Sunday, 30 September 2007

Updates to MRFF Lawsuit

I've been gone on a business trip for the last week, and am just now getting to blog on the latest developments in MRFF's lawsuit against the DoD. Spc Hall is the plaintiff in the lawsuit is the one standing behind the sign in the picture above.
An Army major who was sued last week for allegedly threatening to retaliate against a soldier, and whom Pentagon officials said could not be located, has been tracked down through his MySpace page.
This is detailed over at the truthout website. Also a few more details over at Friendly Atheist.
Freddy J. Welborn was identified in a federal lawsuit filed last week by Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, 22, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog organization. Because his name was mistakenly listed in the complaint as Paul Welborne, the Army said it was unable to locate him.

However, Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said researchers working for his group discovered Welborn's MySpace page on Sunday morning. Weinstein said the complaint his organization and Hall filed against Welborn, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will be amended and refiled in US District Court in Kansas City, Kansas on Tuesday to reflect Welborn's proper identity.
Apparently, the Army was unable to locate the Major, even though he was stationed at the same place as Spc. Hall and had a My Space web sight saying where he was stationed. I don't think the Army investigators are this clueless. I think they were deliberately hiding him.

And what of the Major himself. Here are his own words from his MySpace page:
Welborn, 44, who appears on his MySpace page in his Army uniform, wrote on his MySpace page that he is a devout Christian who received a bachelor's degree in "personal evangelism" and a minor in "Biblical world view" from Temple Tennessee University. He wrote that he is pursuing a second bachelor's degree in Christian studies from Calvary Bible College And Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He lists his occupation as "Bible Study--Operation Iraqi Freedom" and wrote that his interest is evangelism and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Currently serving w/3rd Inf Div [3rd Infantry Division] Civil Military Operations (Governance) in Baghdad Iraq," Welborn wrote on his MySpace page. He describes himself as a ""Warrior for the Lord Jesus Christ." He wrote that he and his wife Carla "place all our Faith & Trust in our Savior the Lord Jesus - who provides eternal life to anyone that believes that he is the Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, lived as God in the flesh (as man) was crucified, died, and was buried then rose from the grave the third day, then acended [sic] to the right hand of the Father - True repentance (turning away from Sin to God) Being born again, Forgivness [sic] & Justification occure [sic] to the True Believer in Christ when Baptized w/God's Holy Spirit."

If this officer really wants to be a preacher, he should resign his commission as an army officer. He seems to think that its just fine and dandy to push his beliefs on his subordinates. He seems to regard the base as an endless supply of conversion fodder to prop up his beliefs. This conduct is unbecoming of an officer and Major Welborn should either be reprimanded or should be forced to resign.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

The Stupidity, Oh It Burns

I had a very interesting day at work this past week. I get a call from someone in computer support. They needed to inventory all of the equipment in my office. I have several computers, a hub, a printer, etc. I tell the woman, "Sure, come on down and we can get this done."

She arrives a short time later and says that she needs to get the serial numbers of every piece of equipment, including the removable hard drives in the computers. I hand her the key to the disk drive for the SGI at my desk, expecting her to hit the shutdown button to power the machine down. To my dismay, she quickly turns the key and PULLS OUT THE HARD DRIVE WHILE THE COMPUTER IS RUNNING.

I stare absolutely speechless for several seconds, and then I see her heading for the next computer. "Wait one minute" I say and turn off all of the electronic equipment in the room. Luckily, the drive was not harmed.

But amazing as this was I could not believe what I saw earlier when I was getting ready for work the same day. I had just exited the shower when I heard my husband call out to hurry and see what was on the television. The new host on The View did not know if the earth was a sphere or flat.

And later that same day, a co-worker relayed a story about some of the people attending a company "teamworking" class. The class was divided up into teams and the teams were to workout what they would need if they were stranded on the moon. One guy said that he thought they would need weapons in case "aliens" tried to get them. My friend told the guy that there was no life that we knew of on the moon. This person asked how he knew there was no life on the moon. My friend replied that exploration during the Apollo missions showed that the moon was lifeless. "We went to the moon?" the guy asked.

