Atheist soldier to leave Army, drops religion suit

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An atheist soldier who accused U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Defense Department of violating his religious freedom dropped the lawsuit Friday, citing his plans to leave the Army next spring.

But the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which filed the suit in 2007 with Pfc. Jeremy Hall, still plans to pursue allegations of widespread religious discrimination within the military in a separate lawsuit it filed with a second atheist soldier.

Attorneys for Hall filed papers Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., to dismiss the case, said Mikey Weinstein, head of the foundation.

Hall and the foundation sued over Hall's claims that a major prevented him from holding an atheist meeting while deployed in Iraq. That officer denied the allegation.

Dropping the lawsuit avoids a fight over whether Hall has standing to sue if he is no longer in the Army, which he plans to leave in 2009, Weinstein said.

"He broke the barrier for us to have more people come forward," Weinstein said of Hall. "He served as a shining light that attracted all the other potential witnesses."

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