The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


September 07, 2007

Name: Anne Freeman
Posting date: 9/7/07
: Stationed in Iraq
Milblog url:

While Milo's been toiling away in the sand and heat, I spent most of this weekend at a unit family retreat in the mountains. I feel guilty sometimes, having fun while he's away, but I needed this break. I spent the weekend hiking, biking, swimming, getting massaged, and attending mandatory seminars on how to build a healthy marriage. As much fun as I had, I came to dread those seminar sessions. They were helpful sometimes, but I take offense at being subjected to extensive Biblical teaching and group prayer at mandatory, government-funded information sessions. I take offense at being taught how to "achieve victory in Christ," and told that "those who belong to Christ are already victorious." If I don't belong to Christ, am I not victorious then?

I was raised in an Evangelical Baptist family, and as I grew up I began to chafe at the hypocrisy inherent in the beliefs I was raised with. I questioned, I learned, and I left the church for another path. It's a real point of contention with my family, so we just don't talk about it. I wonder if we ever will, or if it's just better this way. Family issues aside, I've run into even more problems as a "non-Christian" in the military. I know the Chaplain's office is supposed to meet the needs of all, but I can't help feeling like Christian traditions are being jammed down my throat at almost every turn. How is it appropriate to recite Bible verses and lead group prayers at mandatory information briefings? The worst part is that when I express my discomfort over being placed in such situations, the response of my Christian counterparts is so often, "Oh please, it's not hurting you any."

What they don't understand is that it is.

As I mulled these issues over in the travel journal I keep for my mother-in-law, I wondered how any devout Christian woman would feel in my shoes. What follows is the best I could do to share my situation.

Let me try to explain where I'm coming from here. You're a military spouse -- imagine your family has been stationed in a country where your religion is not welcome. The only comparison I can come up with is Islam. Imagine being stationed in a Muslim country; one where the constitution defines Islam as the state religion, and a portion of every paycheck is paid to the Church of Islam. Imagine that a large portion of those Muslims believe that your religion is the product of Satan, and that you "worship the devil".

Kind of Uncomfortable, huh?

Now imagine that there are no other Christians in your new community, and no Christian services. The Chaplain's office promises to include everyone, but they offer only Muslim services because there just aren't enough Christians in the community to warrant your own service. What's more, they read the Koran to you at nearly every public event. They spend more time trying to convert you than helping provide you with spiritual support.

Maybe you consider trying to find other Christians and start a prayer group. So you ask the Chaplain's office and they promise to email you with info, but they don't. While you're waiting for your email, you see a vitriolic letter in Stars and Stripes. Apparently, some Christians in the next community started a prayer group at their chapel, and the community is protesting. Imagine that Muslims in that community refuse to use the same building as someone of your faith. The letter writer goes on to call Christianity the product of Satan, and Christians unfit for service in the Army and the community.

Lonely yet? 'Cause I sure am.

I am living in a community with no other members of my faith. I am surrounded by people who think my beliefs are either evil or illegitimate. There are no services, no spiritual support groups, no sympathy. The worst part of it all is that my husband is no better off than I am. He is a soldier with no spiritual support network, no spiritual counsel, and no guidance. He is on his own to deal with his family troubles or his existential crises. The very people who promise to support him make it abundantly clear that they support only those whose faith mirrors their own.

I totally understand that Milo and I are in the minority in this community, and that the chaplaincy has limitations. I can deal with all of that. What I cannot deal with is all that plus being forced to partake in a religion that I walked away from long ago. I think the chaplaincy serves an important purpose, and I take comfort in the ability of others to practice their religion freely. What I take offense at is being required to practice with them.

All I ask is the same consideration afforded to everyone else


Full disclosure: I am not a religious person. I don't believe in a god as described by the big 3, I don't pray, etc... Yet, I read your story and feel assaulted by the imposition of religion into our government. This violation of the seperation clause must end. You must be treated fairly and afforded the full support of the gov't to your spiritual needs. Can you wait until January 2009?

