Soldiers forced to attend candlelight prayer for suicide prevention | Rock Beyond Belief


Approximately 800 U.S. soldiers were ordered to participate in a candlelight prayer ceremony, and ‘spiritual fitness’ training for a recent suicide prevention campaign. The soldiers are assigned to Fort Sam Houston’s 264th Medical Battalion, responsible for training soldiers in their medical career after graduating boot camp.

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.

Very respectfully,
Victoria Gettman

Written By: Justin Griffith
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  1. A case of taking advantage of a captive audience I’d say. Usually happens at weddings, christenings and funerals in my experience.

  2. “not given an opportunity to remove themselves”? No one had the balls to leave? Was there physical restraint or threat?

  3. Not only about atheists, but also Jews, Pagans etc.. There should be no need of “having the balls” or filling a complain.. religious services should not be linked in anyway with the duties of soldiers.

  4. While I agree that there could have been a break to allow people to leave who did not want to pray. The simple fact of being in the military is that you voluntarily gave up some of your rights when you signed your enlistment. I have been forced to attend birthday parties for commanders or awards ceremonies to pad the audience so that some self important brass could feel loved or something. If there was no opportunity to leave however you don’t have to light the candle and you don’t have to bow your head in prayer.

  5. There is a clear lack of respect for non-Xtians from these bumptious organisers.   It does not seem to have crossed their tiny minds that there are other viewpoints or philosophies.

  6. Why do soldiers commit suicide? 

    1. Because they are so ashamed of what they have done they don’t think they deserve to live.

    2. Because they are disfigured physically or mentally and figure they will never have sex again.

    3. Because of untreated serotonin levels.

    Each of those problem admits an infinitely more effective solution than prayer.

  7. There is a clear lack of respect for non-Xtians from these bumptious
    organisers.   It does not seem to have crossed their tiny minds that
    there are other viewpoints or philosophies.

    Of course they know there are other viewpoints. And they are all the viewpoints of SATAN!


    No one had the balls to leave? Was there physical restraint or threat?

    It’s not as simple as that for those in the military I’m afraid. These soldiers were classed as being ‘on parade’. They were not stood down when the holy roller started his woo woo session. Having the balls to leave might have invoked an arbitrary punishment.

    When a holy roller takes advantage of the ready made crowd at a wedding, christening or funeral, how many have the balls to get up and leave when the preaching starts? Physical restrain or threat isn’t necessary. 

  9. During the wedding of one of my daughter’s childhood friends, which was a religious ceremony, both my daughter and I sat quietly during the wedding march and sermonizing – but we both got up and went out into the foyer when the minister started in during the vows and blessing about the obedience and submission the wife “owes” her husband. We didn’t make a big scene, we just refused to condone such bullshit with our presence any longer.   In a civilian situation, I don’t consider myself a captive audience unless I’m being physically restrained or threatened in some way.  It’s different in the military.  Soldiers face the threat of disciplinary action or even court martial for acts considered to be disrespectful or disobedient; it is an implied “threat” in every situation.   In that respect, even though there was no direct order that they had to stay, it was still implied, and so they were a captive audience and “forced” to listen and participate.  
    I think this was clearly a violation of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

  10. I also either get up and leave or don’t go into the ceremony in the first place. But a lot of folk are less strong willed and prefer not to rock the boat or be seen to embarrass their hosts. 

    I know a number of folk who don’t believe that just go through the motions as the easy option. I’d go so far as to suggest that most would leave the preaching given the option. Then again, I’m the only outspoken non-believer among them.

  11. I’d threaten to kill myself if I have to stay.

    “But sir nothing makes me want to kill myself more than a room full of delusional windbags forcing me to participate in their delusional windbaggery. I joined the army to make the world a better more modern place. This bronze age fuckwittery just makes me ever so sad and want to die.”

  12. There again, from the miltary’s point of view, it’s probably better to have soldiers who are willing to “lay down their lives”,  because they think there’s another life waiting for them in a better place. The sense of self-preservation is incredibly strong, and this sort of shite might help to overcome their fears of combat.

    Amos, were you ever in combat? A brave man indeed, if you were!

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