United States Army Threatened With Lawsuit Over Chaplain’s Prayer to ‘Heavenly Father’

Washington, D.C. — The United States Army is being threatened with a lawsuit after a chaplain allegedly prayed to the Heavenly Father during an event at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, which offended an atheist soldier in attendance.

The Huffington Post reports that Staff Sergeant Victoria Gettman is unpleased with the response that she has received from her superiors in regard to complaints that she had lodged over the prayer, which was delivered last September. Gettman and a number of other soldiers were attending a mandatory suicide prevention session, which concluded with a prayer. The prayer itself was voluntary as soldiers were not required to participate.

Gettman states that she became offended because she believed it was obvious that the chaplain was delivering a Christian prayer.

“The chaplain said we have to have something bigger than ourselves. We need, and he stresses need, to have something divine in our life,” she said. “The entire theater was [then] forced into a mass Christian prayer. … I heard him refer to his ‘Heavenly Father’ and ‘Lord.'”

While Gettman acknowledged that the closing prayer was optional, she asserted that some of those in attendance may have been from other faiths and were not aware that they did not have to participate. She filed a complaint last year with the Army’s equal opportunity office and also discussed the matter with her superiors. However, Gettman has not been satisfied with the response she has received.

“After I had that meeting with the EO[A] — and I was so disgusted with the way he treated me that first time, I went to my leadership — I went to my first sergeant — and I told him the whole story,” Gettman told reporters. “A couple days later, he comes back to me and says it was just a miscommunication … I was horrified by that, too. It felt like I was being blown off.”

Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation then contacted the Army and demanded that the chaplain who delivered the prayer be disciplined and that the Army apologize to the soldiers that they had to endure a prayer that was made to the Heavenly Father. However, he was unhappy with the response he received as well.

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Now, Weinstein is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Army on behalf of Gettman if he does not receive what he feels is an acceptable response.

The Army denies any wrongdoing.

“The Battalion Chaplain spoke to the companies gathered in the theater and he encouraged the young Soldiers to lean on a higher power in their journey through life,” it wrote in a statement in October of last year. “The chaplain’s prayer had no reference to any specific deity, and ended with the words, ‘through Your holy name.’ This is the same ending offered during each training course, graduation ceremony or other military-sponsored event.”

“The Army is cognizant of our soldiers’ religious freedoms, and would never violate their free exercise of religion or choice not to profess a religious faith,” it added.

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  • Dennis

    Chaplains are present to offer faith based encouragement to soldiers who are in harms way to protect all citizens both local and abroad. If a soldier is offended, they too must realize they offend others as well. Once God is removed from the military, soldiers will only have themselves to depend one. A sad state of affairs.

  • Harry Nimon, PhD

    First, Chaplains come in all religious beliefs. Second, they are NOT officially part of the army even though they are permitted to dress in military clothing, wear military rank, and support personnel in combat situations. Third, this soldier is someone I would not want to be around in a combat situation…she will become a target very easily because she is not a soldier…she is an individual… I had 22 years in the army to include combat tours…and I have yet to see an atheist under fire who stays an atheist.

    • foxhole atheist

      Chaplains are most definitely a part of the army. Its called the “army chaplain corps”. SSG Gettman is not trying to eliminate anyone’s right to practice their faith. She is one of many US soldiers trying to end the overt domination of christianity in the military. Every military prayer I’ve been involved in was explicitly christian. Yes chaplains come in all faiths, but 99% are in fact christian. I will never understand the double standard of demanded religious freedom, but only for christians that exists in America.

  • It is a terrible insult to those brave men and women when they can no longer fully receive the right to full understanding of our God and the liberty for which they ultimately may surrender their very lives.
    Perhaps each of us, who serve our one true God, should symbolically adopt a military personnel and withness to them through both friendship and encouragement. Perhaps each of us will take the time to find, and connect, with a soldier and, through friendshipand brotherly love, see that they receive the Word of God as it was ment to be witnessed.
    I believe i am goingto find me a soldier and befriend them. And thereby help incourage them and witness for my Lord and Savior.l

  • S. Zins

    It always surprises me that adults raised in the USA are unaware that we have a variety of religions in our nation.

