LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: It was only fitting that the first parachutist out of the plane at this festival for atheists and non-believers at Fort Bragg is herself an atheist—Sergeant Rachel Medley.
SERGEANT RACHEL MEDLEY: I am an atheist and I’m a good person—have, you know, a great life and have great friends, and my service to my country is based on my personal morals which are help other people, be kinds to others, treat others as you would like to be treated.
SEVERSON: She would like to be treated with more respect, as would many of the troops attending this first ever event expressly for soldiers who don’t believe in God. Sergeant Justin Griffith was one of the organizers.
SERGEANT JUSTIN GRIFFITH: This is us coming out of the closet, you know, shattering that stained glass ceiling. We want to remove the stigma about atheists and whatever they think the word “atheist” means.
SEVERSON: As unlikely as it may seem, one token of respect they would like is an atheist chaplain. That’s a tall order considering that conservative evangelical clergy dominate the ranks of the chaplaincy. Organizations like the National Association of Evangelicals, the NAE, dispute any need for an atheist chaplain. Galen Carey is an NAE vice president.