Spiritually Unfit Soldiers FORCED to see Chaplains, to get “born again”

Spiritually Unfit Soldiers FORCED to see Chaplains, to get “born again” January 18, 2011

I just received this chilling letter from a Soldier who recently took the mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker test, shared to me with permission, from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The name has been withheld out of fear, but I’m assured that this matter is being worked very hard.

[note: emphasis mine, and I broke it into paragraphs, as the email communication garbled the formatting.]

Before I tell you, Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF of my total outrage at the U.S. Army for grading me as a “Spiritual Fitness failure”, I will tell you a few things about myself. My name is (name withheld) and I am an enlisted soldier with the rank of (rank withheld) in the United States Army stationed at Ft. (military installation withheld). I am in my early-to-mid twenties. I have been deployed downrange into Iraq and Afghanistan 6 times. I will deploy again for my 7th time very soon; to Afghanistan and more combat. All of my deployments have been very heavy combat assignments. I have been wounded 4 times including traumatic brain injury. I have earned the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star and multiple Purple Hearts. I have fought in hand-to hand- combat and killed and wounded more than a few “enemy combatants.”

M[y] religion? I was born a Methodist and guess I still am one. I’m not very religious but consider myself to be a Christian. I don’t go to chapel services that often although I go every now and then. I can’t stand the chaplains as most of them are trying to always get me and my friends to “commit to Christ” and be far more religious as well as they try to get more and more soldiers to get more and more soldiers to be the same type of “committed Christian”. I cannot count the number of times that these chaplains and my own chain of command has described this war we fight as a religious one against the Muslims and their “false, evil and violent” religion. I am a Christian and therefore neither an agnostic nor an atheist though many of my fellow soldiers are such. Now to the point. I, and everyone else who is enlisted in my company, was ORDERED by my Battalion Commander to take the GAT’s Spiritual Fitness Test not very long ago. Let me make this CLEAR, we were all ORDERD to take it.

After we did, our unit’s First Sgt. individually asked us all how we did on the test. There was NO “anonymity” at all. None of us were ever told that we did NOT have to take this Spiritual Fitness Test nor that we did NOT have to tell our FIrst Sgt. what our results were. A bunch of us “failed” the SFT and when we told that to our First Sgt., per his disclosure order, he further ordered us to make immediate appointments with the chaplains so that we would not “kill ourselves on his watch”. None of us wanted to do it but we were scared. None of us wanted to get in the shits with our First Sgt. who can and will make life miserable for anyone who might have said no to him.

They keep saying that this is all to stop us soldiers from killing ourselves but THIS degrading SFT “failure” only makes it worse. Two of my battle buddies who I KNOW are thinking of ending it all were a million times worse off after failing this SFT and being called a “spiritual failure” and then ordered to go see the chaplains. I  felt like a total coward for not standing up to my First Sgt. but I did what he told me to do. I was scared to tell him no.

So I went to see the chaplain. When this chaplain told me that I failed the SFT because it was “Jesus’ way of personally knocking on my door as an invitation for me to come to Him as a born again ‘REAL’ Christian” so that I  could be saved and not burn forever in Hell for rejecting him, I thought of 3 things. First, I thought of the fact that I was already born a Christian and did not need to be born again. Second, I thought of my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) who took a bullet for me in his face during the Battle of (name of Iraqi battle withheld) and that he was the same kind of Christian as me and this chaplain is telling me that my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) is burning in hell for all time. Third, I thought how I wanted to blow that fucking chaplain’s head right off.

Thank you, Mr. Weinstein and MRFF for listening and standing up. A bunch of us saw you on MSNBC. We also read about the enlisted guy at Ft. Bragg. Please tell Sgt. Griffith at Fort Bragg that he speaks for many of us who can’t handle the consequences if we spoke out. We have all read the letter you sent to tell the Army to stop this Spiritual Fitness Test. It cheered us up alot because that making us take that test is WRONG and using it to send us to the chaplains against our will is also WRONG. Please tell your lawyers at that big law firm company not to forget about those of us who want to speak up and thank them all but cannot.   (Name, rank, combat MOS, military unit, military installation withheld)

Whoever this Soldier is, my heart and thoughts go out to him/her. I’m going to print out that letter and keep it in my ACU pocket as a reminder of the real suffering that is happening when the lines of the Separation of Church and State are blurred. The inspirational letter is bittersweet, it sheds light on the fact that there are real-life consequences from all over the globe, that are quite frightening. I’d love to encourage the author to join with us and let him/her know that there is real solidarity to be had with MRFF’s support. This soldier has my utmost gratitude for speaking out, even anonymously, and sharing his/her story.

If I could say just one thing to this soldier, it would be this: “Telling your story is a courageous thing to do. You are setting the example for others to follow, and together we can fix this problem. Spirituality is a private matter, and your story is a supreme example of why this is true. Thank you for sharing this, and please encourage all of the other soldiers who were also in your situation to come forward and share their experiences. MRFF will be there for you.”

I think it’s time to give up the (Holy) ghost. Spiritual Fitness = Religion. You can’t make this mandatory.

***Update 18 January 17:45 ***

As this post went viral, there were a lot of things brought up and irrational complaints being lodged. Let me nip some things in the bud right here.  First of all, as you might expect, MRFF is under constant attack from many evangelical extremists.

One of the standard tactics they employ is denialism. At the time  I first started this website, and this festival back in October, I realized that I couldn’t complain about things anonymously in good conscience. I wrote a short essay and thank you note to Mikey Weinstein that really caught the epitome I was having. It was titled ‘I refuse to be a part of the problem anyomore’ You can see there that my name/unit is redacted. Today is the first day that I put a name to that statement. MRFF protects people for a reason, and the soldier’s story in the post above should explain why. He is not a fictious character or a ghost-writer. Neither was I when I wrote the letter that I just linked to, though many people claimed otherwise on several websites.

A second ‘gotcha’ that skeptics (read: Religious fundamentalists) are spamming here is this: “He is too young to pull that many tours of duty.” Well, look it up folks. There are SEVERAL reasons why this could not only be true, but likely. A typical Special Forces deployment is 3-6 months. Additionally, many other units (like my own) have 4,6, and 8 month deployment cycles, despite  dwell time.

