An atheist group is speaking out against a video that appears to show a prayer being uttered during a graduation ceremony at the United States Army Air Assault School on the grounds of Fort Campbell in Kentucky, calling it evidence of "second-class citizenship for non-Christians."
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, an atheist activist group, published the clip after the invocation was reportedly uttered during a ceremony that took place on Tuesday, claiming that it came from an anonymous source.
"It's very obviously a Christian prayer," Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers president Jason Torpy told TheBlaze on Wednesday.
Torpy previously wrote on his blog that the trainees were told to bow their heads before the invocation began, leading members of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers to subsequently complain to the group over the event.
Prayer at the United States Army Air Assault School (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers)
"The video ... shows a prayer that is explicitly Christian with a quote from Isaiah in an official Air Assault graduation ceremony. This prayer goes far beyond something simply ceremonial, non-denominational, and optional," the blog post read. "This is Christian-specific, mandatory, and requires participation, and hopefully Christians will stand up against such bad leadership as readily as non-Christians."
The 36-second video clip — which can be viewed here -- features a brief prayer for God's blessings upon the trainees.
"Restore, refresh and renew their bodies and souls," an unnamed officer can be heard as he delivers the prayer. "On their missions, may they remember the words of Isaiah — 'They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.'"
He concluded with an, "Amen," though he did non specifically invoke the name of Jesus nor another sectarian individual or deity.
Torpy and his Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers claim that prayers like this are evidence of "second-class citizenship for non-Christians" and that they do not have a place in the military, especially considering that trainees only have 11 days in the program and don't have much time nor opportunity to speak up if they do not wish to participate.
"Too often in short training programs like this trainees show up and then they leave," Torpy told TheBlaze. "Commanders and chaplains [can] get away with enforcing Christianity on these trainees."
The atheist activist said that he's trying to raise awareness in an effort to push for more support for atheists in the military, as he believes there's currently a dearth of assistance and representation for secularists.
"By raising awareness they will be able to advocate on their own," he said of his fellow atheists in the military. "Our primary focus is to support atheists and humanists in the military."
Photo credit: Shutterstock
While Torpy said that his group likely wouldn't call as much attention to a non-denominational prayer that was more benign, he felt that this invocation went "above and beyond" by "specifically forcing everyone to participate in an active prayer whether they like it or not."
Air Assault School trains soldiers in "Air Assault operations, sling-load operations, and rappelling," instructing them on how to use helicopter assets in combat situations, according to the school's official website.
Torpy did not indicate if any action will be taken over the prayer beyond simply writing about it on the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers website.
TheBlaze is awaiting comment from a representative for the U.S. Army.