration last year, as previously reported by MAAF. MAAF sent a letter to the Inspector General responsible for Navy installations that included the following excerpt:

This (referring to the live nativity) is not just support for but promotion of Christianity as the official religion of the base. This violates the Constitution and the mandates of the command to support all belief while privileging none. The event is billed as a ‘holiday’ event but it is nothing but a Christian activity, and it is dishonest for the command to attempt to advertise the event as a ‘holiday’ activity when it is so clearly and exclusively biased toward Christianity. Also of concern is the likelihood that the predominantly Muslim local population will see the US military as a Christian force rather than as a secular military supporting US but not necessarily Christian values in their Muslim country. This event threatens US security and violates the Constitution as well as command policy.

The Inspector General investigated the issue and quickly responded with the following, “Upon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time.” This is an outcome that provides an affirming and enjoyable private Christian celebration for those interested as well as a religiously-neutral and enjoyable secular “holiday” celebration for other installation personnel.

These issues need to be resolved before coming to the attention of external organizations like MAAF, but swift response to resolve the issue amicably for all is a step in the right direction.

Schofield Barracks, Hawaii: Each year, the Waianae Coast Rotary Club hosts a Christmas parade for the local community near Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. The leaders at Schofield Barracks, like any good military leaders, reach out to the local community of which they are a part. One unit sent out an order to provide 60 personnel, a military vehicle, and a band from Schofield Barracks to add to what would be 1000 marchers and 30 vehicles. It sounds like good public relations and good advertising, but it is a Christmas parade. One MAAF member in the chain of command pushed back on the tasking, saying that leadership was not there to force soldiers into religious activities and asked MAAF to look into the issue.

The Rotary Club itself founds itself on values such as fairness, honesty, and service with no sectarian bias. The parade was billed as “Peace through Service” and the 2011 parade was “Embracing Wainae’s Diversity“. Photos from the event show church floats participating with other private organizations but no apparent sectarian bias. The military was also representing itself and not involved in support of any private organization or any sectarian activity. From the review, the “Christmas” in this case seemed to be an entirely secular with religious components but no bias. The soldier understood the explanation and went forward with the tasking with no issues.

This is an instance (one of many) where intervention by a nontheist group resolved rather than created a complaint about a Christmas celebration.

Fort Belvoir, Virginia: This instance is the most recent and is still under review. In two articles, the Belvoir Eagle reported on the official Garrison Christmas concert and the Tree Lighting ceremony. The garrison chaplain told the Eagle that the concert kicked of the “garrison’s observance of Advent, a four-week period leading up to the birth of Christ.” At this point, there is a command sponsorship of the religious aspects of Christmas, but the concert itself seems to be separate as a Christian chaplain program.

However, the Tree Lighting ceremony is more than its name would imply. This happened December 7th and reportedly, the chaplain started with a prayer, then lit the tree. After that, kids were ushered into the chapel to meet Mr and Mrs Santa Claus. The addition of the prayer (which may be a sectarian Christian prayer according to Army policy but not Constitutional precedent) and the parading of children through the chapel (even the foyer) creates a command endorsement of religion. It is unclear whether the children were led through the full chapel or treated to religious symbols to drive home a Christian message.

But wait, there’s more. The chaplain comments to the media betray a disturbingly evangelical bias toward these events. In the two articles, Chaplain Major Kristi Pappas is quoted as saying, “Christ not only gave us a fish, but taught us to fish.” Are these children and soldiers attending the ceremony being presented as “fish” for evangelical fishing?

Pappas also took a decidedly political stance, saying “I think we’ve forgotten what our founding fathers gave us and where they were influenced,” said Pappas. “They understood our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness was a gift from our creator.” This Christian-nation rhetoric puts atheists and humanists who do not recognize a creator in the role of second-class citizen or outright traitor. How can all soldiers feel like part of the team when they are so negatively singled out for their beliefs?

When an official “holiday tree lighting” is wrapped in prayer, housed in the chapel, and used as a platform for evangelical Christianity, then the government has promoted Christianity. Military leaders have an obligation to step in to prevent or hand down retraining and reprimands to prevent future issues. This is an especially urgent issue as post chaplains are even invited to teach values to children in local schools.