Judging by the awards and decorations, I have my suspicions which of the two is more likely, but it is ENTIRELY NORMAL to be on your 6th tour of duty as a person in their mid-20’s.

This is absolutely legitimate, and I bet you will see a lot more from other soldiers along these lines until the Spiritual Fitness concept is at minimum removed from anything mandatory, and hopefully scrapped altogether.  I’m not going to give crazy solipsism a dangerous ‘prove it’ soap-box here. Go somewhere else for that. These are my FELLOW SOLDIERS. That is all.

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  • Dan Rawlings

    This is freaking BS! Thank you so much for this, I also want to share my personal experience – there are more people on our side than anyone believes! Stand up for yourself, and you will be surprised at how many people have your back! I was totally blown away by the 100% support of two people at my work center.

    • Justin

      I really hope the author of that letter sees your comment. That’s been my experience as well as I show people this. Author: You are respected and supported! As are all of your fellow soldiers who suffered the same mistreatment. Everyone knows that you are all heroes, and this test is a slap in the face that you did not deserve. The apalling depths to which this test’s results were used in this situation are beyond me. I haven’t heard a single person try to justify the actions of your superiors. They all just look dumbfounded with jaws dropped.

  • Is there ANY way to anonymously expose this? I understand it’s not as simple “WHY AREN’T YOU A CHRISTIAN, SOLDIER?!?!?!?!” “Sir! Because I’m a grownup, sir!”, but isn’t there some way to do get around this? My friend was the only atheist in his unit, and there was one Jew. Since they would not listen to the sermons on Sunday, they were forced to sit and watch Fox News, which is another “news media outlet” who obviously does a lot of its own proselytizing. This is garbage. Seriously, what the hell do these idiots think? They should be arrested and tried for treason since they’re so blatantly violating and conspiring to violate the constitution and what it stands for.

  • First Last

    Denying the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin.

    Just thought you should know all the information to make the most informed decision.

    • Justin

      I deny the holy spirit. Thanks for informing me, but I’m not afraid of religious rules that don’t apply to me at all. Also, that is quite a non-sequiter you have there. Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to being part of the problem. Would you have said that to the author of the letter? Would you have said it to his face?

      • Zel

        Ditto. I also deny the holy $pirit. Actually, I deny all of the thousands of them…please let me know which one is yours, so I can list it here.

    • Albert911emt

      Your religion is your business, and what I believe is my business and no one else’s. Please keep your beliefs to yourself. Religious freedom is a two way street: you have the right to believe what you choose, and I have the right to NOT hear about what you believe.

      • You clearly don’t understand your rights. You have the right not to heed anything about what I believe, but you have no right to shut me up about it.

        Oh, and I also deny the holy spirit.

    • Kilroy

      First Last, you’re an idiot. You can’t even see the stupidity of your own statement. If denying the holy spirit is unforgivable as you say, then even if you repent you can’t be forgiven. That is directly contradictory to everything Christianity expounds.

      Perhaps you better spend a liilte less time listening to blow-hards who lie to you and more time thinking for yourself. If you then still believe in God and Jesus, that’s fine, but at least you won’t say stupid things in public and embarrass yourelf and your religion.

    • Anonymous Coward

      You know this makes you part of the problem, right?

      I have to ask, are you a serving soldier? If so, would you refuse to be helped by a fellow soldier if that person was an athiest? Or do you just abuse them because you can get away with it?

    • Telling me that failure to follow your religion is an unforgivable sin should be an unforgivable sin in and of itself.

      Do not proselytize to me; the best you could hope for is that I wind up in the same afterlife as you, and neither of us want that.

      • Allienne Goddard

        Awesome reply. I must steal the “neither of us want that” retort.

    • elizabeth


    • Noah Fect

      Which Holy Spirit? You deny countless thousands of them, yourself. What makes you so sure you picked the right one?

    • RicLee

      So one must be a christian to believe in the Creator? Please enlighten me.

    • beerslayer

      Please, folks, don’t feed the trolls. It only makes them hungrier.

      • Justin


    • Meh

      I proudly reject your holy spirit while humbly respecting your right to believe in whatever you like.

    • As a free thinker who utilizes reason and logic as well as love over fear, I deny your holy spirit with a great sense of pride.


    • Jason

      I deny the Holy Spirit, and oh look, no lightning bolts have struck me down.

    • LeighAna

      Wouldn’t want to upset your imaginary friend. Oh NO!!

    • Sean O’Doherty

      All Hail Cthulhu!

      …which spirit?

      • May He rule in R’lyeh forever. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!!!

  • notsomuch

    I would have to see concrete proof that this happend as explained. Otherwise, I am a little skeptical of these events.

    • Justin

      I’d recommend you contact MRFF. Though I can say from experience, before I felt the courage to stand up for myself publicly (pretty recent), I have written letters asking for support. My name rank unit etc was also redacted in a similar way.

      And then again, even after I started coming forward, I had to prove that I even exist to many people. I was literally on the front page of the local newspaper, name rank and even picture! And people still ‘have their doubts’ or cling on to their theory that I’m a ghostwriter of some sort.

      At a certain point, skepticism can border on Solipsism. Which is pretty much insanity.

      • Very well said. I have seen probably 100 of these letters over my years of contact with the MRFF, all carefully redacted. Even thought the ridiculous situations were similar, the actual anecdotes and writing styles were all over the map. I think it’s the fact that the situations are *so*outrageous that makes people question the integrity of the soldier writing the letters.

  • Brian

    Without a secular government, there is no religious freedom.

    • RicLee

      Well I for one don’t give two dits about freedom of religion. What I prefer is freedom FROM religion.

  • Dody

    Dear Soldier,
    I am hoping you can find the courage to tell your superiors to $%&* off. If not, find an attorney and sue for violating your rights. You are a defender of the Constitution, and sometimes that means from foreign entities, like you are doing now, and sometimes that means from domestic ones by going to court. I will keep you in my thoughts.

