Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers

The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) is a community for atheists and freethinkers in the military, both within the United States and from around the world. The MAAF can assist U.S. military members to respond to illegal and insensitive religious proselytizing on military bases. It is an independent 501(c)(3) organization building community for freethinkers and other nontheists in the military. The MAAF supports constitutionalseparation of church and state and First Amendment rights for all service members. It also educates and trains both the military and civilian community about atheism and Freethought in the military.

Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
Formation 1998 (1998)
Purpose Community, Education, Advocacy
Location
President
Jason Torpy
Website www.militaryatheists.org
MAAF Color Guard posts the colors as Greg Graffin of Bad Religion sings the National Anthem at the Reason Rally, 24 March 2012, Washington, DC
Part of a series on
Atheism

Flagship programs for MAAF are its local Network, with over 70 worldwide points of contact, lay leaders, and local groups from Kyrgyzstan to Japan and throughout the US and its Chaplain Outreach program to educate 5000 military chaplains on how to support atheists and freethinkers in the military. Supporting those major programs are care package delivery, lay leader and chaplain endorsement, and a robust advocacy program to identify and resolve issues, to make the military a safe place for nontheists.

. . . Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers . . .

Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) at the Reason Rally held in Washington, DC on March 24, 2012.

The MAAF was founded with a simple email discussion group in February 1998 by Kathleen Johnson when she was an active duty Sergeant First Class with the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID). It soon expanded from an online presence and affiliated with other organizations including American Atheists and the Campus Freethought Alliance (now CFI On Campus). Early membership, totalling just over 100, included several cadets and midshipmen in ROTC programs and military service academies.[1] Jason Torpy, current president, took over in 2001 while still an active duty officer, established 501c3 status in 2006, and began working full-time for the organization at the end of 2010.

The group’s early efforts included letter writing campaigns reminding public figures such as Tom Brokaw not to use the phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” One recipient of these letters, broadcaster Bob Schieffer, issued a public apology in response. Other efforts supported active duty military personnel seeking to include, “Atheist” or, “Agnostic” on their dog-tags instead of the more common, “No Rel Pref” which meant the individual had no religious preference.[2] Jason Torpy, who joined MAAF while a cadet at West Point and who is now a former Army Captain, now leads a board of five current and retired military officers. As of 2007 he was overseeing an organization of more vocal atheist members, “in 15 countries, 45 states, and over 100 military installations and ships.”[3] Other recent efforts of the MAAF include public condemnation of the continued refusal by the Boy Scouts of America to accept non-believers.[4] While the BSA claims to be a private organization with a legal right to discriminate, the MAAF calls for an end to federal support in the form of funding and free access to military bases.[5] The MAAF logo includes the three colors Air Force Blue, Army Green, and Navy Blue. It represents the land, sea, and air missions of the group’s membership and the three-part mission of providing “atheists in foxholes” with advocacy, community, and education.[6]

In 2011 the MAAF including its local MASH Ft Bragg affiliate took on the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program for its take on spiritual fitness as a major factor in soldier readiness. Both Jason Torpy and Justin Griffith, now military director with American Atheists, argued that the Army’s approach, and especially the Army’s Spiritual Fitness website were unfairly and illegally sectarian, supporting Christianity over all other religious beliefs. When the overall fitness of Justin Griffith was questioned because of his score on the Spiritual Fitness portion, he took his complaint to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and threatened legal action against this unconstitutional religious test.[7][8] Although no major changes were made as a result of the complaints, the Army did remove a section from the Spiritual Fitness website which equated the military flag folding tradition with Christian religious tenets.[9] The MAAF maintains a running review of violations and plans to turn its attention to new Spiritual Triage and Moral Injury applications of ‘spirituality’.[10]

Confirmed to be several thousand, the current membership of MAAF is not publicly specified but the group’s list of “Atheists in Foxholes”[11] has topped 200 who wish to be publicly identified. More certain are the numbers of nonbelievers in the United States military in comparison to the number of chaplains of similar belief. In July, 2012 the MAAF published demographics from the United States Department of Defense that confirmed that atheists and agnostics in military ranks far outnumber several other groups, such as Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists yet have no representation in the chaplain corps. This same study also showed that Evangelical Christians make up an inordinately large proportion of the chaplain corps when compared to the relatively small percentage of military members who hold such beliefs.[12]

. . . Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers . . .

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. . . Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers . . .

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