The Jeremy Hall story is finally bubbling up to the mainstream media. About a year ago Spec. Jeremy Hall, a member of MAAF, tried to setup a Freethinkers meetup at his base in Iraq. He had the support of the base chaplain and complied with all applicable regulations. One person who showed up was Maj. Freddy Welborn. Maj.Welborn started yelling at everyone attending and broke up the meeting.
I responded to an email request from MAAF. Spec. Hall was requesting help with his situation. My response at the time was that if he was to precede with a complaint, then go through the official channels. If nothing was done, then if he wanted to continue, then he would probably need to sue in federal court. The odds were also that he would have to watch his back, as he would probably be getting death threats from “Loving Christians.” This is exactly what happened.
I’m glad the story is finally getting aired, but sadly almost a year after the events unfolded. From the CNN story, it seems that Annapolis and West Point are also suffering the same sorts of problems that the Air Force Academy has with overly zealous Christians. For a time my son was interested in the Coast Guard and their academy seems to be free of this problem. I think the Coast Guard leadership is much more level headed.
But, it is precisely the “pattern and practice” that MRFF is alleging exists throughout the military that would make it unlikely, if not impossible, for a soldier like SPC Hall to successfully pursue a remedy through military channels. MRFF has been contacted by enough service members who have attempted to resolve their complaints through military channels, including the Equality Opportunity (EO) program, to know this. And, since the CNN segment aired last week, dozens of other service members have contacted MRFF with their stories of what happened when they tried to resolve religious issues through their chain of command or the EO program. At best, their complaints were simply ignored; at worst, the service members who complained faced retaliation from both peers and superiors. Many others have been afraid to report these violations at all. This is the very reason that MRFF is turning to the federal courts.
It looks like the lawsuit may be joined by many others in the near future,especially if it looks like Spec. Hall and MRFF may lose. And I’ve heard stories and read a few blogs where service members and former service members have complained of their complaints getting “lost” in the system.