Jason Torpy is becoming a familiar name in The Blaze’s faith coverage. Torpy, the president of the Military Atheists and Free Thinkers Association, is an outspoken advocate against the prominence of faith and religion in the military.
Recently, we reported about his championing of efforts to install atheist chaplains and his firm stance against a cross that commemorates lost soldiers at Camp Pendleton in California. Now, Torpy may have his targets set on yet another faith issue — military prayer.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Torpy voiced his opinion that it is inappropriate for military personnel to pray with fellow soldiers before going out on missions. The atheist leader discussed an incident he personally experienced in 2003 or 2004 when, as CNS News reports, he claims a commander gathered his team together to pray before a mission. At the time, he was deployed in Iraq, serving in the Army’s 1st Armored Division.
Listen to Torpy discuss his take on atheist chaplains and military prayer, below:
Below, find a portion of the transcript of Torpy’s interview with NPR (via CNS News):
NPR: Can you give some examples of where as an atheist, as a humanist, you felt left out?
TORPY: Going on a military mission, for example, we were getting ready to roll out. And ‘Everybody come in.’ So as the commander of this convoy (said), ‘Everybody come in and we’re going to do a prayer first together.’ We’re not going to talk about communications, we’re not going to talk about route planning, we’re not going to talk about first aid, we’re not going to talk about maintenance.
TOPRY: So I had to opt myself out of that situation, to ‘out’ myself because this commander took it upon himself to have a personal religious activity in the midst of a military mission.
NPR: You didn’t participate?
NPR: How did you walk away from that?
TORPY: Well, as a captain, there’s a lot fewer people that can tell me what to do. Now the person that was in command was a major so I was still stepping outside – he was extremely unhappy about it. He said. “Why are you creating trouble?” And I said, “Why are you creating trouble? Why are you excluding me from this activity? This is a military mission, and I support your right to pray, but right this second we have a military mission, and for to use your power to pull everyone in to do a Christian prayer is wrong.”
In a follow-up interview with CNSNews.com, Torpy did admit that the mission was prepared for before the prayer took place. His previous comments made it seem as though preparation fell secondary to prayer and that his commander was more interested in speaking to the Almighty than he was planning routes, first aid and other elements.
Despite this admission, he contended that prayer “threw everything off” and that it was a distraction. “It was a critical time that could have better spent focused on other areas,” he explained. Torpy felt like he was being forced into Christian prayer. He continued, saying that the incident made it difficult for him, as a non-believer, to be a part of the team.
Torpy believes that the First Amendment prevents officers from imposing their religious views on their compatriots. CNS has more:
“The First Amendment has two clauses that balance each other out. The Establishment ensures that the government–and officials acting on behalf of the government, like military officers–don’t let their personal religious beliefs interfere with their authority with the government; they don’t use the power of the government to privilege or prioritize, or to force their religion on others.
But the free exercise clause makes it clear that individuals acting privately – even if they are acting privately in a public space – have the opportunity to be true to their conscience and do religious practices according to their wishes.”
Considering these words, one wonders if pre-combat military prayer is Torpy’s next target. Already, he and his atheist compatriots have had success in fighting against other faith elements in the military. It will be interesting to see if these words are mere complaints or if they will be accompanied by action on behalf of Torpy and his Military Atheists and Freethinkers Association.
(H/T: CNS News)