Note: December 4 is the 1 year anniversary since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on "under God" and "In God We Trust". We are still waiting for its opinion.
In a post, Mandatory Lesson: Atheists are the Enemy, I recommended that people contact the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to see how they can best contribute to the prosecution of those responsible for a mandatory lecture that painted atheists as America's enemies.
Doug S. responded:
Well, I donated $25. I don't know if that made much of a difference. Considering that I could probably save the life of a random stranger in Africa for $1,000 by donating to Population Services International, I don't know if making a donation to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is a good use of my money.
There are two points to make in response to this – which, in keeping with my new way of doing thing – will be presented in two (shorter) posts.
First, contributing to efforts such as this (if done right) is comparable to saving lives – even comparable to saving lives in Africa.
Morality is concerned with the specific application of general principles. The specific offense in this case is a lecture that air force officers were required to attend that preached that a life is not worth living unless it is spent helping "us" (those who believe that a god probably exists) fight "them" (those who deny that a god probably exists).
The general application is the promotion of in-group/out-group rivalries.
These rivalries are responsible for a great deal of death and suffering in the world, including the loss of lives among Africans. They are not only responsible for murders, they are responsible for the economic conditions that prevent people from getting enough food to eat or good medical care – the same types of concerns that Population Services International are concerned with.
We cannot distinguish between the need to fight the evils of tribalism abroad while we ignore them at home.
One of the greatest harms done when the Bush Administration embraced torture, rendition, indefinite confinement without a trial, and the use of secret evidence, is that he made a moral statement that anybody in the world should feel free to adopt these same tactics. He gave moral approval to every would-be dictator and tyrant in the world.
Similarly, our voice, when we condemn tribalism abroad, is a lot stronger when we are seen condemning tribalism at home as well. The message that the authority of a United States Air Force uniform will not be put into the service of preaching that a life is not worth living unless it is spent as a member of one tribe fighting against members of another tribe is a message that the world needs to hear.
That describes not only why, but how, as a moral issue, one should see to the punishment of those responsible for putting the authority of a U.S. Air Force uniform behind the message delivered in the presentation referenced in that previous post.