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ICC Note: In a joint letter of complaint to the Department of Defense, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists stated their grievances regarding prayers being said at military graduations. The groups suggested that such prayers were a violation of the US constitution’s Establishment Clause because this practice would be considered government coercion for citizens to take part in religious activities. The groups have requested that the Department of Defense take immediate action to address this issue.

By Heather Clark

01/22/2018 United States (Christian News Network) – Two prominent atheist activist organizations have lodged a complaint with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) after reportedly being contacted by service members who are uncomfortable with the prayers presented at military graduation ceremonies, as well as other activities.

“According to numerous reports from cadets, service members, and their families, graduation ceremonies at military training facilities across the country consistently include a prayer delivered by a military chaplain,” wrote the groups American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to General James Mattis.

“Recruits at each of these facilities are required to attend the graduation ceremony, adorned in dress uniforms, and standing in formation. Each of the training facilities encourages cadets’ family members to attend the ceremony. Those family members are then instructed to stand during the delivery of the prayer,” they stated.

The atheist organizations also allege that prayers have been presented at Marine Corp Recruit Depot San Diego prior to the Crucible, the grueling 54-hour test that cadets must complete successfully in order to become a Marine.

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from coercing any citizen into participating in religious exercise,” American Atheists and FFRF asserted. “Military chaplains may provide religious services to those who seek them out, but their mission does not include proselytizing or infusing secular ceremonies with the chaplain’s personal religious beliefs. Graduation ceremonies held at military training facilities involve all cadets, not just those of one religious faith.”

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