Fort Belvoir should investigate the details of this event. At the least, we should see Fort Belvoir leaders issuing a retraction of the official endorsement of “spiritual celebration of Christmas” and the “garrison’s observance of Advent.” Military leaders have no business privileging Christianity with a special month-long celebration. Post command should officially declare its neutrality toward religion, place sectarian events into private chaplain programs targeted only to appropriate religious communities, and ensure that chaplain activities are not themselves exclusively biased toward one belief or type of belief.

Conclusion: Not really a conclusion, but a conclusion to this article. The article leads with a great story at NSA Bahrain where swift and appropriate action (after complaint) led to a great Christmas nativity scene available to Christians without command sponsorship or bias, and a great secular Christmas celebration for the general population on the installation. The second was a complaint that we at MAAF were able to resolve without any change to the event. It was an education opportunity for one of our members that “Christmas” doesn’t necessarily mean a religious event, and is representative of many of the issues brought to our attention. The Fort Belvoir issue came out with little time to react, but the hope is that Fort Belvoir officials will look more closely and ensure that chaplains do not marginalize non-Christians, target them for proselytizing, or entangle the command in sectarian activities.

Update: NSA Bahrain spokesperson Jennifer Stride confirms to MAAF that the Nativity celebration will be held in the chapel December 24th. This is the win-win outcome requested by MAAF and originally reported in this article. The prevailing right wing narrative, “Navy Cancels Nativity over Atheist Complaint” was misleading at best when posted and is now proven to be factually incorrect. There should be mass retractions of any such reports and follow-up to ensure better fact checking and better reporting is done in the future. As originally posted in this report, MAAF applauds the chaplaincy for providing the live nativity celebrations for its Christian members outside the context of general-audience, command-sponsored events. 

Prior Update: Todd Starnes at Fox News reports the Live Nativity was cancelled altogether rather than held with private activities. MAAF has not yet been able to confirm the report independently. I am quote in the article saying, “Torpy said he is pleased with how the Navy handled the matter.” That comment is true but was also given with the understanding that a private Live Nativity was held elsewhere. If the scene had to be cancelled, that is unfortunate but it is also preferable to the government-sponsored proselytism the Live Nativity would have added to an otherwise positive celebration. Someone may have determined that the controversy created by cancelling the Live Nativity would be preferable to the win-win situation of a secular Christmas from the command and a Christian celebration separately and available to anyone interested.

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  • Christi

    The comments below remind me of when I was learnng to drive and my mom would ask me to slow down. I’d drive 5 mph just to piss her off. Seems many commenters are no more mature than a 15-yr-old. “If I can’t have my Garrison sponsor Christianity, then I guess you don’t want me to pray in my own house, either?” Whine much? Talk about missing the point completely.
    And they think WE are the ones who are angry whiners? Wow.
    Thank you for what you do, Jason. You manage to handle these idiots with grace.

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  • Priscilla

    Good job Jason. I think you handled THIS situation with class. Have you heard anything further about if the nativity was cancelled or is it still going to be held in a chapel on Christmas Eve?

  • oldglory

    Tis the season…for Christian privilege to assert itself in tirades of ignorance. The government funded, public events that are discussed here are out-of-bounds for religious bias or endorsement. There are many fair-minded Christians who understand what being a service member is about and what these public military events represent. The haters get such a bumrash about being told what isn’t appropriate that they can’t even think straight. Read any of the antagonistic comments above/below for some vivid examples. The truth is: you can be as god-praising and god-loving as you want AS A CITIZEN. But as a member of the military, you represent the welfare of more different kinds of people than you can comprehend. Thus, it is your job to be more open-minded than you may ever have been as a mere citizen. Your freedom of religious speech and expression are subject to your military duty, just as any citizen’s religious rituals are curtailed by federal law (no animal sacrifices etc). If you can’t respect this basic responsibility as a service member, what else are you overlooking?

  • http://www.facebook.com/pedodd Paul Ellison Dodd

    You folks are just as bad as all the other fundamentalists in the world. Your way or no way. Drop dead.

    • old glory

      Actually, they are pretty fair-minded about dealing with these issues. I suggest you read the article.

  • http://christopherjones.us magikid

    @JasonTorpy I’m a proud MAAF member and I would just like to say thank you for everything you do! These comments here are pretty vitriolic and you have been handling them great!