I am in the military myself, stationed overseas. I am a non-practicing Baptist who was raised in a primitive Baptist environment. I have no beef with anyone's religion, or lack thereof. However, being in the military, I know about the retreats offered to spouses of deployed members, and marriage retreats also offered. These retreats are invariably offered by the chapel. They are publicized as such, and everyone who goes knows up front who is offering this and what will be required of anyone who goes. Maybe the seminars are mandatory, but your going on the retreat is not. Maybe you wouldn't be "hiking, biking, swimming, getting massaged" if you weren't on this retreat, but you also wouldn't be "subjected to extensive Biblical teaching and group prayer at mandatory, government-funded information sessions" either. The government funds you speak of are provided through donations, offerings, and functions sponsored by the chapel. The money may come from people who work for the government, but it is all freely given, not bled from some never-ending coffer fed by Uncle Sam.
What I take offense to is anyone thinking that freedom of religion means freedom from ever having to deal with someone else's religion. Freedom of religion is also the freedom to not take part in something that may offend you.
Exercise your freedoms.

I am told by a friend serving in the Army that there is a huge born-again / evangelical Christian influence in the Army. Honestly many of the born-again and evangelical Christians I have met in my life (excluding the recovering addicts) are nothing but partisan Republicans  they will tell you about Jesus’ love out of one side of their mouth while spewing hate out the other side. As a secular conservative I hate the fact my party has been hijacked by what I consider to be fundamentalists.

I hear you. The goverment is not supposed to establish or force practice of any particular religion, yet as you pointed out a large number of Army functions inlcude mandatory prayer sessions and the chaplaincy is severely limtited. Even as a Christian I think it's wrong that everyone is expected participate in prayers and other services or else they are viewed as being "wrong". I am both embarassed and apologize for the Army's way of forcing it's spiritual views onto others. Part of what we defend is the right to follow any spiritual path a person may wish to take, not the right to force our views on others.

I've been to many, non-chapel, mandatory functions where we start with an invocation, always a Christian prayer, always in Jesus' name. My attendance is mandatory, as is my being forced to listen to these prayers. So for Brian, it's not always as simple as not participating. There is indeed a tyrany of the majority.

...Why go if you know what you are going to be subjected to? File a protest. Do something proactive. The Wiccans just had themselves officially recognized. One person can make a difference.

Well, I think God is there, just too many good people trying to make sure they are the way to God, and they were the ones that decided they were 'good', God has been silent. Take care of all you love and ignore all that you can't help, serve nor understand, it will be well with your soul. And always remember that the government has never been God and seldom 'good'.

Capt. Traversa: "I've been to many, non-chapel, mandatory functions where we start with an invocation, always a Christian prayer, always in Jesus' name. My attendance is mandatory, as is my being forced to listen to these prayers. So for Brian, it's not always as simple as not participating. There is indeed a tyrany of the majority."

All across the nation the alternative is true - we live in a society in which the far greater injustice runs rampant - tyrany of the MINORITY, often a minority of one or two who force their view on the majority.

I recall leaving a few comments on your blog while you were deployed and because it came naturally to me to say so, I said you were in my prayers and asked God's blessing on you. Please forgive that unkind imposition on your sensitivities. Still, I know God hears my prayers and perhaps mine and others so uncaringly rendered on one who did not wish them, helped to bring you home safely.

I must watch what I say from now on, however, so as not to offend; those that would like that remembrence will lose out. Too bad you could not have simply been tolerant of the beliefs of the majority and been grateful for kind and caring people who only wished you well.

Your metaphor is horrendous. Apostates of Islam are subject to the death penalty so I think you can just forget about the services offered.

Over to the case itself...
I think you shouldn't attend those retreats or petition to not attend the mandatory parts. It'd hurt the majority if you had their prayers removed from the normal meetings you have to attend. Ask that they be put towards the end so that you can leave early. This may or may not work out.

Fight for more resources for people of your kind, other's won't do enough for you.

I also dislike your bias in your post, it's very personal - more along the lines of a thoughtful rant then a neutral complaint.

All in all Christianity is a more tolerant religion then most (and Islam is a warrior religion) but there are of course bothersome aspects to any majority point of view.

My advice would be to fight for a solution that gives everyone what they want.

Also I'd like to point out once again the nimrodian effect of comparing Christianity and Islam.

The early Church and New Testament works are pacifistic in nature with an acceptant bent towards the military, while Christianity turned sharply right after being adopted by the Roman Empire it turned left once again during the theological discussions ongoing in the era of crusades (which were aggressive in idea, but counterattacks in military-historical terms). These days Christianity is perhaps slightly more martial then the Hindu religion.
Once again... I mean for crying out loud... my brain bleeds when you go on about 'and the Imam gently informs you...' the Imam would have you executed for apostasy.

