‘Free’ evangelical ‘military marriage seminar’ gives soldiers tax headaches

Fort Bragg is about 5 hours driving distance from The Cove, BGEA’s training center in Asheville, NC. It seems that they are doing a marriage seminar strictly for military members.

I wonder how soon these guys are going to get homosexual Christians in attendance?

It’s free if you pay for it.

It’s totally free for all military members. Or is it? Here is the agreement that you have to sign to attend. Notice the part where it says:

Please Note: This award could be considered taxable income. This form is being used as a Substitute Form W-9 for obtaining your tax information. The fair market value of any award given will be sent to you later in the year for your tax records. Please let us know if your mailing address changes during the year.

A careful inspection of The Cove’s 2012 schedule reveals a complicated pricing system. The Cove separates the costs of their frequent seminars into two categories: seminar and lodging. Lodging is provided at around $150 a night, over at, wait for it… The Cove.

Three-day seminars begin with afternoon registration, a buffet dinner, and an evening session on the first day, and conclude prior to lunch on the final day. Other events vary. All meals, materials, and refreshments are included in the registration fee. Please see page 2 for lodging costs and additional program information

So, does their previously mentioned Military Awards Program (the agreement) cover the hotel costs too? Even if so why are all of these expenses not simply waived altogether?

Why shift the tax burden onto the soldiers? I’m just as likely to be deployed when my wife files my taxes for us, and that’s the last thing that would be on my mind. I’d understand a small refundable deposit due to limited seating – that would discourage no-shows and free up space for others. But this is so complex that I’m not even going to attend with my investigative journalist hat on.

But is this even a good idea?

From a Barna Research Group study in 1999,  by religion / % have been divorced

  • Jews 30%
  • Born-again Christians 27%
  • Other Christians 24%
  • Atheists, Agnostics 21%

And don’t forget about the hundreds of millions of federal dollars already being spent on evangelizing soldiers, spouses and children. One of the biggest portions of that enormous waste of money goes to a different religious marriage counseling program.

I’m not talking about the Chaplaincy or any military component. The hundreds of millions of dollars are going to civilian contractors… in this case just religious people and organizations who’s stated goals are evangelism. Some do it under the guise of marriage counseling, and others have even chased down kids at the bus stops on post. I’ve witnessed the ‘family that prays together stays together’ Strong Bonds ugliness up close and personally. Useless crap, and extremely expensive, and effective secular alternatives are available.

But this thing at The Cove doesn’t seem to be a Strong Bonds retreat, or anything directly funded by US Government. This appears to be something else, and it requires complicated W-9 tax form wizardry just to attend.

This is the guy who will be running the show, Dr. Michael Easley.



Evangelicals don’t exactly have a good track record when trying to look hip to appeal to kids. Seriously, did any of you see that Fort Bragg area ‘Parkour For Jesus’ story I did?

For the record, I did try to call BGEA/The Cove. Their people were friendly, but could not answer my questions. Their hours of operation are apparently only during the military’s typical work schedule, so it’s exceptionally difficult to find out more information.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • movablebooklady

    I know the Cove has an Asheville address but it’s really out in the boonies east of town, not far from Swannanoa and Black Mountain, which are Billy Graham country. I wouldn’t want people to think my hometown fosters this stuff. We may be surrounded by “believers” but the city itself is quite liberal and funky.

  • Erp

    I think the taxable bit might be fairly standard. A lot of ‘free’ benefits are taxable as income unless they fall in certain non-taxed categories (it is why health insurance for employees, their children and their spouse [unless same sex] is federal tax free but health insurance for their spouse [same sex] is not, the former is exempt by law). It does make some sense otherwise companies might be inclined to pay some of their employees in part in kind (e.g., a free car to high level executives for the spouse to use or even a free house).

  • geocatherder

    An evangelical marriage seminar, free or just pseudo-free, is trouble. Evangelicals tend to have the same “women are subordinate to men by the will of god” bullshit beliefs as fundamentalists. Like that’s going to make for a healthy marriage — not.

    (Conflict of interest note: I have 31 years of marriage — to the same person — with spousal equality.)

  • Again, another evangelical event that seems to protest an ill that is supposedly rampant in society, but really seems to be isolated to their little corner of (irrational) land… Hence why as soon as I see a conservtheitard rail against homosexuality or pedophilia, my first thought is to label them as the thing they rail against….

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