Mikey Weinstein and Justin Griffith won a big victory over the enemies of church/state separation in the military when they forced the Pentagon to remove the cross from a building at a remote military base in Afghanistan. NBC News picked up on the story and quotes both of them:
“When I think of an army sporting a Christian cross, I think Crusades,” Muhlnickel wrote in an email from Orgun. “Neither my country nor my army force me to swear allegiance to Odin, Jesus, Buddha or Horus. Freedom from religious oppression is pretty much the reason why the United States was founded.”
“It is the sort of thing that provides a boundless bonanza of terrorist propaganda for the mujahedeen, the insurrectionists, the Taliban and al-Qaida that we are supposedly fighting to protect our national security,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the non-profit Military Religious Freedom Foundation. “The message of the cross on the chapel is basically putting out the message in Pashto, Dari and Arabic to please blow me up because I’m a latter day Christian crusader.”…
Muhlnickel raised his concerns through his chain of command, and then — unconvinced that it would result in action — turned to outside organizations, including the nonprofit American Atheists.
“Chaplains know the regulations very well,” said Justin Griffith, an Army sergeant at Fort Bragg, N.C., and military director for American Atheists in his personal time. “Whoever authorized (the steeple and crosses) knew exactly what they were doing. It’s intentionally disrespectful to the non-Christians in the U.S. military … Put it in Afghanistan, the danger is very real, to personnel, even to Christians.”…
Griffith, an atheist who often calls out practices that he believes cross the line from the free exercise of religion to unconstitutional proselytizing or discrimination, has learned that his views are unpopular with many in the military. He’s concerned about Muhlnickel suffering reprisal.
“Sgt. Muhlnickel’s efforts just put the pin back in the grenade,” said Griffith. “The military now needs to protect him from any backlash … and not punish him for speaking out against the dangerous ‘crusader’ symbolism.”
That such reprisals even have to be a concern speaks volumes about the atmosphere in the military when you do nothing more than force them to comply with their own regulations.
Update: And to make things even sweeter, they managed to get Sarah Palin so riled up that she took to Twitter:
What are we succumbing to, America? The army orders “the removal of Christian symbols from a chapel.” I wonder…
We’re “succumbing” to complying with the constitution and with military regulations. And to not telling both our soldiers and potential enemies that we’re engaged in a Christian crusade.