Soldier denied promotion for being atheist

Mikey 16 comments
Soldier denied promotion for being atheist

This sort of thing happens in business and it's no surprise it should happen on the battlefield. A because of his religious stance - or lack of rather.

Spc. Jeremy Hall says he was denied his constitutional right to hold a meeting to discuss atheism while he was deployed in Iraq. In the law suit, Hall says his Platoon Sergeant informed him his promotion was being blocked because he would be "unable to put aside his personal convictions and pray with his troops" which would apparently affect his ability to bond with his soldiers while in a leadership position.

List time I checked religion was not a requirement of leadership. If it were I would never be in my current job. I would wager if they looked further up the food chain they will more than likely find some athiests among them, which would bury the Platoon Sergeant's theory.

Question: Is religious belief is essential to successful leadership?

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 08:50 AM

This sounds odd - you gotta wonder if something more happened here behinds the scenes? There'd have to be 10's of thousands of non-religious US soldiers, surely?

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Jim- Just a Guy

Friday 7th March 2008 | 09:28 AM

As a Veteran of The US Air Force, I must say that if it is the truth and that the men are predominantly Christian then the move was the correct one. I know I am going to take a ton of heat for this so let me explain before I get torn to shreds.

In a military setting where you can be called forth to lead men into battle you have to be able to relate to them and they to you. They have to put their faith in you to lead them in a matter of life and death. If there is a moments hesitation for any reason for the men to question your leadership in any way it can cause people to lose lives. I would make them same argument if it was a Christian being denied a promotion to a group of atheists.

In the service you put a lot of trust in your commanding officer or non commissioned officer leading you. You put a great amount of trust in the guy next to you. Yes some ones faith or lack there of can play a role in deciding who gets a promotion. The military is a unique setting.

I have lead plenty of people for corporations. At one time I managed over 300 people and I can say with out a doubt that what you believe has no bearing on your ability to lead any one in the corporate environment. But the military is not a corporate environment. It is the military and the same rules do not apply.

Let the shredding begin.

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 09:43 AM response to this comment by Jim- Just a Guy. But why does the guy's religious convictions have to do with it? As you said you rely on the guy next to you - not rely on the guy being of the same religious faith as you. That's absurd.

I thought these platoons of men cared and looked out for each other because they cared and respected each other - not because they share the same religion.

Put it this way...are they really that ignorant to think they can't trust the guy sitting next to him in the foxhole because he doesn't have a god? As a veteran Jim would you have any qualms with a leader who doesn't believe in God?

I agree with Rodney on this is sounds more like they are trying to deliver a message or something.

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 09:57 AM response to this comment by Kline. Hi Kline,

My point wasn't that they're delivering a message - my point was that usually when people in a job complain they didn't get a promotion because of reasons like this, there's a lot more playing in the background. (Such as, in a normal corporate environment: they're always late or they have a bad attitude or they don't get along with their co-workers).

I only say this because I have been in jobs before where people passed over for promotion did exactly the same thing - ran upstairs with stories of discrimination that everyone who worked with them knew to be untrue. The reason they got looked over was they were terrible at their job and complained all the time.

Of course, I don't know if that applies in this situation but I am "once bitten twice shy" about these things and therefore always cynical when someone claims they missed a promotion because of discrimination.

(Disclaimer: I am sure it does happen but personal experiences shape you and I've seen people make up all kinds of crazy stories too many times to be non-cynical about it).

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Jim- Just a Guy

Friday 7th March 2008 | 10:30 AM response to this comment by Kline. This really delves into perception and how people perceive their leader. Using me as a point of reference is a bad idea. While I choose to be a Christian I understand why some one would choose to not believe in God at all much less share my particular faith. I say that I choose to be a Christian because I have explored other avenues including denouncing God. I got here of my own accord and I respect the right to choose what to believe or to believe at all.

Generally speaking most Christians were brought up in Christian homes. They do not explore other avenues. They have a limited view of the world around them because they choose to be blind to possibilities outside their faith.

There are exceptions like myself that understand that individual spirituality is an intimate endeavor in which one chooses a path to follow. Not everyone chooses the same path but the path that is right for them. Those that feel there is but one path and have a group mentality towards spirituality have a hard time comprehending much less respecting people that have chosen another path.

When we do not respect some one we never truly trust them much less trust them to make decisions with our lives. If we do not trust some one we hesitate when he tells us to do something. We question motives.

If the man leading me will not lead us in prayer or at least stand with us silently. Then while he may care whether we live or die but he has removed himself from us. When that young man who is scared and is a Christian needs to hear "Have faith, God will see us through this" it truly is a matter of life and death if your leader will not acknowledge your faith.

Regardless of what you believe, you do what ever is necessary to ensure the safety of the men whose lives have been put in your care. That starts with earning the their trust and knowing how to motivate them. If you take the same scared soldier knowing he is a Christian and tell him "Don't worry we are going make it."

"How do your know sir?"

"I just do." To a Christian this does not have the effect that the first statement would. This does nothing to remove fear or instill courage. This could be the difference between this scared young man coming home on his feet or in a bag and you are responsible.

Not to mention look at the military. It is the epitome of conforming. Same haircut, same clothes, same home, same salaries, same this, same , same , same. In basic training they break you down and build you back up. As they build you back up they build you in their image. That's what it is about. You are a Soldier, an Airman, a Marine or a Seaman. You are not a person. You are a position, a resource, a number. When you sign on the dotted line and take your oath you have it explained to you that you have given up certain constitutional rights for the privilege of defending that document and ensuring the safety and the liberty of this country. You put the needs of the many above your needs. You who have never served may never be able to understand the commitment I made, the commitment many fallen men and women have made, the commitment that many make today.

