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Archive for Thursday, August 14, 2008

Group disputes military in case

August 14, 2008

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— A Fort Riley soldier suing the military was rebuffed recently when he took complaints about violations of his religious freedoms to the post's inspector general, an advocacy group involved in his lawsuit said Wednesday.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, based in Albuquerque, N.M., contends Army Spc. Jeremy Hall's experiences undermine arguments made by the Justice Department in seeking to get the lawsuit dismissed.

Hall, who is an atheist, and the foundation allege the military permits religious discrimination by fundamentalist Christians who try to force their views on others, especially subordinates.

Their lawsuit, filed in March in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., names the Defense Department and Secretary Robert Gates among the defendants.

Lawyers for the Justice Department's Civil Division filed a motion last month to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that Hall should have complained to his chain of command rather than go to the civilian courts. Hall has until Sept. 15 to file a response to the motion.

Foundation president Mikey Weinstein said Hall's response will cite in part his visit earlier this month to Fort Riley's inspector general office, where, Weinstein said, Hall was told it could not deal with his case because that it is being "handled elsewhere."

Weinstein said the Army appears to be trying to get Hall to drop his lawsuit. Hall is seeking a court order prohibiting discriminatory practices against him because of his views on religion.

Fort Riley referred questions about Hall's case to the Justice Department, where Civil Division spokesman Charles Miller declined comment because of the pending lawsuit.

The post and the Army have said they don't condone discrimination, and the Justice Department has argued in its response that the military has adequate policies for dealing with complaints.

Hall alleges that while he was serving in Iraq in 2007, an Army Reserve major prevented a meeting he planned with atheists and others, then threatened to take action against Hall. The major, also a defendant, has denied the allegations.

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