Jason C. writes:
I was in AIT at Fort Eustis,VA in 2003 and the drill sergeants tried to force everyone to go to a Christian evangelical rock concert . After I spoke up to our platoon leader he brought up to the drill sergeant that some people were not Christian. Everyone was forced to toe the line to pull out our dog tags and show our religious affiliation we had on the tags.
Even when I had No Religious Preference on my tags I was questioned and required to tell him I was an atheist . I really didn’t care since I wasn’t ashamed. But even some Christians who had No Religious Preference on their tags were forced to go to the religious event even though they didn’t want to.
The soldiers who were not Christians were forced to buff the floors and clean the barracks. Once all of the soldiers returned from the concert they were not required to help buff the floors.. After that, a lot of Christian soldiers went to the Post Exchange and ordered new dog tags with no religious preference inscribed to avoid future compulsory religion services.
Usually whenever there was a Christian evangelical function, the drill sergeants would ask for volunteers. Out of the 400 or so soldiers, about 60-80 would volunteer and many of them said they only volunteered because they knew they would be forced to go when the drill sergeants saw that so few volunteered to attend.
Last I heard the same unit got a lawsuit filed against them.
Yes, Jason, you are absolutely right. And the mainstream media barely touched it. Here is an excellent bit of coverage from RTTV
The problem is, RTTV is a Russian television station. Though there are English language start-ups in specialty markets, this is not the kind of exposure necessary to fight a thoroughly broken system. This is completely fucked.
From what I remember, the case took years to process and they finally ended up giving a single E-7 a slap on the wrist. No punishment for the officers that orchestrated this, and perpetuated this for at least five years, now. Yours is by far the earliest report I’ve heard of so far. I think this even predates Mikey Weinstein’s formation of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (the lawyer you see in the video above).
Just so you know, the upcoming Rock Beyond Belief festival is in direct response to yet another Spiritual Fitness concert. Luckily the officials at Fort Bragg did not make it compulsory, which I suspect may be largely because this is not an AIT/Boot camp setting.
Aside from forced attendance, the biggest problem is that these on-post concerts are specifically aimed at converting soldiers (and their children) to evangelical Christianity – a goal not mirrored by our festival. We think people are fine just the way they are. Anyone can come enjoy a full day of music and speakers (including Richard Dawkins) on 31 March 2012. Even if you respectfully disagree with everything you hear, you might enjoy the opportunity to meet these ‘famous atheists’ and perhaps get in a question or two.
Spiritual Fitness as a concept is a non-starter, and has no place in the Government. Now that they’ve started mandatory suicide prevention Spiritual Fitness testing, and mandatory remedial spiritual training… we need help. This stuff is out of control.