Did you know that the United States Army is concerned with the spiritual well-being of their soldiers? Did you know that if you choose not to believe in the supernatural that the United States Army can consider you unfit to serve? Allow me to enlighten you about an issue that was brought to my attention by my friend, Sgt. Justin Griffith, Fort Bragg, NC. The US Army distributes a mandatory survey called an SFT, which stands for “Soldier Fitness Tracker”. The purpose of this survey is to measure an individual soldier’s competency in four areas, Emotional, Social, Family and Spiritual. Justin is an atheist, as well as a highly dedicated soldier, but according to the SFT, he is “unfit” to serve specifically because he is a non-believer.
Justin informs me that soldiers are directed to answer, on a scale of 1-5, some awkwardly structured questions, such as “My life will have a lasting meaning”, “I feel connected to a being that is greater than me”, “I’m a very spiritual person”. Etc. Justin was “Red Barred” in the Spiritual Competency area. According to the US Army:
– A red bar means that you face some significant challenges in this area. This means that you should focus most of your attention on this area, though you should also note that placing too much emphasis here could result in other dimensions dropping. The key is to properly balance where you need the most development with the areas you are already doing well in.
Here is a direct “Cut & Paste” from his survey results, under the “Spiritual Fitness” category:
Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you. You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles, and values. Nevertheless, who you are and what you do matter. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal. Change is possible, and the relevant self-development training modules will be helpful. If you need further help, please do not hesitate to seek out help from the people you care about and trust – strong people always do. Be patient in your development as it will take time to improve in this area. Still, persistence is key and you will improve here if you make this area a priority.
The arrogance continues… The survey further advises Sgt. Griffith that he may question his beliefs, principles and values and offered suggestions for things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in his life and advised him that improving his spiritual fitness should be an important goal. To add insult to injury, a phone number is offered to connect with a counselor who is ready to assist with a problem that requires immediate attention. To make matters worse, the survey asks for permission to use the data in an anonymously aggregated manner, meaning the results may be used by the U.S. Government and/or the public.
This is not even an insinuation. The US Army has taken the position that a soldier who does not feel connected to a deity is an incomplete person, and that a lack of belief will somehow compromise their principles and values. It’s right there, in black and white. That the US Army would take such a position is deplorable, and the fact that it is mandatory appears to be a direct violation of the First Amendment of the constitution that these very soldiers put themselves in harms way to protect. It is discriminatory in every way and undermines the confidence that every soldier should have that their Government is supportive of them, regardless of their belief or disbelief in a deity.
Justin is spot on when he stated that, “spirituality has nothing to do with being a soldier. That is a private matter for soldiers, and in no way should any command be evaluating how ‘fit’ a soldier is based upon his beliefs or lack thereof”
Well said, my friend, and perhaps an email is in order. Their point of contact is SFT Help Desk, which can be reached via email at email@example.com, or you can give them a jingle at (202)580-5212
Those of us who are soldiers, former soldier and old soldiers, we have the likes former Presidents such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and to a degree Taft, Lincoln and Washington. Obama has exhibited some promise in the area of recognizing us as complete citizens, but the “opposition” has the senior George Bush making statements like, “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God”, and junior George taking direction from his god whether or not to drop bombs. In fact, a February 1989 letter drafted by Bush’s White House counsel reads, “As you are aware, the President is a religious man who neither supports atheism nor believes that atheism should be unnecessarily encouraged or supported by the government.”
Now that our President and Commander-in-Chief has succeeded in repealing DADT, perhaps he should make it very clear to everyone that being an atheist should not have a detrimental effect our soldiers, as well. If you so choose, you can lodge your complaints to the boss here:
Click here to email the President
Sgt. Justin Griffith is the founder of Rock Beyond Belief, an ambitious project focused on organizing a free festival consisting of secular speakers and musicians. They have the backing of many major secular and military foundations, including the United Atheist Front. Currently they are focusing on a large-scale event that will be on the main post parade field on Fort Bragg.