Florida Mayor Unfair to Foxhole Atheists
In the city of Winter Garden, Florida, they think a religious Pledge is necessary to support troops overseas. Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta reports on the Freedom From Religion Foundation defense of a man who chose not to stand due to the continuing religious bias in the Pledge of Allegiance. MAAF entirely supports honoring our nation and those who serve, and an official Pledge is a good way to give voice gratitude for the privileges of citizenship. But unfortunately, our current Pledge is divided by those two words “Under God” and citizens committed to our secular government may rightfully abstain in various ways.
“It’s just not fair to our troops and people overseas, sir.” In this quote at the meeting, Winter Garden Mayor John Rees displays poor appreciation for the meaning of military service and the importance of a patriotism based on liberty to believe as we wish, not to use government authority to force our beliefs on others. Rees should take a moment to consider troops other than Christians.
In Winter Garden, John Thoreau chose to remain seated while council members directed others to stand for the Pledge. In defense of the Council, they allowed him to remain seated during their prayer and were not requiring him to recite the Pledge, only to stand. But Americans do not seek partial freedoms or token respect. We seek equality for all under the law and neutrality toward religion as our Constitution and its Amendments require. John Thoreau honors our troops best by exercising his rights and by opposing those who abuse their power.
Those promoting religion in government often hide behind the service of military personnel to promote their (invariably Christian) agenda. Giant Christian crosses are rebranded as war memorials. Bibles are distributed in hotels, military hospitals, and enlistment processing centers. The American Legion, presumably representing veterans, promotes a rabidly Christian and conservative agenda. The other veterans organizations are not much different, so it is that much more important that secular and humanist organizations remember atheists in foxholes and reach out for voices and faces. And MAAF members and other foxhole atheists must answer the call.
One foxhole atheist in particular standing up for his rights is demanding a secular oath. The American Humanist Association and MAAF are working to ensure his rights. He should not have to demand his rights and should not have to contend with a default requirement to swear to God simply to serve our nation. But the current situation is that nontheists have to “out” themselves as atheists simply to be able to reenlist in the military, and that is the effect of the default religious oath currently on enlistment forms and documents. We should all come together to stand up for our rights and for the rights of those still serving. Those dealing with this issue can read the MAAF FAQ on religious oaths for more information.
Florida Commissioners hide behind military personnel to defend the use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs.
MAAF statement on the Pledge of Allegiance