Work something out with the military, I'm sure your fellow servicemen would actually care if they understand that you have difficulties tolerating the majority religion.

Personally I've lived in Buddhist and Atheist-dominated countries myself and well... yeah it sucks a bit at times, but get over it or fight it like crazy. You might win.

Tyranny of the majority and minority at all.

Lol, when I read this post yesterday I had a much more polite and well-outlined comment in mind... and 0 comments. At least u succeeded in starting a debate.

Point 1) Resources don't find you by themselves. Organize for them to be directed your way.

Point 2) I wish - I - could go to a spa and have to attend say Scientologist meetings. I'd just leave afterwards. Free spa! It's not taxpayers money.

Point 3) It'd hurt the others to reorganize their meetings for the minority. Work something out with them like putting the prayers at the end. From what I've experienced of beurocracy, care for the minority often comes at the expense of the majority. The use of intelligent planning however may be able to overcome this conflict of interests. Also you could take up daydreaming. That works for me, but admittedly I have ADHD and Aspies.

Point 4) I don't see your comparison at all. You may be bummed America has a much more conservative version of Christianity in general but you're lucky that Christianity itself is such a tolerant and acceptant religion. If I was a Christian who found Islam hypocratic and left it I'd be dead most likely.

Though it seems like some of the servicemen here are slightly offended at you and I do believe it wasn't your intent to do so. Ah well. God bless you and your Husband. Or I could say Good Bless but frankly that's stupid so...

Good luck :)

Also, what's with the rampant anti-government paranoia in some of the posts here? Anyone ever read 'a case for Goliath' or something similar? The alternative is chaos.

I've been to a top school where two entire classes of 24 students were mashed to 48 students (about 40% of all students) of 3 tiers lost 50% of it's teacher resources so that 6 students could have two teachers rather then one because they were doing poorly.

I think its time to admit this is a frank battle for resources and dominance over the day-to-day doings of a nation. I hope you represent your view but I hope ours is represented as well. I may have been a bit to edgy (about Islam mostly, but it's true) but have you even seen what some of the posters have said: 'spewing hatred' 'hypocrisies''tyranny'... It makes me feel that whenever your leftist side take control you're just as bad as the worst republicans. As a centrist I know both of your sides have strengths we do not and tendencies towards intolerance or inefficiency.

But my life experience tells me you JUST don't know how GOOD YOU have IT! It's like you take freedom of religion for granted..

We're not utopia. There aren't endless resources. There is tyrannization of the majority and minority. Fight to moderate it or to win for your side.

It's so... perfect for your nation to make Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays.

Yer all crazy. ... and I love America...
see this is why I side with the right...

they're pompous and sometimes downright like the Pharisees... but they're honest about being jerks... the left always sees itself as the martyr...

All in all I was insensitive. Your needs should be cared for, very much so though you shouldn't take free Christian support or acceptance for granted either. We should fight for their fulfillment. But I do believe the needs of the majority are more important and we should take care that they are not neglected and that they won't be.

All in all your colleagues should listen to you. You should band together, petition the government. God Bless, I hope you succeed.

PS. One last thing. What I mean about the right being honest about 'being jerks' is that they don't care if others think differently quite often. The left often flouts the same righteousness while it pretends to take everyone into account when they're not.

I am living in a community with no other members of my faith. I am surrounded by people who think my beliefs are either evil or illegitimate. There are no services, no spiritual support groups, no sympathy. The worst part of it all is that my husband is no better off than I am. He is a soldier with no spiritual support network, no spiritual counsel, and no guidance. He is on his own to deal with his family troubles or his existential crises. The very people who promise to support him make it abundantly clear that they support only those whose faith mirrors their own.

I totally understand that Milo and I are in the minority in this community, and that the chaplaincy has limitations. I can deal with all of that. What I cannot deal with is all that plus being forced to partake in a religion that I walked away from long ago. I think the chaplaincy serves an important purpose, and I take comfort in the ability of others to practice their religion freely. What I take offense at is being required to practice with them.

All I ask is the same consideration afforded to everyone else

This is so true. Perhaps with work and time it can go both ways.

