Thursday, August 20, 2009

Army officer speaks out against religious persecution

August 20, 2009

“U.S. Army Officer, Combat Vet, West Point Grad Speaks Out Against Religious Persecution”

August 19, 2009

I am a United States Army Captain. On a spring day at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York several years ago, I took a solemn oath to support and defend the United States Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic as an officer in the United States Army. I took a legally altered oath which omitted the words “So Help Me G-d.” When I submitted my first signed copy, with those words neatly crossed out and initialed, I was informed that it was not valid. When threatened with the prospect of not graduating and being refused a Commission, I stood by my refusal to sign the Oath as it read. I could not in good conscience do so because I was deeply disturbed by fusion of religion and military service. I could not reconcile the suspicion that the Oath itself was establishing religion in a way which contradicted the spirit of the Constitution with the intensity of my commitment to defend same. I believed, and still believe, that my personal metaphysical experience of the universe must be separate from my role as a military professional. In the passing years, I have come to the unsettling conclusion that the sentiment in the Oath which so disturbed me is a practical reality in my United States Army.

Based on my alteration of The Oath, you may be tempted to label me “non-religious.” I find this odd, because religion has broadly influenced my life and values. I was born into a mixed Jewish and Catholic family. The family I belong to now is mixed Buddhist and Agnostic. I attended Catholic high school where I excelled in my religious studies. I was one of a literal fistful of non-Christian students voluntarily attending a religious institution, and I never once felt pressure to conform. In our mandatory religious classes we studied Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Quaker, Mormon, Jewish, Protestant, Wiccan, and other religions and we were taught that mere “tolerance” was abhorrent and basic “acceptance” was the absolute minimum standard. I learned during my second semester as a Plebe (freshman) at West Point that even lowly tolerance is a privilege not to be bestowed on all Soldiers in the United States Army.

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