  • Deastrom

    That 1SG gave an unlawful order when he asked his soldiers to disclose their results. This is a result of poor leadership. A leader needs to be able to understand his soldiers and this can’t be done by forcing disclosure. A leader needs to let his soldiers come to him with their problems and trust that they will. When your soldiers no longer share their concerns with you, whether this is out of fear or out of belief that you won’t care, either way, you are no longer their leader.

  • BS

    Sigh.. sadly, religion won’t really fade out for another 50-100 years in the western world, and much.. much… much longer elsewhere.

    • JetClarke

      Well.. if Bachmann or her friends get their way, it might be a lot longer than that, sad to say.
      Mind you, I’m surprised how well the States did in not going full-Christian during Bush II’s reign, with him ‘talking to God’ as often as he claimed.

  • CraxyD

    I feel for this trooper. Obviously he didn’t realize that he and his entire Battalion were given an unlawful order. I have no idea how protesting such goes down as I never had to deal with anything like that while I was in nor do I know anyone who did. Kid needs to take this higher, like to the Brigade CSM or possibly I.G.

    Prepared and Loyal
    3/4 Cav 1993-1995
    2/77 Armor reflagged to 1-68 Armor 1995-1996

    • beerslayer

      It seems to me that he was well-aware of the illegality of his orders. He just didn’t know what recourse he had.

      That might be a common problem with any soldier in that situation, for that matter. Perhaps there ought to be some central source one can safely go to within the military when discrimination like this occurs.

  • Its great that you guys have helped a soldier to feel better after participating in this degrading practice of the “Spiritual Test” I hope it gets removed and those involved with its placement receive the appropriate reprimands for implementing it.

    I saw the story of what you’ve accomplished in one of my local newspapers (heavily skewed to the religious side) but showed the story in a good light. Unfortunately my father had to make an ass out of himself by saying that it was a wonderful thing to have in place…even after I pointed out that what this “test” is doing to soldiers.

  • Navin Johnson

    I was in the service back in the early 1980’s. NONE of this was an issue back then. I don’t think even once I was asked what religion I was. I was (am) an Atheist and I hardly spoke to anyone about it because I learned from expereince if you talk about Atheism around believers, many times they threaten to shut you up permanantly. I guess their own belief system was so flimsy, it can’t handle even listening to someone else talking to another simply about what they do and do not believe in.

    But, back to the point. This is absolutley wrong! No one should be asked to take a Spritual Fitness Test and if I had been told to take one I would have REFUSED! If that means getting in trouble, then so be it. All those people who feel this is WRONG should REFUSE to take it.
    Say “The Constitutuon allows me to freely believe, or disbelieve, as I choose and you have no right to decide what is right or wrong about my belief system”. Even if you ARE a Christian, if you value the Constitution and what it stands for, you should REFUSE to take this STUPID test.

  • frank

    My son joined the Army in the late ’90s. He said that he was basically ordered to attend services while in basic & AIT. But, of course, it was not “REQUIRED” it was just made clear there would be a price to pay for missing services on Sunday.

    He said the sermons all had a couple of common themes: The moral superiority of Christians was one but the big one they hit on regularly was that Bill and Hillary Clinton were the Anti-Christ set on destroying America. At first I thought he was kidding me but I have heard similar stories since then.

    There is something seriously screwed up in our armed forces. Demonizing the CinC and this “spiritual fitness” BS are ugly symptoms.

  • Mel

    I just wanted to express my support for the author of this letter and the soilders of all faiths and non-faiths on this issue. I’ve been following the SFT news closely and I’m so saddened by what is happening here. Military leaders have no right passing judgement on the level of belief a soilder has or does not have. I’m appalled that soilders are being punished for not participating in religously based events, or going along with it out of fear of punishment. It’s a sick abuse of power.

    I’m also disturbed by the description of the chaplains’ belief that we are in some sort of holy war against muslims. FUCK THAT. No soilder should ever be convinced that their intolerance of other faiths is justified by war. A free nation should NEVER engage in a religious war. I seriously hope this isn’t a widely held belief that is being preached by many of the chaplains.

  • I’m a retired Army Chaplain and combat veteran with 25 years of military service. I’ve never heard of any chaplains forcing their beliefs on others; in fact, we accept others regardless of their faith-background or lack of one. I can’t imagine any commander requiring a spiritual fitness test of any kind, especially when you consider the diversity even among chaplains (Christians of every kind, Muslims, Jewish and Buddhists). When you see a chaplain, you may get his/her point-of-view, but it is not forced on you. I question whether this kind of heavy-handed approach is even possible in today’s military.

    • Justin

      Sir, a heavy handed approach IS possible in today’s military. It shouldn’t be, so I understand your skepticism. But I’VE BEEN THROUGH IT. Please see my note in the edited post. That story about that Chaplain DID happen to me.

    • Reid

      Ok this guy must be someone from the military trying to make them look better than they really are. Are you kidding me a practicing Buddhist in the military. Do you know the number one thing he would be telling the soldiers. War and killing is wrong and not justifiable in anyway. Speak all you want about the diversity of the military’s religion, but all i hear is more christian lies.

      • Justin

        There most definitely are Buddhist chaplains. Not many of them, but they exist, Reid. You could argue that every religion is ‘peaceful’, and on the other hand, there are many examples of Buddhist sectarian violence.

        • beerslayer

          Justin – maybe you could apply to be the first (openly?) atheist chaplain in the Service! That would be a great way to test their commitment to diversity… 🙂

          • Justin

            Working on something like that. Not chaplain per se, but at least working on getting Atheists recognized like the Wiccans did 10 years ago. Trying to follow that model.

    • beerslayer

      Maybe this sort of stuff isn’t universal, but is only happening in some (most?) units with especially zealous commanders and/or chaplains. It would certainly take courage for a unit commander to refuse to play along with this “spiritual fitness” game, but it may not be completely impossible.

    • It’s not so much the chaplains doing it as the officers and those in command above the lower ranks.

      • Justin

        It can be both. In this case, it happened at all levels. In the case that I brought it up, it was specifically a single Chaplain that said I had demons inside me, etc.

    • Rod

      Chaplain Bob:

      I’m coming to this post late and doubt you’ll ever see this – but as an Army veteran of 28 years, active and reserve, and a military reporter for almost 30 years, I find your denial ridiculous on its face – unless you retired sometime in the early to mid-80s.