    Next, I’m surprised that they don’t realize that some of those religions/denominations are quite large and some are quite small. IOW, some have many adherents and some have very few.

    Next, I’m perplexed that they don’t know that the very first right preserved in the very first amendment to our Constitution is religion. Government can’t force your attendance at a government approved religion, and they can’t put parameters on your free exercise of your religion. The next portion of that same first amendment says that the government can’t control your speech.

    An adult recognizes that it is an open marketplace on religious ideas, that there will be religious people all around them every day, and they’ll be sometimes talking about their religion (or lack thereof). And, since our government is peopled by our citizens, they too will represent that same diversity and that same penchant to freely speak about what’s important in their own lives, and sometimes that will be about their religion.

    An adult, hopefully, learns to appreciate and learn from the diversity of opinion all around them.

    Sadly, we have out there those who think they are the only ones around, and that others should just shut up and say nothing, so that their zone of exclusion isn’t violated by thoughts and opinions they don’t like. So, they call on government to do exactly what the constitution forbids: trample on that town square of discussion that tolerates everyone talking all over about whatever is important to them.

    Actually, it’s easier if a government doesn’t have to concern itself with being the “thought or speech police”. It’s far easier not to concern itself with chasing down unwelcome speech and to concern itself instead with building bridges, clearing roads, defending a nation.

    Some people need to just grow up and recognize there are others around them who are different than themselves, and that some groups are larger than others.

  • kmbold

    This poor woman needs our prayers.

  • Greg

    We have gone over the edge of political correctness. Quite frankly it will be the end of our society as we know it, oh wait, we are already beyond that point.

    Simple put for the SSgt Gettman, if the standard ceremony bothers you that much, I can not imagine how much it bothers you that every time you reach to pay for something you have to read “In God We Trust”. Since that particular event occurs much more often in her life perhaps she should sue the Federal Reserve.

    Simple solution, stop paying her, it is offensive to her.

  • Daniel Osborn

    I haven’t read all the replies but I have yet to find any who have accurately stated what the First Amendment says. “CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” I highlight the first five words to show exactly what the First Amendment was originally supposed to stop, i.e. CONGRESS making LAW that either establishes or prohibits religious expression. It should be irrelevant if the military, or ANY government entity other than Congress, makes rules, regulations, demands etc., concerning religion unless they violate the law. Has CONGRESS passed a law against praying to God in the military? Have they passed a law against Nativity scene displays at Christmas, or Menorahs at Chanukah? If CONGRESS HAS NOT PASSED A LAW, the rest is up to whatever organization, public or private, decides they would like to do. Or at least it should be if we lived in a world not full of lawyers who twist the simple clear language until the biggest lawyers, the SCOTUS judges, make precedent rulings which expand and distort the First Amendment until it literally means whatever any opponent of faith wants it to mean.

  • Quentin Riha

    I served in Korea. Back then we never had these crazies running around tryiing to cause trouble for everyone with their disbelief. Maybe this woman needs to get out of the service, and run somekind of stupid, (Hate God Program) since she does not have a whole brain. If these disbelievers would just shut the hell up, and if they don’t believe, the Big Man upstairs, will take care of them in due time. It will save us the headaches of wnating to slap the hell out of them

  • Dan

    they said they don’t believe in God. but you know what they are of the devil. they cannot dominate us because it is written, ‘ the light shineth in and the darkness comprehend it not’ we are of the light and we are overcomers in christ Jesus. if we will humble ourselves, live righteously and pray, God will look upon us with his eyes of mercy and will fight for us and heal our land.

  • Acts 9:5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

    Acts 26:14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

    2759. kentron ken’-tron; from kenteo (to prick); a point (“centre”), i.e. a sting (figuratively, poison) or goad (figuratively, divine impulse): —  prick, sting.

    A goad fastened behind the back legs of a kicking draft animal to train them to stop trying to kick the plow and plowman, with every kick they are caused pain. Once the need for the goad instrument is gone, it is removed, the pain is gone. If the draft animal refuses to stop kicking, the owner who owns the draft animal must make a decision about the unworkable draft animal.