The unfortunate truth in all of this is that unless your have served you can not understand. I could could spend the rest of life trying to find the words that would allow to understand what I went through for 4 years and what it is I still carry with me to this day and it would be in vein. The words simply do not exist.

Everyone I have met since my days in the service knows what I am talking about because we can just look in each others eyes and understand the man or the woman we are looking at without ever having to say a word. Theres is just no way to explain it.

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 10:31 AM response to this comment by Rodney. Ah sorry Rodney. But I guess they wouldn't have offered the promotion in the first place if he was bad at his job.

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 11:57 AM

*Devils Advocate*

I can certainly understand that if you were in a squad of 'god fearing' troops, who had survived many 'unwinable' battles because 'your god got you through it', that you would not want a non believer in there.

You really have to remember that a great portion of the people recruited to fight in wars are, white bread, young, red necks who live in relative poverty back home, where religion really thrives.

In saying that, such stipulations should be outlined.

Personally, I have no problem with praying, I'm forced to do it at meal time every time I visit my inlaws, to me it is a meaningless act of desperation and is just as effective as wishing. If that is all I had to do to get a promotion, I'd jump right in.

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 01:01 PM

I must say, if my officer would tell me that we're gonna make it because God says so I'd lose a hell of a lot of respect towards him. I've yet to go to an army and it won't be American either (I pride myself for living in a country with a bit more friendly attitude towards other beliefs and also atheists) so my point won't be as acknowledgeable as some others, but that's my opinion and I'll doubt 9 months would change it.

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Jim- Just a Guy

Friday 7th March 2008 | 01:37 PM response to this comment by Lauri. Lauri I think you will note that I pointed out it was a young Christian man. Any good leader would know you well enough to know what to say to you. Don't mis-interrupt faith for stupidity. Oh and any army is an army of conformists. That is what an army is.

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 02:25 PM


I have to say that I don't like the idea of someone being passed over for promotion for the sake of their religious ideals. How would you really know anyways? Is someone really going to ask you in the heat of battle?

Although I am an atheist, I appreciate the fact that your faith is personal and not so 'in-you-face' as is typically is in the US. You articulate it well and I respect your position. In fact, I think your point about conformity certainly applies in this case.

I have never served for any country (I am a dual citizen Canadian and Australian) and I never will. I simply don't believe that any disagreement is worth killing for. I say that after being born and raised as a Jew, so before everyone starts pushing WWII in my face, I don't think that WWII was worth it either.

Gandhi was right in the end, no matter what the struggle, in the end passive resistance can work but not without sacrifice. So yes I will die for a cause but not kill for one.

That being said, I think that for people like Jim who are able to make that choice, I can understand how in that situation, your perception of community can change dramatically.

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Jim- Just a Guy

Friday 7th March 2008 | 02:39 PM response to this comment by Ben. Thank you Ben.

You definitely present some interesting ideas.

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Friday 7th March 2008 | 04:24 PM

Jim, I understand your arguement and I agree with it. Life is different on the edge of life and death. And armies are not like any other organisation that exists. They never have been. I think its naieve to expect people who are trained and programmed to be capable of killing other human beings to be politically correct. Its never goingto happen.

But I'm not speaking as one who has been there like you have Jim. I'm speaking as someone who likes her history and has read between the lines enough to realise that armies aren't thousands of individuals all doing what they're told, they are a creation that takes on a life force of their own.

To answer the original question, then I would have to say that yes, religious belief is essential to leadership. If you wish to lead in the secular world of corporations, then you must not be too overt or extemist in your religious believes in order to have those under you respect your leadership. But different areas of life will require different religious/ spiritual leaders. At the end of the day, what is a leader? It is someone that those under him believe in.

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Jim- Just a Guy

Friday 7th March 2008 | 04:39 PM response to this comment by Laiste. That was awesome.

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Saturday 8th March 2008 | 02:06 AM

Sounds fishy to me. No matter what his Sergeant told him, there is no line on any performance report about religion. There is however, multiple areas in regard to following orders, regulations, setting the right example, ect.

As a current member of the US Air Force I can tell you no matter what religion it is you can't use random government assets to publicly support or proliferate that religion. There is always multiple sides to any story, and the only one presented so far was his. I'll speculate that he was trying to use some official government resources for his meeting, and that is just not allowed by the UCMJ nor government code in general. If thats a problem, he can thank the ACLU for the years of lawsuits they have won against the government that set this up (no prayer in schools for example).

Like I said, whatever his sergeant told his is just that mans opinion. No one person has any final say in a promotion being blocked except for their unit commander, and that can be appealed to. I'll speculate again, but knowing how the Army operates, his promotion was probably blocked for some sort of insubordination. He was probably told he couldn't use certain resources for his meetings and he wanted to push the issue to a disrespectful point, he then received some admonishment that reflected in his promotion consideration. Now he is pushing it again for either some monetary gain or his 15 minuets of fame.

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Jim- Just a Guy

Saturday 8th March 2008 | 02:38 AM response to this comment by CT. Article 134 still in the UCMJ?

The General Article. Basically states they can make stuff up.

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Monday 27th April 2009 | 01:24 AM

That sounds like discrimination to me. Using the logic of some here if they had wanted to keep a black guy/woman from a leadership position because all the people relying on them would be white/male it would be perfectly fine as long as it was good for morale. I'm sure most people would reject those arguments. The moral of this story is theists, especially many Christians, need to stop expecting everyone to suffer purely because of their biases and prejudices.

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