Atheists continue to attack the religious rights of U.S. military members, namely those wanting to freely exercise their observance of Christmas. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain has held an annual Christmas Tree lighting for years. This event has included the singing of carols, the presence of St. Nicholas, and the consumption of cookies and cocoa. It has also featured a live nativity, composed of base children and local animals. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers views “a Christmas tree, presents, some songs, and even Santa Claus as trappings of secular Christmas.” However, “Angels, nativity scenes, crosses, prayers, and carols focused explicitly on Christianity (e.g., Silent Night) cross the line into a religious devotion rather than a neutral, secular celebration.” The MAAF objected to the nativity program and filed an IG complaint. The complaint stated:
This [nativity] violates the Constitution and the mandates of the command to support all belief while privileging none. The event is billed as a ‘holiday’ event but it is nothing but a Christian activity…it is…clearly and exclusively biased toward Christianity. Also of concern is the likelihood that the predominantly Muslim local population will see the US military as a Christian force…This event threatens US security and violates the Constitution as well as command policy.
The Command Religious Program (CRP) – the Navy Chaplains – removed the living nativity program from the holiday festivities. Whether this was done under advisement from base leadership or if the Chaplains did so of their own volition is unclear. It does not appear an official order was given to remove the program.
If the U.S. Government – including a branch of the U.S. Military – took action against a group or event because of religious content, it would be a violation of policies guarding against discrimination based upon religion. The U.S. Constitution declares clearly, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” When Americans of faith are intimidated by atheists threatening lawsuits, they need to remember the rights they have as citizens and stand for the freedoms they are granted in this nation. If they don’t, then brave troops who are right now in harm’s way for those very freedoms will have their own liberties taken away. The aggressive political maneuvering by groups like the MAAF has a direct, measurable and negative impact on troops.