  • athiest

    Why aren’t you protesting the display of Christmas trees for being pagan? I guess its not big enough to be a safe target for discrimination. Are they worried crosses and Christmas songs will convert all the little athiest children?

  • S&J

    Oh – and “Marine Dad?”

    You really ought to educate yourself and look up the definition of “freethinker.” You can find it in any standard dictionary. It’s embarrassingly (for you) obvious that you don’t have any clue as to the true meaning of the word.

  • S&J

    Thank you for everything you do, MAAF. As a freethinker, lifelong atheist, USMC vet, AND Marine mom, I say with absolute certain that advocacy of nonbelievers and intervention on their behalf is almost more crucial in the closed world of the military than it is “out here.” Orgs such as yours were unthinkable when my husband and I were on active duty!

    It was pleasantly shocking to hear our son detail all the non-religious and other-than-Christian alternatives that were offered recruits when he was af boot camp in Parris Island. When I was a recruit there in the early ’80s, it was either Xtian services or nothing on Sunday morning – and the “nothing” meant staying behind in the squad bay and shining brass & boots, or studying for academic classes, etc. I do remember our D.I.s “strongly encoursging” us to go to church. I’ll admit to attending thoses services most weeks just to get out of the squad bay (read: “away from the D.I.s”) and have a change of pace. It was easy enough to tune everything out and daydream for an hour or so.

    The MAAF is very much appreciated by non-believing old salts like me and my husband – especially and personally since our atheist Marine son enjoys a less (not totally, but maybe someday) overtly religious atmosphere in the course of his duties than we once did.

    • JasonTorpy

      Thanks I hope to see you on the membership rolls if you haven’t signed up already.

  • FlameCCT

    I feel sorry for y’all. On the one hand, you do everything possible to prevent the free practice of religion on government property yet on the other hand, you advocate for the Humanist religion to be included in the Chaplain program. And yes, Humanist is a religious organization. That is hypocrisy in action.

    • JasonTorpy

      Everything possible? I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate. The chaplains should have a robust religious program with Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, and other activities including retreats, celebrations, and study groups. And yes, they need to support atheists and humanists as well. None of that should involve requiring the government to do your worshiping or evangelizing for you.

      • FlameCCT

        First, you should stop exaggerating as my posts today have been the first on your site and first to you personally. Although why should I be surprised at another example of hypocrisy.

        Second, you push for chaplain service to have a robust religious program yet are upset and claim command sponsorship of a Christian Chaplains religious program because it contains religious activities. Once again, hypocrisy in action.

        Finally, I have worked with SpecOps personnel from all different backgrounds which included Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic etc. Funny how none of us were bothered by the differences.

        Sorry Jason, but you create supposed controversies based on the poor little feelings of some military personnel. I’ll be more convinced of your honesty and integrity when I see your organization either be more tolerant of non-atheist personnel or apply the same standards to all religious activities.

        • JasonTorpy

          It wasn’t the Christian Chaplain’s religious program. It was the official, command-sponsored, general-audience holiday tree lighting.
          Declaring this to be hurt feelings is just a tactic to distract from the legitimate legal violations of command-sponsored religion. People shouldn’t need the government to do their praying for them.

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  • sick of athiests

    Why not just make it where anyone in any goverment position, active duty, politician ect is forbidden to celebrate xmams in any form, no xmas trees for their familes, no celebration of any kind. In fact, your organization should just move to make any form of religious expression completly illigle, then once that is done, force you lack of faith on the rest of the country. Once thats done and we find ourselves back in the dark ages you can pat yourselves on the back for being such a-holes

    • http://christopherjones.us magikid

      Actually the dark ages had quite a bit of religious activity. In Europe, it was pretty much all Christian too.

    • old glory

      That’s a lot of straw-men you just threw out there! Are you sick of atheists or the imaginary boogieman atheists you just made up?

  • http://twitter.com/Angelisse007 Angelisse Athan

    Those who oppose the Christ-mas Holyday celebrations can exempt themselves and let the remaining 90% population of Christians enjoy it. Atheists have their own religions too, and we don’t care that you celebrate them amongst yourselves. Don’t tune in if it offends you. Let the rest enjoy Jesus’ Birthday though. Muslims apparently exalt Jesus as well, So don’t blame them.

