ANCHORAGE — After being removed for a time from the base website due to a complaint, an article about the adage ‘There are no atheists in foxholes,’ written by an Air Force chaplain from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, has been restored.
As previously reported, 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.
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. In the military, it is not,” 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.”
MRFF President Mikey Weinstein said that he believed Reyes should be punished because he believes it is a violation of military rules for superiors to “promote their religious beliefs” to their subordinates.
“What Chaplain Reyes did was wrong,” Weinstein told WND. “If a police officer in a city was pulled over for driving 100 mph in a 35 mph zone and nothing happened to him, what good is the law? We want some type of discipline to happen to Reyes whether it be a simple reprimand or something else.”
However, officials not only decided not to disciple Reyes, but they also reinstated the article last week–with a disclaimer.
“Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing,” it states.
The Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom says that it was concerned about the matter and filed a Freedom of Information request to determine what led to the article being removed from the site.
“Chaplains have the freedom and obligation to speak about faith and religious values, and this freedom should not be censored or prohibited. The Air Force should be commended for recognizing this and returning Chaplain Reyes’s essay to the ‘Chaplains Corner’ portion of his base’s website,” stated Litigation Counsel Kellie Fiedorek. “We will continue to monitor that as we stand ready to defend our men and women in uniform just as they stand ready to defend us.”