      (I’ll readily admit that the Mormon Chaplian and the Protestant Cahplin we had in a Ranger Battlion in the late 70s-early 80s never pulled any crap like this – but that was then. Read on.)

      Both as a reporter and as a Reservist, I was seeing the rise of fundamentalist evangelicals in both the Chaplain Corps and especially in the Officer Corps (all services) by the early 1990s. By the time Clinton was President, it was commonplace for field grade officers to make comments to me – AS A REPORTER, although prefaced as “off the record” – about how Clinton was not “Christian” and therefore should not be CinC.

      What they would say to me as an Infantry Platoon Sergeant was even less circumspect.

      With a Bible Thumping Editor, my attempt to do stories about the fundamentalist takeover of the military leadership in the 1990s was repeatedly rebuffed – but since then, I’ve seen nothing to indicate the evangelization of the force has done anything but increase.

      Where do you think today’s Flag Officers came from? The only thing unusual about Jerry Boykin was that he was caught espousing his religious bigotry.

      Take an honest look at the Chaplain Corps – overwhelmingly, Protestant Chaplains are evangelical and fundamentalist; Catholics cannot even fill their Chaplain slots and other religions get window dressing, at best.

      And the fact that the current enemy can (often legitimately) be demonized for his religious beliefs only feeds the problem.

      • Justin Griffith

        Extremely enlightening. Thank you Rod! Yes, quite an old post now, but I definitely appreciate your commentary. You might be shocked at many of the other things I’ve been bringing to light around here since.

        What you say about the 1990’s spike in evangelism is something that I hear repeatedly these days.

  • AC

    I can only imagine what type of punishment these lunatics would mete out for people that don’t believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and the easter bunny.

  • Married in Maryland

    Request a Chaplain from your denomination, he would probably be very interested in this. This sounds like heavy handed tactics against mainline protestant denominations.

  • Tristan

    I served 4 years in Army Military Intelligence in the ’80s and never saw any of this. I give $1K/year to MRFF, because this development is horrifying.

    In fact, in our M.I. unit, in Germany, we used to goof around with finding obscure religions and submitting requests to have our dogtags changed to reflect. I was a Druid for a year, a Jain for another year; my roommate was a Zoroastrian. No one said a word about this.

    That said, we had the benefit of being extremely highly trained language specialists, who could turn off our ears and f*** up a senior NCO or officer’s perceived performance. I feel for 11B dudes, who don’t have that luxury.

  • arthur young

    I have heard many things recently about soldiers actually being shuttled to mega-churches near their bases at the behest of their superiors. There was also the controversy about the Wiccan tomb stones that were finally approved after much arguing. I am not familiar with Military Culture, but it seems way out of line to grade anyone on their religious and spiritual fortitude. We are talking about men and women who need to work with each other irregardless of their differences with a common shared purpose, and this purpose is not training to be proselytizers !!!

  • Albert Trimble

    Maybe when someone is hauled into the Chaplain to be harangued, the soldier should say ‘Sir, I don’t believe that Christians should serve in the military, sir’. I believe the Bible instructs Christians to turn the other cheek and be pacifists, sir’.

    Turn it around on them.

    • Albert Trimble

      I would like to add that according to Christ, one cannot be ‘born again’ until one literally, physically dies:

      John 3:8 — “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

      Being ‘born of the spirit’ is the same as being ‘born again’ (see vs. 3).

      So if a chaplain claims to be ‘born again’, ask him to walk through the door without opening it.
      Christianity was never meant to be a world religion. The Military should be about defense, and not about spreading blasphemous evangelical christianity.

  • USAF ret

    This is total horsesh*t, everyone knows the only reason for the test is so the chain-of-command can CYA when a suicide occurs, so when they have to ‘answer to the man’, they can say ‘we did all we could’

  • Patrick Noone

    I was lucky. When I was in the Navy(1987-1991) I never had to put up with nonsense. This seems to be a big problem with the Army and Air Force. I hope that the MRFF can help put an end to this “test.”

  • chris young

    Once the so called “born again radical xtians” have successfully taken over the leadership positions in the military, you will see America morph into a theocracy like they have in Iran.

    This is a very real threat to our freedom as a nation. It is happening as we speak. Look at the problems they had at the air force academy several years ago with forced xtianity.

    All you need is a “born again radical xtian” president coupled with a radical xtian military and SHAZAM! Theocracy.

  • Azi

    Find an Officer with a passion for anti-offensive-chaplains in the military, and have them marshall in the IG on this. Apparently these outfits like to produce official-looking paraphernalia and documentation that always disappears afterwards. Collect and secure anything that says ‘God Warrior’ or expresses any notion that there is an authority higher than the US Constitution and Flag. These notions are straight-up treasonous and could see it’s producers hung out to dry, and the Inspector General takes this seriously.

    There are plenty of secular constitutionalist officer groups in the military. If you need sympathetic friends, find one.

    This shit can _not_ be allowed to happen, it is a straight up religiously indoctrinated virus rotting our Proud Constitutionalist military. Stand up and shout this treason down wherever it rears it’s head!

  • T Mikel

    This is utterly appalling and sends chills though me. To abuse soldiers in the fashion is simply inexcusable. Thank you for publishing this. Kudos to the soldier brave enough to write it. When will our military learn that this is not acceptable, is not the way to deal with trauma, and it not the way to fight the war?

  • Clem

    What, you people hate Jesus or something? Only gays, coloreds, and them crazy a-rabs hate Jesus, oh yea, and the JEWS.

    If you don’t love Jesus, then why are you American, why are you in God’s Army? First they say we cant preach the bible in schools. Then they say you got to let coloreds and gays in the schools. What’s next, muslims in schools? Or worse, in the ARMY?

    thems the enemy!

    This is what happens when you elect a arab president like Sadam hussein obama. I mean come on two of the guys names are Sadam Hussein! How did people not know?

    • Peter Sanders

      Ah the sweet smell of irony…

    • beerslayer

      Please, folks, don’t feed the trolls. It only makes them reproduce faster.