  • Richard

    You are not only “free thinkers” but keep others from expressing their beliefs. You’re a small group of malcontents who insists the vast majority cave to your every whim. Your goal is not just to have your beliefs, but to exterminate everyone else’s right to express a belief different from that of you. For far too long it has been the Christians that has taken up the majority of sacrifices that allow people like you to trample on everyone else’s rights. I strongly encourage all Christians to stop serving in the military. Let whiney malcontents like your group take up the sole burden of defending this nation while the rest of us take potshots at your beliefs and see how you like it. I respect your right to believe in whatever you want but when you actively work to stop me from expressing my beliefs that crosses the line.

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  • Karen Wedge

    Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34). The way we think about God and how we respond to Him is the most important thing about about you (and about me). Jesus was sent here to reveal who God is. He is at the door knocking but there is no handle on His side. Open the door and receive His amazing gift of forgiveness and eternal life … and so much more. Merry Christmas!

  • Ergo_Verbumsap

    You dirty, nasty, soulless, creeps have ruined a Christmas tradition for families and children. You had better hope like HELL the vacuous shell that is your body doesn’t have a soul, because you’ve got a whole lot of hurt coming YOUR way!

    • old glory

      someone is getting coal in their stocking!!

  • Jon

    If people believe in Jesus Christ and God. Leave them alone. You are entitled to your opinion as we are! You folks are grabbing attention from service members who sacrificed all for this country and is guaranteed by the FIRST AMENDMENT! Find something else to gripe about…like service members losing benefits! AIR FORCE!

  • exnavywifeof25years

    I agree with Marine Dad. Just because you people don’t believe in what others believe you CRY about it . Shame on you all MAAF . You wouldn’t want others stepping on your NON-Beliefs so stop doing it to others who do and wish to enjoy their CHRISTmas. Close-minded and ridiculous . Freethinkers ??? LOL how about NOThinkers.

  • Greg Wolfe

    You all are going to burn in hell for all eternity.

    • old glory

      see you there.

  • JERRY LEFROIS

    Atheist are nothing more than vile racists, who seek to IMPOSE their agenda on the christian majority and I for one am sick and tired of these idiots trying to force their mind set on the majority. If Christianity offends you idiots, then turn around and STFU!!!

  • Boeingflight77

    It violates the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religious expression–a freedom  that our forefathers sacrificed their lives to provide for us,” I will be bringing up charges against your group. Heads up.

  • troy

    You people complain when the majority is supposed to rule! There are way more people in support of a nativity scene than not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500807204 Gena Hernandez

    OKAY … CHRIST mas CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST mas.. did ya’ll miss that part? Feel free not to take CHRISTMAS leave so that the CHRISTIAN soldiers don’t have to pull duties during their RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY… HOW THE HELL have we devolved to a point where people forget CHRISTmas is about CHRIST.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasontorpy Jason Torpy

      I have many times pulled duty on Christmas to allow Christian soldiers to celebrate. As for forgetting Christmas is about Christ, the ship has sailed. Christians wanted their holiday as a federal holiday celebrated by the government, so there is such a thing as secular Christmas – trees, santa, presents. Have a problem with that? Then you’re a fan of secular government – one that stays neutral toward religion and allows private citizens to celebrate. I’m right with you. The tradeoff is you can’t have the government promote Christmas if you want Jesus to be the centerpiece.

  • Otis

    Bunch of loser douchebags. If one of you were to be hit by a bus, would the rest of you show up to ensure nobody prayed at the funeral? Would you protest other crosses in the graveyard and demand that he be buried in a crossless graveyard? You are all moron’s and while we are all granted freedom of speech and religion, you are all working as hard as you can to get our freedoms taken away for the reasons of political correctness? SCREW political correctness!!! It is the worst combination of words this country has ever seen. I say, call an apple an apple and call an athiest exactly what it is. Someone who doesn’t know any better! Athiests still have a right to think the way they want just like everyone else, but when you decide that I can’t have the same rights, then we have problems. I am amazed at the ignorance from this group, claiming this is slavery. Do you think the real slaves would appreciate you throwing yourselves in the same plight as them because of this silly crap? Think about what you are saying. Did someone tie you to a whipping post and force you to participate in the nativity? Did they whip you until you complied? Did they hang you if you didn’t? These are things that slaves had to deal with, you are just being a bunch of little bitches!