All in all, people should respect your lack of their faith. This doesn't seem to be the case sadly.
My ire was mostly directed at the other posters except for the silly comparison made.

ugh... I'm spamming aren't I?
I'll try to stop posting

Mrs. Freeman;
Sorry to hear of your plight of having to live among, and seek support from, the "faithfull". I wasn't raised with any "religious" training, so I am not "superstitious". (My father, who was a Doctor, called religion "brain washing"). I have never ever felt as if I've missed something "important". If anything, I've always felt a little sorry for those who have had doorways in their minds closed for them by "their betters".
There is a book you might find interesting, if not helpful, and has nothing do do with religion, but a lot to do with clear thinking. It's: The Creation by P.W.Atkins. It was published by the W.H. Freeman & Company, (the people who publish Scientific Amercian), way back in 1981. Peter Atkins is, or was then, an Oxford Don.
Also, and this is an afterthought, you might look up Plato's "Allegory of The Cave".
I think you will find that you're stronger than you think.

Intolerance of differing religions is one of the large factors in this faith based chaos theory crusade. There should be a U.N. for religion, the U.R. All religions would be represented and they would agree on universal beliefs, like not killing each other, and any sect leader that didn't abide by the rules of the U.R. would be doomed to eternal damnation by every God known to man! John, pray for decaf.

Anne, I hear you, and I understand where you are coming from. I was brought up Roman Catholic and would now describe myself as agnostic. This is not a major issue in my family, and I respect the right of my mother and religious friends to practise their beliefs, but I don't appreciate organised religion, and do not think I should be in any way connected to the State. Even in the UK, which is much more secular than the US, we still have bishops in the House of Lords... why???

John - cool it, I think you've written more than the original post! Also please note that there are tolerant Muslims out there, and even Muslim countries where Christians are allowed to practise their faith. You just don't see them in the news.

You are only offended by the religion being forced on you because you are listening to it. You must have learned the art of tuning out what you don''t want to hear years ago. Tune it out. Change the channel. Listen to your Ipod. Read a book. Your mind is your enemy.
Good luck.

1. Arm yourself. Here are some useful references:

Army War College research thesis by a Navy chaplain, summarizing the issues for the military.

Chaplains' code of ethics

DoD policy -- see paragraph 4.2

Army policy: the 165-series publications

Air Force policy

Navy policy

An issue of the newsletter of the Military Chaplains Association


2. Congress is getting involved, and if you're not active, it could come down in support of chaplains who don't respect your rights. Write your Senator and Congressman.

Chaplain Prayer Provision Cut From Military Spending Bill
The provision would have permitted chaplains to offer sectarian prayer at mandatory nondenominational events.
New York Times, October 1, 2006

Prayer debate puts military chaplains on the spot
The Virginian-Pilot, © September 23, 2006

Anne and All commenters --

It seems we just never learn. I think that both Messrs. Dylan and Lennon expressed it well:

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

Bob Dylan / 1964

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

John Lennon / 1971

Reminds me of my son's basic training graduation at Ft. Sill in Dec 05--we were treated to lunch at the officers club and in there with all the Christmas decorations was a beautiful nativity scene. I remember thinking "Isn't that a violation of separation of church and state?" But I'm a Catholic so I never gave it another thought. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Dear Ms. Freeman,
Thank you so much for your post! As a non-Christian raised in the church going south I incorporated the the teachings of Christ into my social outlook. I see very little overlap between practicing Christians and those inclusionist, pacifistic, and generous-spirited teachings. As an agnostic, I must need the cheek turning lesson, as I get so many opportunites to use it. Also the one about forgiving them because they know not what they do is has proved useful. And I'm not even in the military! Keep the faith, that is, the lack of it! Good luck!

Whew! I am so relieved! Just when I was beginning to fear that God got left out of the military, your post assures me He is still be recognized. Guess I too will keep praying for the troops.

Dear Anne-- I feel such sympathy for you! It's very awkward to be in such a situation. And I disagree with those who say you should abstain from these retreats -- no way! Why should you miss out on the pampering, just because you don't care to worship a particular way?

I can only offer you the example of my own mother. She is a Buddhist, while my father is a Jew. (Yes. . . I myself must be a Jewdist.)

She goes to synagogue with my dad, and she sits quietly and respectfully with him, and that's what she does.

