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GI Jesus: Army 'Spiritual Fitness' Campaign Prompts Complaints, FFRF Asks the Army to Stop

Army spiritual fitness toolLast summer, the U.S. Army released an ad promoting its "Spiritual Fitness" campaign which allegedly did not endorse any particular religion.  According to the United States Forces Iraq's description of the campaign, "the program stresses the importance of inner peace and personal faith while enduring difficult situations."

Is 'Spiritual Fitness' a Way to Promote Evangelical Christianity?

Russia Today reports that US Army posts in Virginia have been putting on a series of so-called "Spiritual Fitness Concerts." But "spiritual fitness" is merely the military's new term for promoting evangelical Christianity, soldiers say. While attendance is not mandatory, those who opt-out are usually punished.

The incidents have offended Christians and non-Christians alike, according to complaints filed with the Army.  Mikey Winstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation characterized the events with "spiritual rape."

Freedom From Religion Foundation Demands that the Army Stop its 'Spiritual Fitness' Surveys.

As part of the "Spiritual Fitness" campaign, the Army is requiring service members to fill out a survey in which they are to rank their feelings about the following statements:

  • “I am a spiritual person.”
  • “My life has lasting meaning.”
  • “I believe there is a purpose for my life.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a state/church watchdog with 16,000 members who include, in part, active and retired Army members,  reports that Army members who do not satisfactorily answer the "Spiritual Fitness" survey are referred to a training program in which they are told that “Prayer is for all individuals.” They are encouraged to use “spiritual support as your armor or battle gear” and seek out chaplain guidance, and to consider “church” and “higher power.”

“We are shocked that the training module resurrects a bogus Christian revisionist explanation for ceremonial flag folding, one which has been explicitly repudiated by the Department of Veteran Affairs,” said FFRF's co-president Dan Barker.

“It is ironic that while nonbelievers are fighting to protect freedoms for all Americans, their freedoms are being trampled upon by this Army practice," FFRF adds, noting that "surveys have shown that nearly 24% of all military personnel identify as atheist, agnostic or have no religious preference."

In a letter sent to John McHugh, Secretary of the Army asking that the campaign be stopped, Barker and FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor called the negative assessment for nonspiritual soldiers “deeply offensive and inappropriate.” "By definition, nontheists do not believe in deities, spirits, or the supernatural. The Army may not send the morale-deflating message to nonbelievers that they are lesser soldiers, much less imply they are somehow incomplete, purposeless or empty. As nontheists, we reject the idea that there is a purpose for life; we believe individuals make their own purpose in life.”

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