The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers expressed collective outrage and disappointment over reports a US Army Chaplain is withholding bathing water from troops fighting the war against Iraq unless they consent to participation in a Christian Baptism. Published reports indicate the Chaplain, Josh Llano, views the water shortage as an "opportunity" and is quoted as saying "They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized". Soldiers in the region have been without the means of taking a bath or shower for several weeks, but soldiers who are willing to endure almost two hours of preaching and bible verses are then baptized in the Chaplain's 500-gallon pool. Access to the pool is reportedly denied to soldiers who decline the preaching and baptism ceremony.
Comments from members of the military, past and present, were firm in their condemnation. Aimee Jaskot, a member of the US Army, stated, "That he should reserve comforts in order to coerce soldiers into listening about his religion is astonishingly low and devoid of honor, particularly in a war zone". Tom Scanlon, a Navy retiree, opined, "While this religious ritual appears to be done on a voluntary basis, this Chaplain is displaying a total lack of respect for those troops of other beliefs, and those with no beliefs at all". Finally, Kathleen Johnson, the founder of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and a member of the US Army, related, "it is appalling any military officer would hoard water and withhold basic comforts from needy soldiers based upon their faith or lack of it".
As they fight along side their religious counterparts, are military Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and Freethinkers destined to be deprived of basic needs based upon their lack of religious faith? Jason Torpy, an Army officer and the President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, speculated that outrage would occur if a Muslim Chaplain hoarded water and restricted its use to soldiers willing to speak the Shahada and perform Islamic ritual hand and feet washing.
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers was founded to provide support for non-religious service members and their families, and is open to any past or present service member or their family members who describe themselves as non-religious. MAAF is affiliated with American Atheists and other national Atheist and Freethought organizations. MAAF is not affiliated with the U.S. military or government and any views expressed by members are their own.
For more information please contact:
Mr. J. Torpy, MAAF President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. K.A. Johnson, MAAF Founder, email@example.com