Remember, you don't have to try to sell your own point of view, nor do you have to pay any attention to anyone else's. They can't force you to do anything, and they especially can never make you believe anything. How could they? Eat the free pizza and smile politely! Then take out your knitting or your paperback or your scrimshaw or whatever, and gently tune them out.

They are entitled to their opinions, as are we all. And I have faith that the pendulum will swing the other way for America as it always does, and pretty soon would be my personal hope.

P.S. If I were in your situation, I think I'd entertain myself by researching obscure Christian theological positions and bringing them up to torment the seminar leaders. ex.: Bearing in mind the doctrine of original sin, would you recommend the use of a male or a female sex therapist for a dysfunctional Christian couple? Is infidelity in marriage a sign that the adulterer is not a member of the elect? Will we all rise up naked at the Rapture -- and if so, is it okay if I take off my clothes right now?

Or, alternately, since you already know pretty much what they're gonna say, you could arm yourself with supporting passages from the Koran. So then, when they say something about how a wife should be such-and-such, you can nod sagely and say, oh yes, that's just what it says in the Koran 12:35. That would be awesomely annoying! The key is to always be agreeing and supporting -- then they have no weapon. Then, if they tell you it's inappropriate to quote Koran in that setting, you just ask them why. . . and keep them talking. . . and next time, you use the Diamond Sutra or the Bhagavad-Gita.

Two Points:

1) Everyone should be careful about broad-brush use of the word "Christian." There are hundreds (thousands?) of denominations in the US. The groups you are speaking of specifically are either evangelical or fundamentalist, and don't necessarily add up to a majority of Christians. Personally, I object to being lumped into the category of Christian in this context - I don't agree with many of these groups' practices either.

2) I was in the Navy for 6 years active and 3 reserve, and never witnessed this sort of stuff. All the chaplains I ever ran into followed the rules. It seems like this hyper-evangelicalism is primarily an ARMY and perhaps USAF problem.

I know somewhat how you feel about this. I went to a Catholic school for 8 years. The problem is that 5 of those years I spent being ridiculed because I had moved away from the church. I had begun to see fallacies in the church, but no one else around me could understand that or respect my opinion. If it wasn't for not being able to find another school with the same difficult curriculum, I would have gone elsewhere. Instead, though, I had to go through daily harassment because I was different from the rest of the kids in my school.

I really hope that you can figure out this situation. It's not right that the government is intertwining church and state, especially in this situation.

Wow. This is truly a story that seems all to real in countries outside of North America. I am praying for you and for everyone else out there like you. Pray works. Don't give up on it. God will get you through. It sounds cliche, but it is true. I have always had a problem with the government and religion. They don't mesh and they shouldn't be messing with each other.

It is interesting to hear that the U.S. (now a very secular country) is posting religious outgoings for troops whom may not have the same views. Keep up the fight though, whatever gets in your way take it as a new challenge and strive on. Good Luck.

Anne, I sympathize with you in the whole Christian stuff being thrust down your throat. For most of my life I have felt that way as well. Soren Kirkegarrd writes about how having faith in just words (religious and sacred Creeds/Text) is not faith at all. It becomes more like reciting some mass of useless phrases that are never manifested through action. Frankly, I think its almost disgusting how many people are like that. Kirkegarrd also talks about how finding faith in God cant really come from anyone else, it is somehting you must endure and find for yourself--which if you care was my case. The revolving cycle of life defiantly gets tiresome but don't give up and stay strong! We're all praying for you. Best of luck!

The behavior of the military described by Ann smacks of fascism.

I came upon this posting minutes after attending an Army promotion ceremony in my (mostly civilian) office at which we were all treated to sandwiches and cake. Before serving, a prayer was offered that ended with "in Jesus name we pray." This in spite of the fact that this office has many Muslims, one very observant devotee of Krishna, and many people of other faiths. I've also seen this done in this office in the presence of a well-liked observant orthodox Jewish man.

This is not only rude, but arrogant. It does seem to be much more typical in the Army community than in other places I've worked.

What's to be said here?

Far too many people preach tolerance of all religions when they instead mean tolerance of their own. It's an easier cause, after all- who can oppose such a thing?

Animal Farm was written as a rebuttal to Marxist beliefs, but I wonder if it should not now be read once more with an eye to our own ideals of religion. We are not the sort to kill for disagreement or difference of faith, true. But even as we argue that the 'other' religions of the world are intolerant and fight them for the rights of their citizens, we watch as our own standards of conduct and belief head towards some less violent echo of what we condemn.

Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. Perhaps this should be considered before we declare what God says about our neighbors.

It's a waste of breath asking fundamentalists to not subject you to their beliefs. One of their core beliefs is to proselytize. In other words, preach to the unwilling.

True Believers (no matter their hypocrisy) do not see anything wrong with coercing you to live as they do. Why should they? They're on the One True Path and only doing you a favor.

This is why the Church of Latter Day Saints have been posthumously converting victims of the Holocaust to Mormonism.

This is why 'Christians' bully people into saying Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays.

This is why the Taliban stoned adulterers and homosexuals.

If you understand nothing else, understand this: Fundamentalists in any religion would do WHATEVER it took to make you live exactly as they want you to live.

This is why we need to fear the elements in the Armed Forces that are pushing religion as well as Fundamentalist militias such as Black Water.


You have my sympathy on the issue.

I am ex-military myself, and an active non-beliver in any and all religions. For my religous preference I tried to put "NONE". Instead I was told the best they could do was "no preference". And I gotta say that in my book "NONE" is a very long way from "no preference".

That was back in the 70's, and I am told things have changed, but apparently not all that much.

First of all, I am a follower of Jesus, and for what he stood. With that said I find it quite repugnant that any soldier or family member would be marginalized in this manner. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the articles creating freedom of religion were as much written to give us freedom from religion as the ability to worship a religion. And, from a previous post, the religion changed when a warlike (and pagan) Emperor forced changes on Christianity to make it the official religion (1st Nician). As to the posts that Christianity is a tolerant religion, I think that the 4 million or so Wicca midwives and herbalists burned at the stake in medieval times and who can forget Torquemada and the Inquisition? Muslims have fared no better, having had their peaceful generous religion perverted by spread of their belief by the ‘Sword of Islam’ and the degenerate Wahabbists. So, although, we differ in religions, please accept my prayers for the safe return of your husband and the calm and peace necessary for you to get through this time. Bless both of you for serving our country.

Amazing what a religious comment will do for responses! Also amazing is how few of these responses actually dealt with the main problem here - government-sponsored and mandated religious activities. The church group that held these seminars likely had federal funding through the Bush program to give money to church and charitable groups for a variety of purposes. There should be no (let me repeat that), no government-mandated religious activities at such events. Check the Bill of Rights. Anne, I'll bet there's a newspaper or two that would love to hear your story.


You may wish to check out the Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( which deals with these issues. I am not involved in the organization and don't know a lot about it, but it was founded by someone in the city in which I live. I happened to hear a local radio interview with that gentleman just the other day. Then I saw your post and realized that's exactly what he was talking about! So maybe you'll find some useful ideas there.

Take care,

So great that you're hanging in there & speaking up.

And what you want, well, it's your right. You've got a lot more on the line for this country than most of us. If American funds are involved to help family members of our troops, those are funds that are supposed to be spent for you, not on proselytizing or pandering to the religious (just as they shouldn't be spend on pandering to online gamers, or football fanatics).

At to tolerent and intolerent Christians and Muslims, it seems there are many of both varieties, but the relative tolerance of any religious group is neither here nor there in this matter.

Christians can practice their tolerance on their own time and money. You are right to ask that they leave you out of it.

Going through ROTC, I genuinely thought my agnostic viewpoint would eventually cut my career short. Surprisingly, neither my beliefs (or lack thereof), nor my outspoken nature regarding religion have caused problems for me.
After 15 years in the Air Force, I’ve seen a wide variety of “religious expression” in the work setting… and sometimes inappropriately. It is a standard at military dinners, promotion ceremonies and retirements. I usually take that 10 or 20 seconds to do the same thing I do when I’m at my in-laws when they say grace at the table: I say thanks. Not to anyone in particular, I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be a husband, dad and that I have a chance to serve my country.
I have had hundreds of conversations, debates and arguments with those of faith and I’ve found that even with the most ardent evangelist, as long as respect is maintained, both parties are the better for it. On a few occasions I have spoken to supervisors regarding prayer sessions during mandatory formations. In all cases, I handled the conversation privately and respectfully. To the credit of those commanders, they made the prayer services voluntary and after formation. What I’ve learned from Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons and many others and what they’ve learned from me would never have happened if either party came in with a chip on their shoulder.

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