Hi everyone! I'm a new Army wife and my family and I are about to PCS (hope that's the correct acronym..) to Ft. Lewis, WA in November.
My question is how 'out' should I be around other military families. My husband is not an officer, and I don't know if professed atheism will affect his career. I am out in the sense that I do not hide my atheism to anyone, but on the same note, I don't go around preaching about it.
Would it be safer to avoid the religion topic and not display my atheist-related lierature in plain view?
MAAF has support for you. I have a few Pratts, but not you specifically. I hope you'll join up and follow the other advise for how to be 'out'.
This is the time to be out. You have to understand that there is a predominantly Christian culture in the military and a possibility of prejudice, but you do have support. The FAQ page above has lots of other information, and you can always contact MAAF directly. There's a good community at JBLM but no one has had the time to lead a group. Maybe you're the first.
I was Jewish, when I entered active duty as a Major, green as could be regarding internal politicsand no mentor anywhere. A year later, I was out, having been set up from the start by my dominionist christian commander. He used a little known rule that says, if you don't fulfill your job requirement, you can be ousted within the first year of duty. He had the chain of command block me from fulfilling and then oust me based on not fulfilling, while telling me I should be grateful for receiving an honorable discharge, when I'd done nothing dishonorable. (This cost me every veteran's benefit, including the GI Bill, by the way.)
Christmas is coming. Expect to be approached to volunteer and participate in programs using it for leverage to proselytize. Consider my brother's tactic, when "No, thank you" is a bad answer: Say yes, then don't go, and claim you had a stomach flu. I hate lying, but had I learned to do it, it might have saved my career. I was "drafted" as the token Jew, then ousted right after doing the part they wrote for me for their Christmas programs. How convenient. Other Jews stayed anonymous as possible, and it was too late, when I understood how real their concerns were.
Lay low until you get to know your surroundings and your husband has at least one or two good annual reviews on record. Despite the reality of the situation, it can be virtually impossible to prove religious discrimination, and even when you think you can, try finding a lawyer to represent you in that way. Mine practiced only military law, had decades of experience, and wouldn't touch the religious discrimination basis of my case. If you are targeted, reach out to MAAF, MRFF, and others. I only wish MRFF had existed, when I needed it.
One other point: The more atheists who come out and survive in the military, the better. That's a given. If you can patiently take time to learn how, when, and where to do this, to gather allies and political strength first, it will likely be safer. Meanwhile, being in allows you and your husband to document institutionalized, chain of command religious improprieties and report them. MRFF uses such reports to force all three branches of military and the DoD, itself, to obey the first amendment. You should see their latest: http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/.
Thank you for the all the suggesstions! I already noted that there were no MAAF groups at Lewis and I do have the time and the willpower to put something like that together, but I think I will lie low and test out the scenery for a bit. Also, I will discuss with my husband how he feels about it too. I've already heard about a commanding officer made my husband miserable just because he didn't like him. And that had nothing to do with religion. This all reminds me of the beginning of full metal jacket where the drill instructer says, 'You Goddamn communist heathen, you had best sound off that you love the Virgin Mary, or I'm gonna stomp your guts out!' lol