  • Family God and Country

    America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism,
    its morality and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three
    areas, America will collapse from within.

    a quote from Josef Stalin

    You’re group makes me sick

  • http://www.facebook.com/Mechannequin David Kesterson

    Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you, Party pooper.
    Your just a bunch of spoiled brats that was breast feed till you were 6.
    And Mama and Daddy gave you everything you ever wanted or you would throw a temper tantrum.
    Why don’t you shut your mouths and leave other people alone.
    Bunch of siffling cry babies.
    Jesus is real.

  • GunBoss

    I read your page with an open mind after reading the article on the nativity scene at NSA Bahrain. I leave your page with the realization that your group is full of close minded folks who wish to shut down all who don’t agree with your beliefs.

    Free speech – but only for those who agree with you. Thus, you are just as bad as the closed minded Christians (a distinct minority of American Christians) who you have started a Crusade against.

    Shameful you are allowed to use the term “Military” in your title, since from my experience (over 25 years of service) your opinion is in the level of “lunatic fringe” in the active duty ranks – that is the war-fighters, not the lawyers, medical service corps, quartermaster, and the rest of the “tail.”

    Good luck at Judgement Day, I’ll pray for you regardless of how much you wish to shut me up.

  • TrueFreeThinker

    Wet blankets R us, huh? You accuse everyone of imposing their views on others- well, take a good look in the mirror, you hypocrites, because all you are doing is imposing your atheism on everyone else. You think that if you don’t celebrate it, no one should. By the way, Jacob Marley called and wondered how the counting house was.

  • johnsin

    Sad day for the christian community.

  • Not an athiest

    Secular humanism and atheism are themselves a form of religion, and the intolerance of their adherants is spectacular in the manner in which if prevents others from expressing their own views.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.hargett.92 Steven Hargett

    I suppose we could expect no less from a priest of the Athiest faith / religeon.
    You have an aversion to any form of religion other than your own being proselytized. So
    I suppose you will be able to enjoy yourself with the glowing thought that you
    have ruined the entire evening for a large number of children and adults.

    Did you even hear what you were saying in your article? You believe that the attendance or participation of children in a nativity scene is a form of Slavery? Are you out of your mind? Would it be possible for you to be any more offensive?

    It was so nice of you to give them “your” permission to hold the nativity in private, but
    you should stop lying to everyone. You probably had the lawsuit lined up if
    they nativity was still held in a private location. After all you own words
    state attendance or participation in a nativity scene is a form of slavery. So
    I am fairly sure you were waiting with your lawyers on speed dial.

    The Declaration of independence specifically states “We hold these truths to
    be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
    Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and
    the pursuit of Happiness.” This is the second sentence of the Declaration
    of independence, and the second time that God is referenced as a proper noun.
    The last clause of the Declaration of Independence states “And for the
    support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine
    Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our
    sacred Honor.”

    Obviously you have no clue what the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and
    the Bill of Rights are, what they means, or the intention of our founding
    fathers who wrote them.

    So if your belief in your religion in some way makes you feel that you are as you
    stated “a second-class citizen or outright traitor” it is entirely
    your own problem, and has nothing to do with the rest of us. Our nation was
    founded on Christian beliefs, values, and morays. Additionally, the 1st Amendment
    ensures that all citizens have the freedom OF religion, and in no way limits
    it. In fact it says the very opposite.

    Maybe your life would have some meaning if you spent your time contributing to our society, and not devoting yourself to its destruction. How sad your life or
    lives must be to fill you with the resolve required to spread loneliness, despair, and intolerance to as many people as possible.

    Steven Hargett
    Merry Christmas!

    • oldglory

      Belittling atheism by calling it a “religion”? Think that up all by yourself? And the “fishing” for men comment cited in the above article is EXACTLY the kind of OFFENSIVE overreaching that Evangelicals are always trying to pull off in uniform. When you put on the uniform, you represent something bigger than your own personal faith.

  • MP14625

    Really? Sorry MAAF on this one…you come across as anything but “freethinkers.” Instead of worrying about little kids dressed as angels, try “freethinking” about anything other than your own fragile egos, intolerance, and/or the false narrative that you are “protecting the constitution.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnAKieffer John Kieffer

    I applaud the great work by the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers.

