Apology needed from National guard on our behalf.
In a shocking ?about face,? the Chief of the National Guard Bureau praised American diversity and the role played by minorities in our nation?s military defense, but then suddenly chastised ?Agnostics, atheists and bigots.?
Lt. Army Gen. H. Steven Blum made the remarks while speaking to the NAACPs Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner in Washington, DC on July 18. The story, including quotes from Blum?s talk, was reported in an American Forces Press Service dispatch. According to writer Rudi Williams:
?As for the military?s diversity, Blum said, the battlefield might be the greatest equalizer. ?Agnostics, atheists and bigots suddenly lose all that when their life is on the line,? Blum said. ?Something that they lived with their whole life believing gets thrown out the door, and they grasp the comrade next them, and they don?t care what color their skin is, and they don?t care where they pray???
American Atheists President Ellen Johnson said that much of Blum?s talk emphasizing themes such as tolerance and diversity was ?stained by an animus directed at Agnostics and Atheists.?
?Why is he singling out the millions of Americans who simply have doubts about religion or do not believe in religious teachings, and then comparing this group to ?bigots???
Johnson said that if religious groups and ethnic minorities deserve praise for their role in defending America, the patriotism and intellectual integrity of Atheists, Agnostics and other Freethinkers should be respected as well.
Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists said that Lt. Gen. Blum?s remarks suggest that the military still has a problem when it comes to religious belief.
?We?ve had the scandal at the Air Force Academy where officials were promoting Christian fundamentalism, and we have a problem with military chaplains insulting service men and women who happen to be Atheists,? said Silverman. ?Now the top official in the National Guard is singling out Atheists with these narrow and unfair remarks.?
Silverman added that Atheists have always been present in the military, and noted that last year ?Foxhole Atheists? from across the nation rallied in Washington, DC on Veterans Day.
?Religious belief, or the lack of it, shouldn?t be a litmus for patriotism, on or off the battlefield.? said Ellen Johnson. ?Officials with the National Guard need to issue an apology for these ill-considered remarks made by Gen. Blum.?
American Atheists is a nationwide movement which defends the civil rights of nonbelievers, works for the separation of church and state, and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.