ANCHORAGE — An Air Force commander from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska has caved to atheist demands to remove an online article written by the base chaplain that uses the adage “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Reyes recently posted the article in his “Chaplain’s Corner” section of the base website. The piece was entitled No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II, and began by asking, “Where did this [phrase] come from?”
Reyes then proceeds to tell a story about how the saying originated at the Japanese attack at Corregidor.
“Life-and-death experiences prompt a reality check,” Reyes’ article stated. “Even the strongest of beliefs can change, and, I may add, can go both ways–people can be drawn to or away from ‘faith.'”
“With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese, [William] Cummings uttered the famous phrase, ‘There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole,'” he explained.
Some note that former President Dwight Eisenhower also used the phrase during a 1954 speech.
“I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives,” he said. “In battle, they learned a great truth that there are no atheists in foxholes.’”
However, when the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) learned of Reyes’ article, it wrote to the base and requested that it be removed from the website.
“In the civilian world, such anti-secular diatribe is protected free speech,” the letter stated. “Beyond his most obvious failure in upholding regulations through redundant use of the bigoted, religious supremacist phrase, ‘no atheists in foxholes,’ he defiles the dignity of service members by telling them that regardless of their personally held philosophical beliefs they must have faith.”
After receiving the letter, Colonel Brian Duffy agreed to take the piece down from the “Chaplain’s Corner.”
“While certainly not intended to offend, the article has been removed from our website,” Duffy replied to the organization. “We remain mindful of the governing instructions on this matter and will work to avoid recurrence.”
He further explained to columnist Todd Starnes that he removed the article “out of respect for those who considered its title offensive.”
“The 673d Air Base Wing does not advocate any particular religion or belief set over another and upon learning of the complaints from some readers, the article was promptly removed,” Duffy explained. “We regret any undue attention this article may have brought to any particular group or individuals.”
However, according to reports, MRFF believes that taking the article down is not enough: Reyes must also be punished for his speech.
“Faith-based hate is hate all the same,” Opposing Views quotes Blake Page of MRFF as stating. “Lt. Col. Reyes must be appropriately punished.”
But some believe the matter was taken too far.
“A chaplain has been censored for expressing his beliefs about the role of faith in the lives of service members,” said retired Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin of Family Research Council. “Why do we have chaplains if they aren’t allowed to fulfill that purpose?”