    • @Clem – nice troll work 😉

  • billy bob

    If they were REALLY Christians, they would put the teachings of Christ first and foremost. Then the Ten Commandments second. But there is this problem- Jesus is a liberal who teaches love and caring for the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the elderly, and the big Ten says “Do Not Kill”. oops.

    The proper response to any of these Baptists (and that is what they are- not Catholics, for sure) is this: “You claim to be a Christian, but do you put the teachings of Jesus first in your life? You cannot simply claim His name and refuse to do what He told you to do. So, rather than judging me, which Jesus told you not to do, I suggest you go read your Bible and memorize His words.”

    • Justin

      Interesting way to handle the situation, to be sure. I’d prefer just to not have ANY mandatory religion at all, not a pissing contest of who is more right about religion. But I like your suggestion, and I can see it working for some people in some situations for sure. Thanks for the comment.

    • Kel the Pagan

      As a pagan, I can definitely tell you nothing pisses off a righteous Christian more than a heathen like me that can quote scripture – especially when it comes to talking about following the teachings of Jesus (caring for the sick, poor, oppressed, etc.) and actually living up to the phrase “What would Jesus do?” I can read, and the JC talks more about doing things for the poor than smiting folks like me. 😉

  • I retired out of the US Navy in 74 and saw the serpent (religious right) beginning to raise it’s head and demand that the Christians have their way and their “Army of God”. I found a group of sailors on a tin can holding a religious get together in a classified electronics space. I immediately locked them in and notified the MAA that there was a breach in security and a overall debriefing must be held. I got my way, but was immediately put on a shit list that ended my career in the Navy. I knew that I had no where to go but to retire, had I fought retirement, I am sure that I would lost everything.

    There is NO way I would ever serve in todays American Military.. You have become your very worst enemy… Your people are ignorant, supersticious and cowardly. You are willing to give up your freedoms for security. I am so very glad that I immigrated to another country and became a national of that country. At least now I am with adults and sane people not the idiots I keep seeing on your boob tube today…

  • Richard

    The holy spirit can clean my dirty crack with his tongue. I faced this same bullshit while stationed at Ft. Hood. I told every chaplain that he could suck it. I got ostracized and and they tried to punish me. But all of that goes away when you discover what your rights are. They shut right up when you involve JAG and CID.

    • Reid

      Way to go brother. Stick it to the man. The man right above you not the other man who helped you out.

  • Scott

    I read the entire post, and a few responses.

    I have been deployed multiple times, seen war first hand, and dealt with chaplains and “combat-stress” oriented people after serious / fatal IED/IDF attacks.

    It was pretty annoying have to sit through briefs about the importance of “life and god”. I agree that things shouldn’t be mandatory. It’ just another pain in the ass hassle to login into AKO to take some “survey”.

    If it bothered you that much, and knew it was such a big deal for your higher command, why would you answer questions truthfully if you weren’t looking to get help? Bullshit through the answers take the 3 mins out of your day, quit bitching and go about your regular work day.

    • Justin

      Because it’s offensive to have to lie. It violates the constitution in multiple places. This is a no-brainer. They are also using the results of unsuspecting non-religious people to allocate money and resources for MORE spiritual fitness BS. If you don’t stand up for what is right, no one else will. This guy had no reason to expect he was going to be spiritually unfit, as he is a Christian. As an atheist, I did, yes, but the vast majority of the people involved in litigating are Christians who feel they aren’t ‘the right kind of Christian’ or ‘aren’t Christian enough’.

      This is a private matter and the existing army regulations forbid this. The constitution forbids this. What the shit are you talking about.

    • Kel the Pagan

      I know that the 7 values are mostly touchy-feel-good shit, so not to sound like some asshat fresh from Basic, the last time I checked, the Army still makes a big to-do about INTEGRITY and PERSONAL COURAGE.

      Justin chose not to lie about his personal beliefs, and then took a step to start the fight that others would not have to be subjected to the test. And for that, I applaud the hell out of him.

      If you choose to lie to make it easier, what kind of integrity do you have? If you don’t stand up to what’s wrong – even if it’s not popular and one hell of a fight, where the hell is your courage? And most importantly, if you can’t treat others as you wish to be treated – especially with their choices in religion or lack thereof – where the fuck is your respect?

  • sparkey

    The Vatican knew about the child molestations by priests and sent a letter telling the various churches to say NOTHING about it.The former pope knew about it and the current pope wants him to be a saint? So, which one is spiritually unfit, the pope or the soldier?

    • dooflotchie

      Excellent question. I’d be very interested to hear the answer given by the people written about in this article.

  • Soldier Girl

    USAF ret, you are right. It is CYA. There is a lot of that going on. The rate of suicide among OIF/OEF veterans is horrific. The Army doesn’t know how to fix it. Grieving families want answers. The press and politicians are screaming for a solution.

    Instead of taking a thoughtful look at the problem, the knee-jerk reaction kicks in. The ignorance (s**t) rolls downhill to the commanders and the 1SGs. There is no solution that the Army can implement. The behemoth is too diverse, overtaxed, and slow moving for a single solution.

    Most NCOs try to take care of their guys (both men and women). The troops try to take care of each other. But when you have to embrace the suck every day, keeping your spiritual center on track is difficult, even for the most devout. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy to mistake possibly suicidal depression in your buddy for the ever present exhaustion. Everyone just wants to take a shower and get some sleep.

    I was ordered to take the spiritual ‘fitness’ test. I failed miserably, and thought it ridiculous. Fortunately, my chain of command didn’t ask for my results. They did, however, emphasize the options available to us if we thought we might need help. Every one of my soldiers had a list of names and locations of sources OUTSIDE the chain of command that might help them.

    I would never send one of my guys to the unit chaplain. All but one of all the chaplains I have encountered in my career were only looking to convert everyone to their way of thinking. I sent my guys to the social workers, the Brain Rangers, as they called themselves. Either that, or I’d send them to a doctor, PA or nurse that I trusted. There were even a few medics that I knew who could help. I also gave every one of them the option of going to the larger base nearby to see a clinical psychologist.

    Any chaplain that doesn’t administer counseling to everyone regardless of their faith, needs to be put out of the service. It is very sad, and quite frankly, frightening that some in the Army actually think of OIF/OEF as a ‘holy war,’ and that there are so many that are so very intolerant. It stoops us down to the level of the misguided a**holes that bomb civilians in the name of their faith.

