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Army forced at least 800K soldiers to take a spirituality test; you fail, you need 'counseling'

And the Pentagon was worried about teh homosexuals? How about separation of church and state? If you fail the Army’s “spiritual fitness” exam, you are required to get “counseling.” (TruthOut):

An experimental, Army mental-health, fitness initiative designed by the same psychologist whose work heavily influenced the psychological aspects of the Bush administration’s torture program is under fire by civil rights groups and hundreds of active-duty soldiers. They say it unconstitutionally requires enlistees to believe in God or a “higher power” in order to be deemed “spiritually fit” to serve in the Army.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) is a $125 million “holistic fitness program” unveiled in late 2009 and aimed at reducing the number of suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases, which have reached epidemic proportions over the past year due to multiple deployments to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the substandard care soldiers have received when they return from combat. The Army states that it can accomplish its goal by teaching its service members how to be psychologically resilient and resist “catastrophizing” traumatic events. Defense Department documents obtained by Truthout state CSF is Army Chief of Staff George Casey’s “third highest priority.”

CSF is comprised of the Soldier Fitness Tracker and Global Assessment Tool, which measures soldiers’ “resilience” in five core areas: emotional, physical, family, social and spiritual. Soldiers fill out an online survey made up of more than 100 questions, and if the results fall into a red area, they are required to participate in remedial courses in a classroom or online setting to strengthen their resilience in the disciplines in which they received low scores. The test is administered every two years. More than 800,000 Army soldiers have taken it thus far.

But for the thousands of “Foxhole Atheists” like 27-year-old Sgt. Justin Griffith, the spiritual component of the test contains questions written predominantly for soldiers who believe in God or another deity, meaning nonbelievers are guaranteed to score poorly and will be forced to participate in exercises that use religious imagery to “train” soldiers up to a satisfactory level of spirituality.

And there was no option to skip the questions related to spirituality which included statements to respond to like “I am a spiritual person, my life has lasting meaning, I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.” And what is noteworthy is that soldiers were not told that the “spiritual remedial training” for those who failed was voluntary. Therefore, service members were given the impression that to avoid the training would reflect poorly in the eyes of senior officers.

How in the world is one’s personal spirituality (or lack thereof) relevant to serving in our armed forces? Read the rest of Jason Leopold’s investigative report. Keith Olbermann featured this story on Countdown.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding