A spokesperson for the U.S. Army responded to an atheist activist's complaint over a prayer that was uttered during a graduation ceremony on Tuesday at the United States Army Air Assault School on the grounds of Fort Campbell in Kentucky, saying that invocations are prevalent across the Army, but that trainees are not required to participate.
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"Graduates are not required to bow their heads in prayer or say 'amen,'" Army spokeswoman Tatjana Christian told TheBlaze. "Invocations are part of many ceremonies held on Fort Campbell and across our Army."
Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, an atheist activist group, had published a clip earlier this week showing a graduation prayer that was uttered during Tuesday's event.
Jason Torpy, president of the military group, told TheBlaze on Wednesday that he believes it was "very obviously a Christian prayer" and that it relegated non-Christians to "second-class citizenship."
But the Army has an entirely different view on the matter, affirming that those who do not wish to participate are not compelled to do so.
"The rights of those who do not wish to participate are always respected," she said.
Torpy wrote on his blog earlier this week 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.
The 36-second video clip of the prayer — which can be viewed here — features a brief call 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, though, believes that prayers like this are unacceptable inside the military, claiming that it puts trainees who aren't interested in participating in a difficult position.
"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.”
Read more about the debate here.
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