  • This mess we are in is a holy war for both sides. Watch Religulas. The last few minutes will blow your mind.

  • Iron Mike

    when i was in basic training in 93, they forced everyone to go to church on the first sunday. after that, they gave us a choice. 2 out of the 50 recruits in my platoon (i was one of the 2) refused to go to church services after that, even though you were allowed to sleep in church and you had a couple hours of personal time after the service. we chose the other option, which was shoveling sand into sand bags for 3 or 4 hours. we did it with smiles on our faces, and each week the drill instructors asked us again if we wanted to go to church, and we said NO SERGEANT and got to spend another sunday morning shoveling sand, again with smiles.

    • Justin

      This was still happening in 2007.

  • Steve

    Thanks for writing this blog. As a former soldier and West Point grad with a few deployments to Iraq I also find it ridiculous that soldiers would be coerced into being religious by their senior leadership. As for the soldier’s story on this blog, I am wodering where the rest of his chain of command is in this scenario. Platoon leader? Squad leader? PSG? Is there anyone willing to stick up for this soldier? Even the CO–most units I was in had an open-door policy if soldiers had a real complaint. I understand not wanting to be labeled a troublemaker, but no one should have to suffer in silence.

  • Jonas

    Speaking as someone who has a Nephew in the Army, I am against this test. I don’t know if he has taken this test, or how he faired on it. — I know he is Christian, at least by upbringing.

    But as with the soldier’s colleague, not the right kind of Christian maybe.
    Seriously from what I’ve seen of the test, I wouldn’t know how to answer it, and would no doubt fail miserably. — However much I was Patriotic, and Courageous, and wanting to serve and defend my country. —

  • The Oracle

    I’m a Vietnam era veteran, USAFSS. I never knew the religious affiliation of anyone, nor was I interested in asking or being asked. What people did during their off-duty hours was their business. If they wanted to go to church, fine. If not, fine. While on-duty, we had a mission, er, um, something about an oath we swore to, something about the U.S. Constitution, which has something in it about “NO religious test” ever being required.

    But what makes this Spiritual Fitness Test (which should be renamed Religious Purity Test) especially evil, and unconstitutional, is that it has no doubt been used during assignment or promotion considerations. Therefore, this Religious Purity Test is an abomination, and the people behind this Religious Purity Test should be dishonorably discharged, drummed from the service, because as someone once said about having “two masters,” I don’t believe our loyal, patriotic service personnel should be forced into deciding between the U.S. Constitution and some damnable Religious Purity Test. Oh, BTW, I consider myself a Christian, but I am definitely not a religious zealot or religious fundamentalist. Forcing someone in our military to take this Religious Purity Test sounds more like religious rape than anything Jesus Christ taught or demonstrated.

  • CraxyD

    Hey Maheanuu, don’t punk on the superstitions.
    There are certain things you simply do not do… #1 is no frakkin’ ^pr|c0tz on the tank. EVER! Yer vehicle will be deadlined so fast your head will spin.


  • Reid

    Seriously this country is going to shit in golden hand basket. Corruption all over our political system. Civil liberties being denied to people all over the spectrum. A completely avoidable depression. Corporations are being trusted and treated like humans even though their designed to be like psychopaths.


  • Dinkydau

    I had “no preference” on my dog tags when I was in Viet Nam (68)(USMC) and I was told that it was unacceptable and that I had to have a religion because it would look bad if I was KIA. I had Buddhist put on my dog tags which really pi$$ed them off and I caught every patrol and $hit detail there was. It was very odd that everyone could gather together for services but if more than two got together you were chastised with the old “one round will get you all”. Listen to the song
    “Sky Pilot” by the Animals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3OTY4dMVBM
    That’s what we called the Chaplains.
    Stay safe and thank you

  • Frosty

    While I am not a member of the military, as a strict pacifist, this has almost made me want to hurt someone. Preferably one of those ordering this bullshit.

  • Sarge


    That is just crazy, I retired in 2008 22yrs in the Army. 10 Deployments over the course, I have never heard of this, but I have no doubt that your telling the truth. Your 1SG was a coward pure and simple. I read all the comments, some I feel are just ignorant and then some are valid, none the less that is just my opinion. If you Love Jesus, believe in Jesus or Hate Jesus that is your business and your business alone. I too have seen some shit and been in more than my share of unwanted exp.. I know that I shouldn’t be here today, but I am and I can’t explain it, but it did happen and I was saved for a reason. Not for me to push on you, if you ask I tell you if you don’t want to hear it, then I respect your position.. As a Christian, I would stand by you in your fight against this, because #1 Christianity is a relationship with Christ not a Religion. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck and will now be following this as well, I live close to FT. Hood and still have friends there, I am going to find out if this is really going on there and then try to help with it. The entire time I was in, I hated people trying to push that on me, my tags said Non – Denomintation, but your still not going to tell me what I am going to believe in or who. One day, when I had enough, I asked him to forgive me, and my life changed.. but it wasn’t because someone forced me to do it, you have to want to..Good Luck Brother….

  • OneTrueMike

    When I was in the army about 6 years ago, my first sgt and I got in to it once because I refused to acknowledge Jesus as my lord and savior. I was actually in trouble for this until I got the base legal department involved and then of course it was all “just a misunderstanding” and he didn’t get in trouble.

  • Toni

    They Army couldn’t care less if you are a “real Christian.” They want to be able to control you, which is the primary use of religion…to build fear of the “everlasting.” It keeps everyone docile and controllable. Thinking for yourself threatens their command. It’s the same outside of the military as well. It’s been used by leaders for ages to consolidate their power.

  • Josiah

    Hi, I am a Chaplain’s Assistant in the U.S. Army. I do admonish that it is possible that the aforementioned soldier could have had a terrible Chaplain that tried to proselatyze this soldier. However, I have taken the spiritual fitness test myself and it in no way is out there to tell you that you need “religion”.

