The Military Religious Freedom Foundation‘s President Mikey Weinstein was incensed this weekend because of what he claimed was a profound breach of church/state separation in the U.S. military.
In a letter sent to Major General John B. Morrison, Jr., the Commanding General at Fort Gordon in Georgia, Weinstein explained how young soldiers were sent to a Christian event on Saturday morning.
… large numbers of very junior enlisted soldiers — presently undergoing the rigors of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at your installation — were ORDERED by their Army superiors to form up from their barracks and MANDATORILY marched over, in formation, to one of the Fort Gordon chapels and FORCED to participate in an elaborate, Fort Gordon-spnsored and produced Christian proselytizing program which went by the telling name of a “Spiritual Bar B Que”. At the very least, several companies of soldiers, apparently, were FORCE-MARCHED to this Christian proselytizing event so it may have actually been that an entire BATTALION was involved in this unconstitutional disgrace.
… your young U.S. Army soldiers were INVOLUNTARILY inundated with loud Christian rock music and INVOLUNTARILY prayed over by an all-too enthusiastic Protestant/Christian Army chaplain (who, of course, outranked every one of them considerably) trying his level best to get them to accept and surrender to his version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Weinstein wrote the letter late Saturday night on behalf of over 40 MRFF members stationed at Fort Gordon, most of whom he says are Christian themselves. The issue here wasn’t just the proselytizing, Weinstein added. It was how the event tore apart the “good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion” vital to our military interests.
Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command responded with a statement saying that the event was not mandatory at all… which you would think would put an end to the matter. But that requires everyone to accept that it wasn’t mandatory. It’s entirely possible that soldiers were pressured to attend even if they technically had a choice. It’s also possible that the alternative to attending the Christian event was something far, far worse.
The Army Times had a response from Weinstein, who relayed the fact that “the soldiers said they were not only told they had to go, but that the barracks would be scoured for ‘introverts’ who were trying to avoid attending.”
As of now, MRFF isn’t thinking about a lawsuit. That’s a last resort and requires overcoming a number of hurdles. But they do want an accurate account of what happened and how the military is going to guarantee that events like this are truly voluntary with no consequences for those who choose not to attend.
And the military owes it to the soldiers to have a damn good response to all of that.
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