    Our government has NO business promoting Christianity or any religion … especially via US military assets/resources … and of all places: Bahrain.

    Duh-uh! That’s a big fat no-brainer people.

    • Jon

      Were you even IN THE MILITARY??? I Commanded Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims…all of which I INSISTED they worship their faiths! They even got along with Atheists and Agnostics! My BOYS were a tight knit group! Nobody “forced” opinion on others and ALL survived the “Sandbox” as brothers! Stop dividing people based on your own narcissism!

    • FlameCCT

      It is interesting that Bahrain has had no problem with Christian activity by American military on their base. However I note that MAAF does not apply their standards when the Islamic faithful have activities for their major holidays on military bases.

      • JasonTorpy

        They did have a problem. It just wasn’t resolved until now. Please note the Islamic activity you have a problem with. Remember that if it’s not part of an official command-sponsored and promoted event or location, it’s not a problem. MAAF did not object to the tree lighting or santa, just the nativity and then only because it was in the official command event. Had it been in a chaplain-sponsored event advertised as a Christian celebration, then it would have been fine.

        • Berger

          Why didn’t you object to the tree lighting? Are you only targeting Christian symbolism?

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  • Marine Dad

    Freethinkers? I’m guessing that REAL Freethinkers wouldn’t object to other groups of Freethinkers displaying their own wonderful traditions. Whiners and Complainers is a better label.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasontorpy Jason Torpy

      We don’t object to religious displays, only command-sponsored, resourced, and promoted religious displays. Homes, churches, front lawns, billboards, commercials, private stores and non-profits… no problem. Point out that the government shouldn’t promote religion, and suddenly people forget about every other location and time for free exercise.

      • Jon

        What business is it of yours? It bothers YOU! Intolerant jerk!

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  • Berkshire Agnostic

    I swear you believe in religious freedom for everyone but fellow Americans. Let each group celebrate their beliefs and holidays how they see fit. As long as they aren’t limiting the beliefs of others, why should you want to take away their traditions?

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasontorpy Jason Torpy

      We don’t. Individuals should have the right to celebrate how they like. But the command shouldn’t promote those religious celebrations and insert them into official command activities. That is command religion, not personal religion.

      • Jon

        Really…get over yourself! Your EGO crowds your mind!

      • http://twitter.com/Angelisse007 Angelisse Athan

        If the majority are inspired, edified, encouraged and motivated by it, why do you want to take that away from them? You 12 who object can go play poker or something. That would be selfless though, which I guess you believe is too Christian. lol

  • Surlycmd

    As a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer and an Atheist, I think you have gone too far. I think you misunderstand the concept of the separation of church and state. A religious display on a Military installation under no circumstances pushes that belief on others.Your actions takes away Military families rights to celebrate how they wish. That is NOT what the 1st Amendment is about. Your organization and others like it seem to be petty and vindictive towards those who believe. I can’t support anyone or group that bullies others. I don’t want those who believe to push their faith on me and I won’t push my lack of beliefs on them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasontorpy Jason Torpy

      It really sounds like you didn’t read the article. Nothing implies that families can’t celebrate in their homes, the chapel, or even in parks when they wish. That should stop short of command-sponsored and promoted religious activities. Maybe you mean that government authority and resources should be used to promote religious activities and beliefs.

      • surlycmd

        I read the entire article and I still do not agree with you. A religious activity on gov’t ground does not equate to sponsorship. It simply means the gov’t allowed religious people to use it. I see nothing wrong with a base displaying a Nativity scene. Not once in 21 years of service was I told I had to attend any religious event. Filing complaints is your right but threatening to sue the Military, schools, or the gov’t to push beliefs is extortion and bullying. A true Atheist isn’t offended or threatened by religions. They simply ignore them. Only people with insecurities and pettiness in their character feel threatened by religion. Religious organizations no longer hold the power they once had. Those days are gone forever. No need to attack them.

    • Jon

      Thank You Chief!!!

  • American Soldier

    You folks, while well intentioned, and under the “cover” of rights, are the death of America. Your litagatory posturing may intimidate the masses of lawsuit fearful organizations, but your cleansing activities of the American way will only go so far. Good luck to you!

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  • marshall d drake senior

    Bravo!! Bravo!!