Atheists want 'God bless the military' sign on Hawaii base removed

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |

KANEOHE, Hawaii (Christian Examiner) -- Army Chaplain Justin "Chappy" Roberts, whose unit was awarded 200 Purple Hearts after 18 soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2010, had high hopes in a recent interview with Fox & Friends that following Pope Francis' visit the military would be more tolerant towards the faith of its military community.

Roberts said he was hopeful after a religious watchdog group contacted the commanding officer at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe to let him know its simple sign, " "God Bless The Military, Their Families, And The Civilians Who Work With Them," lettered in red, blue and black on a white background -- in their opinion violates the Constitution. 

It stands out "like a tarantula on a wedding cake," Mike Weinstein, the Military Religous Freedom Foundation founder told the Honolulu Star.

Chaplain Roberts said he disagrees and believes the sign is an integral part of the community of the base and what it offers to its families.

"As an Army chaplain, we're part of the government," Roberts said. "We're representing faith. We're representing hope. We're providing care."

Roberts told Fox News reporter Elisabeth Hasselbeck that perhaps, yes, in light of the Pope's visit, people could "come together" about things like the sign, erected 14 years ago, instead of "being so divisive about faith issues."

"I hope so," Roberts said. "It seems like this should not be a critical issue we should be focusing on. It seems like we should be hoping for things like this."

He said signs like the one in question, erected following the September 11 terror attack on America, are not a "major issue," Roberts said.

The atheist organizaton apparently does not share the same opinion.

"This sign is a brazen violation of the No Establishment clause of the Constitution, as it sends the clear message that your installation gives preference to those who hold religious beliefs over those who do not, and those who prefer a monotheistic intervening god over deities or theologies," MRFF's Blake Page wrote in an email to Col. Sean C. Killeen, the commanding officer at the base.

Weinstein told the Marine Corps Times he received complaints from various Marines of different faith backgrounds and ranks, and that if the sign stays, then his organization would push for a sign to say: "There is no God to bless our military, their families, and the civilians who work with them" or giving credence to "Allah, Satan or the flying spaghetti monster."

Captain Timothy Irish, a base spokesperson, said "due diligence" will be exercised in making sure all existing laws are adhered to, including the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.