Why Are Soldiers in Fort Gordon’s Army Substance Abuse Program Being Given Copies of “The Purpose Driven Life”?

***Update***: MRFF’s second letter to Major General Patterson, sent today, can be read here.

At Fort Gordon in Georgia, military personnel who have substance abuse problems may be directed by their superiors to go into the “Army Substance Abuse Program“:

Soldiers are encouraged to seek help voluntarily for drug and alcohol problems. While self-referral is the preferred method of identification, commanders are also responsible for identifying Soldiers at risk and for referring them to the ASAP for evaluation by the counseling staff and for supporting the recommended intervention and rehabilitation.

All of that is perfectly fine… but according to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation‘s Mikey Weinstein, one of the recovery “tools” being handed to soldiers is a copy of Pastor Rick Warren‘s book The Purpose Driven Life. Because Jesus is the government’s path to recovery.

In a letter sent to Major General LaWarren Patterson, Weinstein explained the problem:

Not only does it violate the United States Constitution’s First Amendment (No Establishment Clause) but it also violates Clause 3, Article VI’s “No Religious Test” provision. Further, it also absolutely and indefensibly violates foundational DoD Instructions strictly prohibiting the endorsement of non-federal entities as well as prohibiting the provision of selective benefits to same.

He added that of the 34 MRFF members at Fort Gordon, 31 of them are Protestants or Roman Catholic — so this is hardly an attack on Christianity. It’s a defense of neutrality.

No word yet on whether Patterson will act on the letter, but this is a pretty clear cut violation of the law. Even if the books were donated, it doesn’t matter. (I’m sure a Wiccan, atheist, or Muslim group would be happy to donate books of their own if the Army will hand them out to soldiers.)

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