Soldiers Say They Were Forced To Attend Christian Proselytizing Event
Army trainees claim that they were required to attend a Christian proselytizing event on their base in Fort Gordon, Georgia on Oct. 14.
The soldiers assert that they were forced to attend a three-and-a-half-hour “Spiritual Fitness Barbecue” where they had to listen to a Christian chaplain who prayed and told them to become Christians, notes the Army Times.
Forty-three soldiers and Army civilians at Fort Gordon contacted “Mikey” Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, about the incident.
Weinstein then wrote a letter of complaint to Maj. Gen. John Morrison Jr.:
[The soldiers] quite justly feel as though they have been brutally subjected to fundamentalist Christian predators and bullies, superior to them in the Fort Gordon chain of command under your control.
According to Weinstein, he later learned that spiritual fitness events are a regular event at the base several times a year.
In a statement, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command denied that at the event was required:
The event you inquired about was the Spiritual Fitness Barbeque, which is part of a voluntary program helping to develop soldier resiliency. This event is bi-annual, and has been held for the last 10 years. Written instructions were provided to the units to help coordinate participation and set up. The instructions were clear that this was strictly a voluntary event, and that soldiers are not required to attend.
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command did not say how a Christian event develops “soldier resiliency,” but added:
More than 500 soldiers RSVP’d. The brigade commander was in attendance for the event and saw soldiers coming and going freely, with no complaints from soldiers he spoke with.
The command will look further into the incident to ensure there was no miscommunication about the voluntary nature of this event.
Weinstein said the event was mandatory, and soldiers were told that the barracks would be searched for “introverts” who did not attend.
Weinstein noted in his letter:
Army superiors have trampled all over their constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights not to have the United States Army violate the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of our United States Constitution.