    The point of the spiritual fitness test is that you are in “good spirits.” In other words, it is a total comprehensive assessment to see if you are: suffering from depression, are having adequate time to practice your religion if you have one, or if you don’t that you are having adequate rest time. It asks questions about your time with family, friends, counseling, etc… It was never made to convert people to Christianity! The military has a strict policy on religion neutrality. As a Christian in the military I’m very constricted on what I can or can’t say to soldiers. Proselatyzing is actually breaking Army law under AR 165-1 (rules of the chaplaincy).

    I feel for this soldier who was humiliated by his First Sergeant and his Chaplain. However, this is a case study and is not the tempo of the entire U.S. military. Make sure you have all the facts before you start making slanderous comments about a spiritual fitness test that most of you have never taken.


    • Justin

      I’d appreciate it if you look at the last few posts on the page, and notice that these people quite well informed. The SPECIFICALLY Religious nature of the GAT questions is obvious due to the screen captures on site. As well as screen captures from the test results which are insulting as hell. Keep in mind that spirituality and religion have nothing to do with how fit a soldier is. I’m a foxhole atheist, and I’m not unfit in any way. It’s insulting to suggest otherwise, and the fact that they even ask about it is unconstitutional.

      I’m glad to see that you admonish the proselytizing that some are guilty of, and you quote the regulations accurately. However, you are WAY OFF if you think this ‘Spiritual Fitness’ assessment is about being in ‘good spirits’. What the hell does being in a good mood have to do with “I attended religious services in the last 4 weeks” “In difficult times I pray or meditate” “I am a spiritual person” “I often find comfort in my religion or spiritual beliefs”?

    • Mel

      I think there’s this “no big deal” attitude among believers about the SFT and that’s the problem. A christian or religous person would see these questions differently than an atheist/agnostic in a lot of cases. I can see a believer getting a low score on this portion of the FT and interpreting that as a need to get back to church or god or whatever one would do if they felt they were slipping in their faith. To a non-believer it is insulting to suggest that they need an element of “spirituality” to be a well rounded soilder or person.

      Perhaps it is just a test to measure the morale of the troops. However, generalizing something as complex and multi-faceted as spirituality completely backfired here. People are pissed and they have a right to be. No matter how good the intentions are, the point remains that this is unconstitutional and needs to stop.

  • Me

    It’s call lie on the stupid test. Just like all the another BS tests they want you to take. I don’t know how many tests I have lied on because I didn’t want to subject myself to the chain of command and the crap that comes with it. I know I would have failed the test so what. I am the same combat soldier I have always been for the passed 14 yrs. If I see a problem with my soldiers or I then we take it up but if not leave my troops and I alone. Thanks

    • Justin

      there is nothing wrong with telling the truth about not being spiritual / religious. We swear an oath to uphold the constitution, and this test is a violation. It is literally our job to stand up for the constitution.

  • J. Max Stroud Jr.

    Among their many duties, Chaplains are supposed to be a hub for resources and counseling. Confidentiality is almost always assumed and is granted when asked. Soldiers with any kind of problem should be able to go to their Chaplain for private counseling on resources available and options open to them. Religion will be totally left out if the SM so requests.
    I’m currently an officer in the National Guard. I’ve been Enlisted, an NCO, Active Duty and National Guard. I have always been Combat Arms. I’ve been deployed AD and T-10. I’ve been fortunate b/c I’ve always had Chaplains that were good counselors as well as Chaplains. I’ve interacted with more than 12 of them. The reason I’ve had to refer SMs to see the Chaplain was most often to get “Hooked-up” with the right resources for his problem and even her problem when support units were attached. The Chaplain Corps receives LOTS of training for counseling and helping SMs connect with appropriate resources. I have occasionally been the intermediary b/c of Op Tempo or privacy concerns.
    I can see where there is opportunity for an overzealous UMT to really screw things up. By all means speak up! If you feel you’re being “Preached to,” you have every right and obligation to say so. If you feel it makes things worse for you, run that up your COC too! It WILL stop or you SHOULD put in a call to the IG, but use COC first! The IG will ask you if you’ve used COC.
    The SFT IMHO is just one of the Army’s tools. No tool is right for every job. I must disagree with the idea that spirituality and religion have nothing to do with SM fitness. At the very least they are indicators of coping skills. Yes, there is a CYA element to everything, so the Army seeks to improve the coping skills the SM has. A lack of spirituality or religion is not and should not be seen as automatically “Unfit.” I’ll concede that it may sometimes be seen as such. Perhaps, an “NA” option should be added to the SFT questions that ask if you’ve attended services or it should ask if you’ve been afforded the opportunity.
    As a disclaimer, I’m a practicing Methodist, brought up FW Baptist. Yes I attended Episcopal services during AIT and Basic at Ft. Sill – they had the best lunch! I do have good friends in service that are Atheist as well as Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist. There’s probably more, but we don’t go around pushing our beliefs on each other. It comes up, especially down range, but tolerance and courtesy are emphasized. Religious hate is wrong and equally so, hate of religion is wrong.
    I’m in NC and willing to help Service Members who feel singled out, etc. if asked. It can be anonymous.

    • beerslayer

      I doubt that the majority of the posters here “hate” religion. We just don’t want any part of it.

      I don’t hate poisonous snakes. But I don’t invite them into my house either.

  • The Kid

    I’m Christian, and I disapprove of this message.

    Total BS.

  • Noel Hedrick

    Religion is toxic. Plain and simple it is TOXIC.

  • Josh Oakley

    I gotta call a little bit of BS on this article. I’m a Chaplain assistant in the Army. I also had to take the GAT test upon redeployment. Oddly, I passed the spiritual fitness test, and I’m agnostic.

    Now as far as the original poster’s situation, he should take it up his chain of comand, not post online like this is some national event. It’s an isolated event by a 1SG and a chaplain that need a little talking to by those above them.

    This passive-agressive crap should be below you, dude.

    • Justin

      IG is almost certainly alerted. And it IS a national event. The test itself is bad enough, despite your opinion, it is unconstitutional to have a religious test. The COC definitely need more than a little talking to, and I can’t imagine they go unpunished. The spiritual fitness concept is empty vacuous crap that sets up incidents just like this to happen. If you want to defend spiritual fitness as a concept that somehow doesn’t mean ‘religion’ read the newest post, or a unit’s Spiritual Fitness Guide that is also found on this site.

