When a soldier enlists in the Army, he or she takes an oath:
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
For SPC Jeremy Hall, a soldier currently stationed in Iraq, defending the Constitution involves more than his Army service. It also involves protecting his own Constitutional rights from people who don't think someone should be allowed to talk about being an atheist anywhere near a foxhole. Some of those deployed with him, including an officer, have responded to his decision to not be religious with threats and intimidation. It didn't work. Hall wants his rights, and he's not backing down. On Tuesday, he filed a federal lawsuit against the United States Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, and the officer who tried to intimidate him.
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Yet another round of the unholy wars has broken out again here at Scienceblogs. Matt Nisbet and PZ Myers are at each others' throats. Again. If you read the other blogs here, you know that this isn't anything that's exactly novel. The two have some fundamental differences, and every so often those differences brush up against each other. When Matt and Paul's differences interact, we usually see something that chemists and science geeks like to refer to as a "highly exothermic" reaction. (In other words, things go "Boom!")
I don't always get involved when these disputes come up, and when I do I usually wind up taking a middle-of-the road position. This time, I'm firmly in Paul's camp when it comes to quite nearly every issue of relevance. Paul's right that there are times when it's better not to try a framing approach. Paul's right that there is a need for atheists (and miscellaneous other nonbelievers) to speak up about their view of religion (I do sometimes disagree with his choice of volume setting on that one). Paul is also right that Nisbet seems to be displaying a distressing lack of respect for folks who disagree with him, particularly when it comes to the AAAS panel he set up.
I'll talk about the some of the other issues a bit later. Right now, I'm just going to focus on Nisbet's distressing decision to avoid even the appearance of fairness to other perspectives.
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