Friday, September 26, 2008

Army Is Sued for Forcing Christian Religious Beliefs On Personnel

Yesterday the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed suit in Kansas federal district court, along with Army Specialist Dustin Chalker, alleging that the Army improperly requires military personnel to attend official functions and formations that include sectarian Christian prayer. According to the complaint in Chalker v. Gates, (D KS, filed 9/25/2008) (full text), Chalker is an atheist and is stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. The complaint alleges a pattern of unconstitutional advancement of religion by the Defense Department and the U.S. Army that violates the Establishment Clause and effectively imposes a religious test as a qualification for Chalker to perform his military duties.

The Hays (KS) Daily News reports on the filing of the lawsuit. A posting at God and Country blog points out that this lawsuit is similar to one filed in 2007 by MMRF on behalf of Specialist Jeremy Hall, except the current lawsuit alleges that Chalker, sought permission not to attend the events through "his chain of command and the equal opportunity process," which did not yield "satisfactory results." In a motion to dismiss filed in the Hall case, the Defense Department argued that Hall failed to use existing internal procedures to complain about his treatment. (See prior posting.) [Thanks to Scott Mange for the lead.]