Army Faces Queries on 'Spiritual Fitness' Test

By Banks, Adelle M. | The Christian Century, February 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Army Faces Queries on 'Spiritual Fitness' Test


Banks, Adelle M., The Christian Century


The army is facing questions over a "spiritual fitness" portion of a mandatory questionnaire, with some atheists calling it "invidious and not inclusive" of soldiers who are nonbelievers.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation learned in December that soldiers were being asked to respond to statements such as "I am a spiritual person" and "I believe there is a purpose for my life."

If soldiers received a low score on their spiritual fitness questions, they received an assessment that said "spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you.... Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal."

In a December 29 letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, the atheist foundation asked for an immediate end to the spiritual evaluation components of the Global Assessment Tool and related programs.

"It is ironic that while nonbelievers are fighting to protect the freedoms for all Americans, their freedoms are being trampled upon by this army practice," wrote Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

A lawyer for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which has combated aggressive proselytizing at the U.S.

Air Force Academy, also demanded that McHugh end the spiritual assessment, which the group called unconstitutional.

Lt. Col. David Patterson, a spokesman for the army, said officials respect soldiers' individual choices about religion. "Although spiritual fitness is offered to all soldiers, it is not meant by any means to influence, dissuade nor entice soldiers to believe in a deity, endorse religion, or in any way state that a soldier is unfit to serve if they lack spiritual fitness," he said. …

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