It happened last Wednesday (Sep. 26th) and was documented by Victoria Gettman, an instructor at the schoolhouse. She is a fellow foxhole atheist, and among the bravest that have written to me for help. Gettman described her experience to me. She stressed that she did not speak on behalf of the DoD, though she is a Staff Sergeant in the US Army.
This is wrong on so many levels.
ATTN: Justin Griffith – Military Director of American Atheists
I am an instructor at Fort Sam Houston, TX. I am assigned to Alpha Company in the 264th Battalion. Bravo Company was also in attendance. We instruct students that have just graduated basic training and it is our responsibility to train them for the job they will have in the Army.
This morning my unit had to attend a suicide prevention brief. We were attending the training in a movie theater to accommodate all of us. The suicide awareness and prevention training was an hour long.
Directly following that training, we had a 45 minute training in master resiliency. This training includes spiritual fitness. Immediately following that training, we received about a 15 minute brief from the chaplain. The master resiliency trainer had mentioned he would be followed by the chaplain. When the chaplain entered, I removed myself and stood in the doorway. Plastic candles were handed out. I was giving the chaplain the benefit of the doubt. His first few statements included having something bigger than yourself in your life and NEEDING something divine. I immediately turned around and stood by the front door of the theater. From there I could hear the mass prayer as they turned on the candles, shut off the lights and bowed their heads. The chaplain prayed to his heavenly father.
The students were not given an opportunity to remove themselves. The entire theater was forced into a mass christian prayer. There could have been a break and those that did not want to pray could have remained in the lobby with me or in a formation outside.