      The letter was written to the MRFF asking for help, not for a national audience. MRFF is careful to redact and obscure details of the letters they get permission to send out. MRFF is raising awareness and litigating to ensure equality for all soldiers (they are NOT an atheist organization) and to make sure that the separation of church and state is enforced. This story isn’t passive agressive crap. It’s indicitive of a serious problem of evangelism sneaking in through the ‘Spiritual Fitness’ back door. In my opinion, it would do the chaplaincy good to re-evaluate their positions on the mandatory nature of the GAT and the implications (constitutional, ethical, moral) it raises.

    • beerslayer

      Just out of curiosity, how did you get to be a chaplain’s assistant if you’re agnostic? For that matter, why would you want to be? What do you, personally, get out of such a position? (I’m not judging, just curious.)

  • TK

    Did a total of 9 years active Navy, 11 reserves, retired E-6 from the Navy Reserves. I retired back in 2005 so this is all postdating my own service.

    However on my first ship on one deployment, ’83 time frame, there was a chaplain deployed for a good month. Each night a few minutes before taps was a prayer read over the 1MC (Ship wide speaker system). After a few days I wrote a letter to the CO stating my position as an agnostic (called myself an athiest since it got to be a pain explaining the difference) about how I understood others would like that broadcast but that I did not.

    The XO of the ship did call me to his cabin, listened to my side, stated it was for the others essentially. Which then and now was more than satisfactory. My position was made clear, nothing changed, but I had spoken my mind. No repercussions either for me.

    I find more issue with fundamentalists here in Central Fl in the civilian workplace over when I was in the military. But again I retired 5 years ago.

    I do object to what scant data I have found so far on this Spiritual Fitness Test. It does sound like one more way to force beliefs on others.
    Note: Currently self-defined as a Pagan, raised Roman Catholic, and at one civilian employer I had a co-worker once ask me how I could be a good person and not be a Christian. I made no real statement to that. Then again there were 3 lay ministers in the small company, and the most money hungry bunch I have found to date :).

    Support for the poor soldier involved in this. Utterly unfair, but I see why he did what he was told. The prudent thing to do at the time.
    Former OS1/USNR Retired

  • Carla

    This is absolutely horrifying. I had heard of people being discriminated against for being atheist (http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/16/where-did-god-go-in-afghanistan-an-atheist-writes/), but this just takes the cake, especially the fact that these numbskulls think religion is what’s going to stop people from killing themselves. For a lot of people, religion is the very reason they take their lives.

  • Jeff

    I knew it was going on, I didn’t know how bad it was; kudos to MASH for having the balls to expose this bs

  • Marty Erwin

    The infiltration of senior military positions by evangelical christians is a disturbing reality to me. The previous dominant theology among military leadership was Episcopalian and highly tolerant of diversity. The sad instances of leadership using their authority in attempts to forcibly acquire converts to their narrow religious perspective along with their depiction of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan as a religious crusade are just dead wrong despicable actions. Violating the few freedoms available to our volunteer soldiers, sailors, and airmen is an action I consider felonious in the extreme. Only by publicly disclosing these events can the rights of these marvelous volunteers be appropriately honored and upheld!!!

  • jeff

    Isiaih 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can’t hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can’t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. Jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time Mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man. 1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

    • Justin Griffith

      Thanks for the extra crazy drive-by comment.

      Are you aware that you type in an extremely goofy manner? Your weird shorthand, odd spelling mistakes [Psalms, not Spalms], are all forgivable on the internet. But that ‘is it random or not’ pattern of pressing the CAPSLOCK button on your keyboard needs to be stopped. All of this is easily verifiable.

  • Eric Paulsen

    Patrick Noone – …When I was in the Navy(1987-1991) I never had to put up with nonsense.

    You are very lucky then. I was in the Navy from 1988 to 1992 and from boot through “A” school in Great Lakes, IL I may as well have been in a bible camp. Things got better when I got to my first duty station but I will never forget being openly mocked by the Chief teaching us, of all things, religious tolerance and diversity (as it applied to our medical treatment of others) on the day I was pulled from the class to be told my grandfather had died – because as an atheist I shouldn’t care. You see earlier in the day she was asking for a show of hands to see how many Christians, Jews, etc. there were in class and I never hesitated to identify. I am pretty sure there were repercussions for her though since I was told that she had not been back to teach a class during the time I was allowed to go home on bereavement leave, but it was an ugly display of religious bigotry and shocking to many of my classmates, even I was somewhat surprised at the venom she spat.

    But now I know that this was/is not uncommon in the military, that I was/am not alone. It saddens me that those who most often hide behind cries of intolerance have decided to infect the school systems, the military, the government, and the police forces so they can use that power to oppress those they disagree with, quash opposing views, legislate bigotry, and push scientific illiteracy on the future leaders of our country. The MRFF and Mr. Weinstein is exactly the treatment the military needs right now, I hope it has come in time for the patient to recover.

  • Kevin Barthelemy

    I was in the Navy from ’85 to ’94. My dogtag said Atheist, since I am an atheist. Fortunately for me, I rarely had any problems with xians bothering me about it. I was open about being an atheist, and was aware of my rights. When we were expected to bow our heads to pray, I kept my head up proudly, and impatiently waited for it to be over. The only times I had problems, were when I was going ashore in civvies (the POOW demanded that I remove my Grateful Dead button, insisting that it had a pentagram on it – it didn’t – but I removed it until I was on the gangplank, because I didn’t want to spend time dealing with him), and while stationed at Great Lakes, one of our civilian workers kept bothering me about “getting saved”. I was the first atheist she’d met, that she knew was atheist.

    I’m not in the least surprised to see this crap going on. Too many xians have been fed the lie that atheists can’t be good people, and that we’re unpatriotic.

  • Liessi from BC

    Here’s a spiritual test for us all: is there a single god out there who is willing to serve us so that we might all be free to experience love and peace for one another? Nope. But if there’s any part of you that is willing to overlook that annoying detail and seek peace, truth and justice anyway, then you don’t need the military, your government, a merchant of religion or any other body of organized idolatry to tell you that you have goodness in your heart. Feel good, be happy, spread it around.

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