WTF? How could someone educated in the United States be unaware of the shape of the earth or that we had sent people to the moon? I fear for our nation.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Atheist Soldier Receives Death Threats

Jason Leopold has a continuing series on the effects of religious coercion in the military. As you may recall, a soldier named Jeremy Hall is part of the lawsuit that MRFF has filed against the Pentagon and against the Secretary of Defense. He is the young soldier who was harassed and threatened by his commanding officer.
An Army specialist stationed in Iraq said he has been repeatedly threatened by other US soldiers after word spread that he sued the secretary of defense and an Army major this week for allegedly retaliating against the soldier when he convened a meeting of atheists, according to the founder of a military watchdog organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the soldier and has been in close contact with him since then.

Jeremy Hall, 22, who is based out of Fort Riley, Kansas, is deployed in Iraq. The email said a fellow soldier has threatened to "beat his ass," called him an "atheist ass pirate" and "a faggot" and enlisted a "lynch mob" of other soldiers to intimidate Hall because of the allegations Hall made against the military in a lawsuit Weinstein's foundation and Hall filed Monday in US District Court in Kansas City.

Weinstein said he has been in contact with supporters of his foundation who have reported the posting of messages on military and civilian-based blogs, such as, apparently threatening Hall with "fragging," a term used by the military in which an unpopular soldier could be killed by intentional friendly fire during combat.

"Mikey, I hope I am not a victim of a hate crime while I sleep tonight," Hall wrote in an email to Weinstein Thursday evening. "I do not want to die for my country this way. [The soldier] is threatening to beat my ass and all sorts of things. I may be harmed or worse. I am afraid for my safety. I can't sleep, man.... I just lay in my bunk for two hours and I couldn't sleep."
Well it looks like the religious kooks are at it again. Apparently Hall is receiving death threats both in person and by email. Looks like some religious people are feeling defensive and threatened. I don't understand this. If you really believe something and think it is true, why would you feel threatened if someone thinks something different?

Why do some religious people think that threatening someone will win them over? Yeah, I really want to hang around with someone who would treat me in such a manner.

Friday Fungus: Black Trumpet

The Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax) is a large trumpet shaped mushroom.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

MRFF vs Pentecostalgon

Well, it appears here at truthout and here over at DailyKos that the MRFF has military members who are ready to challenge the Pentagon in court over the atrocious behavior of certain military chaplains and senior officers. Jason Leopold over at truthout has been documenting the infiltration of the military by right-wing fundamentalist for the last 5 months. See my previous post about the young enlisted folk who were subjected to a verbal barrage by their senior officer.

Here are a couple excerpts from the articles:
"A military watchdog organization filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday against the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and a US Army major, on behalf of an Army soldier stationed in Iraq. The suit charges the Pentagon with widespread constitutional violations by allegedly trying to force the soldier to embrace evangelical Christianity and then retaliating against him when he refused....

The complaint, filed in US District Court in Kansas City, by the nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), on behalf of Jeremy Hall, an Army specialist currently on active duty in Speicher, Iraq, alleges that Hall's First Amendment rights were violated beginning last Thanksgiving when, because of his atheist beliefs, he declined to participate in a Christian prayer ceremony commemorating the holiday...

...the complaint [also] alleges that on August 7, when Hall received permission by an Army chaplain to organize a meeting of other soldiers who shared his atheist beliefs, his supervisor, Army Major Paul Welborne, broke up the gathering and threatened to retaliate against the soldier by charging him with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice

.... The complaint also alleges that Welborne vowed to block Hall's reenlistment in the Army if the atheist group continued to meet - a violation of Hall's First Amendment rights under the Constitution. Welborne is named as a defendant in the lawsuit....

The complaint charges that Hall, who is based at Fort Riley, Kansas, has been forced to "submit to a religious test as a qualification to his post as a soldier in the United States Army," a violation of Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution.
"This landmark federal litigation is just the first of a galaxy of new lawsuits that will be expeditiously filed against the Pentagon in a concentrated effort to preserve the precious religious liberties guaranteed by our beautiful United States Constitution," Weinstein said Monday.
The ideology that is being promoted, from the very top of the Pentagon, militates towards an attack on Iran and a necessary religious war - in secular terms, those among Samuel Huntington, et. al, who say we're headed towards an inevitable a clash of civilizations.

