Soldier: Army blocked promotion over religion - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Soldier: Army blocked promotion over religion

Topeka_A soldier claimed Wednesday that his promotion was blocked because he had claimed in a lawsuit that the Army was violating his right to be an atheist.

Attorneys for Spc. Jeremy Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation refiled the federal lawsuit Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas, and added a complaint alleging that the blocked promotion was in response to the legal action.

The suit was filed in September but dropped last month so the new allegations could be included. Among the defendants are Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Hall alleges he was denied his constitutional right to hold a meeting to discuss atheism while he was deployed in Iraq with his military police unit. He says in the new complaint that his promotion was blocked after the commander of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley sent an e-mail post-wide saying Hall had sued.

Fort Riley spokeswoman Alison Kohler said the post "can't comment on ongoing legal matters" and offered no further statement.

According to the lawsuit, Hall was counseled by his platoon sergeant after being informed that his promotion was blocked. He says the sergeant explained that Hall would be "unable to put aside his personal convictions and pray with his troops" and would have trouble bonding with them if promoted to a leadership position.

Hall responded that religion is not a requirement of leadership, even though the sergeant wondered how he had rights if atheism wasn't a religion. Hall said atheism is protected under the Army's chaplain's manual.

"It shouldn't matter if one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist," said Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney whose firm filed the lawsuit. "In the military, all are equal and to be considered equal."

Maj. Freddy J. Welborn was named in the lawsuit as the officer who prevented Hall from holding a meeting of atheists and non-Christians. It alleges that Welborn threatened to file military charges against Hall and to block his re-enlistment. Welborn has denied the allegations.

The lawsuit alleges that Gates permits a military culture in which officers are encouraged to pressure soldiers to adopt and espouse fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and in which activities by Christian organizations are sanctioned.

Hall's attorneys say Fort Riley has permitted a culture promoting Christianity and anti-Islamic sentiment, including posters quoting conservative columnist Ann Coulter and sale of a book, "A Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam," at the post exchange.

The Pentagon has said that the military values and respects religious freedoms, but that accommodating religious practices should not interfere with unit cohesion, readiness, standards or discipline.

Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the religious freedom foundation, said the lawsuit would show the "almost incomprehensible national security risks to America" posed by the military's pattern of violating the religious freedom of those in uniform.

"It is beyond despicable, indeed wholly unlawful, that the United States Army is actively attempting to destroy the professional career of one of its decorated young fighting soldiers, with two completed combat tours in Iraq, simply because he had the rare courage to stand up for his constitutional rights," Weinstein said in a statement.

Weinstein previously sued the Air Force for acts he said illegally imposed Christianity on its students at the academy. A federal judge threw out that lawsuit in 2006.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  • Local NewsNewsMore>>

  • Pentagon, border wall covered in $788B House spending bill

    Pentagon, border wall covered in $788B House spending bill

    Thursday, July 27 2017 12:48 PM EDT2017-07-27 16:48:59 GMT
    Friday, July 28 2017 4:40 AM EDT2017-07-28 08:40:19 GMT
    The House passed a $788 billion spending bill Thursday that combines a $1.6 billion down payment for President Donald Trump's controversial border wall with Mexico with a whopping budget increase for the Pentagon. (Source: CNN)The House passed a $788 billion spending bill Thursday that combines a $1.6 billion down payment for President Donald Trump's controversial border wall with Mexico with a whopping budget increase for the Pentagon. (Source: CNN)

    The GOP-controlled House is plowing ahead on legislation to give the Pentagon a massive spending boost and deliver a $1.6 billion down payment for President Donald Trump's oft-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico...

    The GOP-controlled House is plowing ahead on legislation to give the Pentagon a massive spending boost and deliver a $1.6 billion down payment for President Donald Trump's oft-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • GOP dealt stiff blow in Senate's bid to repeal 'Obamacare'

    GOP dealt stiff blow in Senate's bid to repeal 'Obamacare'

    Friday, July 28 2017 3:39 AM EDT2017-07-28 07:39:34 GMT
    Friday, July 28 2017 4:40 AM EDT2017-07-28 08:40:12 GMT

    The Senate has rejected a measure to repeal parts of former President Barack Obama's health care law.

    The Senate has rejected a measure to repeal parts of former President Barack Obama's health care law.

  • AP EXCLUSIVE: Sessions not leaving unless pushed

    AP EXCLUSIVE: Sessions not leaving unless pushed

    Thursday, July 27 2017 11:28 AM EDT2017-07-27 15:28:47 GMT
    Friday, July 28 2017 4:40 AM EDT2017-07-28 08:40:01 GMT
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he will stay in the job for as long as President Donald Trump wants him to serve. (Source: CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he will stay in the job for as long as President Donald Trump wants him to serve. (Source: CNN)

    Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that could attempt to insulate Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

    Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that could attempt to insulate Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

Powered by Frankly