WASHINGTON — The Secular Coalition for America’s plea on Monday for more acceptance of atheists and agnostics in the military elicited both support and disdain from Stars and Stripes readers this week.

The group, which represents a host of humanist, nonreligious members, has asked President-elect Barack Obama to develop new military directives that eliminate prayers from public military events and ensure the Defense Department will not endorse any single religion, or even the idea of religion over non-religion.

Below is a sampling of reactions to those efforts:

The real issue is not discrimination against atheists and agnostics, it is the hostility of atheists toward anyone with religious convictions.

In 38 years of living on AF bases growing up, serving 20 years on active duty, and now civil service, I will state categorically that I have never seen or heard of any form of discrimination toward, or unwanted proselytizing of, an atheist.

Anti-theists are barking up the wrong tree by trying to suppress freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

— Robert Sexton, retired Air Force Captain

I am an atheist and former Army sergeant and have seen first-hand how the Army puts nonreligious soldiers in some uncomfortable situations.

Being an atheist in America seems to be more of a taboo than being a homosexual. I hope in the future that more nonbelievers will come out of the so-called "closet."

— Jesse Bond, Defense Department civilian

The fact that these people are even getting noticed is a disgrace to God, country and service.

The men and women who sign on to be part of our country’s military know that we were founded on principles of God and Bible. If they do not like it, then they shouldn’t sign on to begin with.

— Amee May

As a devout Christian with a church that requires an educated ministry (Presbyterian), I also resented being harangued by Pentecostal goobers during my 20 plus years of military service.

— John King, retired Navy commander

As usual, the minority is trying to force their views on the majority. Prayer has been a major part of the military since its inception. If an atheist doesn’t want to be part of a public prayer, fine. They should not be harassed for this action. But at the same time, they should respect that the vast majority of their fellow soldiers believe in a higher power. A mandated rules change would only lower morale and cater to very small minority.

I would rather have God in my foxhole than an atheist.

— Mike Mansell

I retired as an E-9 and was never asked to get enveloped in any religious group or ceremony. I don’t remember ever talking to a chaplain or anyone of their ilk.

We were offered the time to pray before battle with our fellow Marines, not all choose to attend. Not attending did not make them less ready for battle.

I think that the complainers were never ready to be good servicemembers and are looking for an excuse for their own shortcomings. Some people are always looking for excuses for their failures.

— Russell Atchison

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