Apocalyptic Christian ideology, in the United States military, may help power that clash. That's what I'm fighting against, with Michael Weinstein and Chris Rodda, and with MRFF.

As a former Air Force officer, I've been aware of this problem for many years. But only in the last couple of years, have I been aware of how bad the problem is. I have a nephew in the Air Force who tells some stories that can give you nightmares. I also have a cousin in Army Intelligence who has also had run-ins with some of these religious freaks.

I've had my own share of stories while I was in the Air Force for 8 years. But I really did not seem to have had any animosity directed my way. Perhaps because I'm not religious, and at that time had absolutely no interest in religion for or against. I was completely oblivious to what they were doing. I'm pretty laid back and I tend to ignore and laugh off conversion attempts.

Though in this post, I detail about what happened to me at the Officer Training School. There I had to attend a church service in order to get 5 merits useful to offset demerits. But I went and was pretty up front about why I was in church and bible study, much to the dismay of the chaplain.

Now that I think about it, an attitude of complete and utter disbelief that someone could possible believe in the Rapture garbage and take it serious, can be intimidating to these people. As in "You've got to be kidding, right? This is some sort of joke, isn't it?" I recall a couple of attempts by others to try and get me into their church. But as anyone who knows me, my skepticism is too great a hurdle for any sort of argument.

Way to go MRFF, I hope these fundy bastards lose and end up looking like the pinched faced, prudish, pricks they really are.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Weinstein on FFRF Podcast

The latest podcast over at FFRF features Mikey Weinstein from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation discussing the latest problems the evangelicals are causing in the nation's military. Some of these stories are absolutely horrifying. He tells of soldiers who are nonbelievers being sent out on the most hazardous of duties, while the Christians sit back in their tents all smug and self-righteous. I guess this shows that selfishness and the fear of death is the motivation for these Christians.

Others who are deemed to be "not Christian enough" for their fundamentalist commanding officers are treated like shit. An example concerns a new army recruit (a Christian) who simply wanted "Christian" on his dog tags. The person at the the in processing center wanted him to put "Four-Square Pentecostal" on his dog tags. The new recruit refused and his dog tag ended up with "None". When he arrived at his unit in Iraq, his commanding officer saw the "None" on his dog tags and made him spend two weeks in the latrine picking up pubic hairs with a pair of tweezers. I wonder how bad it is for open nonbelievers in that particular unit. What a nightmare.

Another story concerned a unit where the commander stated openly that if there was one member who did not join his fundy church, then all members in the unit would not receive"God's Blessing". What a terrible thing to say. That any misfortune that befell the unit would be caused by anyone not going along with the commander. I guess this commander thinks that the god he believes in cannot tell if someone is faking belief. Obviously, the commander is someone stupid enough to fall for Pascal's Wager and expects others to be just as stupid.

What a group of self-righteous, moralizing, judgmental hypocrites these "born-again" commanders are. How can they possibly expect people to want to voluntarily join their religion? Do they think that their god wouldn't notice that some members have been coerced into joining? Of course there is no god to notice, they are simply using religion as a means of forcing compliance with their actions.

I know that if someone treated me like shit, I would definitely not have anything to do with them. Or perhaps go undercover and find out what they are up to and leak out information; after all, payback is a bitch.

Interestingly enough, Mikey Weinstein also stated that he and others over at his organization also think that Blackwater employees may have been in the area where Pat Tillman was shot. And Blackwater is known to have employed people who have been linked to right-wing death squads in Central America in the 80s and 90s. I share this opinion and have stated this in a previous post.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Interesting Labor Day Weekend

Wow, what a weekend. First we had thunderstorms, then a tornado similar to the one on the left. This was followed by large down drafts causing dust storms and a power outage. The electric was out from Saturday until late Monday. What a pain, especially since temperatures reached 110 degrees in the sun for the last three or four days.

It was really exciting seeing the tornado. It lasted about 5 minutes and was tall and straight, and partially transparent. I love watching the shows on satellite showing tornadoes, and this one was spectacular and was about two miles from our house. Too bad I did not think to grab a camera or video.

Then we had an hour of violent dust storms, the visibility was down to zero. The micro bursts were so bad, several power lines leading to our neighborhood snapped like match sticks.