The Regimental Noncommissioned Officer Academy’s Advanced Leader Course (ALC) at Fort Gordon, Ga., is ordering soldiers to “provide area beautification support to the Catholic Social Services of Augusta, Ga.”
A joint letter drafted by Freedom From Religion Foundation Attorney Andrew Seidel and American Atheists protests the use of U.S. military manpower to benefit a religious organization.
Like many Catholic charities, Catholic Social Services (CSS), whose slogan is “In Every Season God is With Us,” provides services in exchange for the chance to proselytize to the needy. CSS explicitly states, “all services provided require participation in Catholic Social Services Case Management,” this is Catholic-speak for preaching to social service clients.
As the joint letter pointed out: “This situation is not analogous to our government contracting with a charity to provide secular services. In this case, the government — in the form of the U.S. Army — is giving a direct, substantive benefit to a religious organization.”
The letter also noted that more than 23 percent of the military are atheist, agnostic, or non-religious and 81 percent of the military are not Catholic. “Compelling U.S. soldiers of many different faiths or no faith at all to support a religion is a violation of their freedoms of conscience and contrary to the First Amendment.”
The letter commended the “charitable instincts” of the Army but called them “misplaced when you order U.S. soldiers to support a religious organization.” It would be proper to use “the manpower of the Army to support secular organizations that do not mix religion and charity [or] not violate the Constitution or the rights of conscience of your soldiers.”