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U.S. Soldiers Punished for Not Attending Christian Concert

Military Rocks for Christ

From Chris Rodda at Talk TwoAction.org

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking “an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.”

Any doubt that this was an evangelical Christian event was cleared up by the Army post’s newspaper, the Fort Eustis Wheel, which ran an article after the concert that began:

“Following the Apostle Paul’s message to the Ephesians in the Bible, Christian rock music’s edgy, all-girl band BarlowGirl brought the armor of God to the warriors and families of Fort Eustis during another installment of the Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series May 13 at Jacobs Theater.”

The father of the three Barlow sisters who make up the band was also quoted in the article, saying, “We really believe that to be a Christian in today’s world, you have to be a warrior, and we feel very blessed and privileged that God has given us the tool to deliver His message and arm His army.”

A few days later, some of the soldiers punished for choosing not to attend this concert contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The following is from the account sent by one of those soldiers to MRFF, detailing what transpired that night.

“The week prior to the event the [unit name and NCO's name withheld] informed us of a Christian rock event that was about to take place on Thursday the 13th.

“On Thursday 13th at 1730 we were informed that instead of being dismissed for the day, the entire company (about 250 soldiers) would march as a whole to the event. Not only that, but to make sure that everyone is present we were prohibited from going back to the barracks (to eliminate the off chance that some might ‘hide’ in their rooms and not come back down).

“We were marched as a whole to chow and were instructed to reform outside the dining facility. A number of soldiers were disappointed and restless. Several of us were of different faith or belief. A couple were particularly offended (being of Muslim faith) and started considering to disobey the order.

“From the dining facility we were marched back to the company area. There was a rumor circulating that we may be given a choice later on to fall out or attend. Though it was only a rumor it was also a small hope enough to allow us to follow along a little longer before choosing to become disobedient. We were marched back to the company area. To our dismay there was still no sign of as having a choice.

“We started marching to the theater. At that point two Muslim soldiers fell out of formation on their own. Student leadership tried to convince them to fall back in and that a choice will be presented to us once we reach the theater.

“At the theater we were instructed to split in two groups; those that want to attend versus those that don’t. At that point what crossed my mind is the fact that being given an option so late in the game implies that the leadership is attempting to make a point about its intention. The ‘body language’ was suggesting that ‘we marched you here as a group to give you a clue that we really want you to attend (we tilt the table and expect you to roll in our direction), now we give you the choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us.’ A number of soldiers seemed to notice these clues and sullenly volunteered for the concert in fear of possible consequences.

“Those of us that chose not to attend (about 80, or a little less that half) were marched back to the company area. At that point the NCO issued us a punishment. We were to be on lock-down in the company (not released from duty), could not go anywhere on post (no PX, no library, etc). We were to go to strictly to the barracks and contact maintenance. If we were caught sitting in our rooms, in our beds, or having/handling electronics (cell phones, laptops, games) and doing anything other than maintenance, we would further have our weekend passes revoked and continue barracks maintenance for the entirety of the weekend. At that point the implied message was clear in my mind ‘we gave you a choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us. Since you chose to disappoint us you will now have your freedoms suspended and contact chores while the rest of your buddies are enjoying a concert.’

“At that evening, nine of us chose to pursue an EO complaint. I was surprised to find out that a couple of the most offended soldiers were actually Christian themselves (Catholic). One of them was grown as a child in Cuba and this incident enraged him particularly as it brought memories of oppression.”

The account of another soldier who did not attend the concert, which relates the same sequence of events and punishment that occurred, also adds that some of the soldiers who did decide to attend only did so due to pressure from their superiors and fear of repercussions.

“At the theater is the first time our options were presented to us. And they were presented to us in a way that seemed harmless, we could either go to the show, or go to the barracks. But at that point, I felt pressured. As a person, I know that I can’t be pressured into anything, I’m much stronger than that. But I also know that a lot of people aren’t that strong, and that pressure was present. I could hear people saying, ‘I don’t know about going back to the barracks, that sounds suspicious, I’m going to go ahead and go to the show’ and many things that sounded a lot like that. Now, like I said, I don’t get pressured into things, but I also don’t think that anybody should have to feel that kind of pressure. Making somebody feel that pressure is a violation of human rights, we are allowed to think what we want about religion and not have to feel pressured into doing things, and at that moment there was definitely pressure to go to that concert simply because people don’t want to have their free time taken away.”

The Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series was the brainchild of Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers, who, according to an article on the Army.mil website, “was reborn as a Christian” at the age of sixteen. According to the article, Chambers held the first concert at Fort Lee within a month of becoming the commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee in June 2008. But he had already started the series at Fort Eustis, as the previous commanding general there. The concerts have continued at Fort Eustis under the new commanding general, as well as spreading to Fort Lee under Maj. Gen. Chambers. The concerts are also promoted to the airmen on Langley Air Force Base, which is now part of Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

In the Army.mil article, Maj. Gen. Chambers was quoted as saying, “The idea is not to be a proponent for any one religion. It’s to have a mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds.” But there has been no “mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds” at these concerts. Every one of them has had evangelical Christian performers, who typically not only perform their music but give their Christian testimony and read from the Bible in between songs.

Another problem with these concerts, besides the issues like soldiers being punished for choosing not to attend them, is that they are run by the commanders, and not the chaplains’ offices. It is absolutely permissible for a chaplain’s office to put on a Christian concert. It is not permissible for the command to put on a Christian concert, or any other religious event. Having a religious concert series that is actually called and promoted as a Commanding General’s Concert Series is completely over the top.

And then there’s the cost. These concerts aren’t just small events with local Christian bands. We’re talking about the top, nationally known, award-winning Christian artists, with headline acts costing anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000, and even many of the opening acts being in the $10,000 range.

The cost of these concerts led MRFF’s research department to start looking at some of the DoD contracts for other “spiritual fitness” events and programs, and what we found was astounding. One contract, for example, awarded to an outside consulting firm to provide “spiritual fitness” services, was for $3.5 million.

MRFF was already aware that exorbitant amounts of DoD funding were going to the hiring of civilian religious employees by military installations, the expenses of religious (almost exclusively evangelical Christian) programs, and extravagant religious facilities, but the extent of this spending goes far beyond what we had initially thought it amounted to. Therefore, MRFF has decided to launch an investigation into exactly how much the military is spending on promoting religion.

Do the recently announced plans of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to trim defense spending include any trimming of the military’s outrageous spending on the promoting of religion and evangelizing of our troops? This alone could save the DoD untold millions every year, and go a long way towards upholding our Constitution at the same time.

- Talk To Action contributor Chris Rodda is Head Researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that combats illegal and unconstitutional religious coercion in the United States military. Rodda is also author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History. MRFF was founded by Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, an Air Force Academy Honor Graduate who served in the first Reagan Administration. MRFF’s work was the subject of a May 2009 Harper’s Magazine story by journalist Jeff Sharlet, Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military. For more reading on this subject, see Top Ten Ways to Convince the Muslims We’re On a Crusade and this list of other additional Talk To Action stories concerning MRFF research.]
For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts. As I’ve written in a number of other posts, “spiritual fitness” is just the military’s new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. And this concert series is no different.

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Posted by on Aug 19 2010, With 0 Reads, Filed under Military. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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27 Comments for “U.S. Soldiers Punished for Not Attending Christian Concert”

  1. Things like this further the general thesis that there are absolutely no limits to the vast range of bizarre interpretations people can give to holy writ.

    And the real irony, of course, is that the weirder the interpretation, the more likely it is buttressed by a claim of absolutism (vs. relativism), to wit: “It is not for man to determine the rules, but God. Furthermore, ___fill-in-the-blank___ is what God hath decreed for every man, woman, and child.

    So these guys have traipsed down a thorny path toward the “hard” determination that good Christians put up their dukes (or automatic weapons, or…) and fervently defend “The Faith”.

    At best, it’s a sad realization of an approach to religion that Christ, and even Paul, warned against. At worst, it’s beyond reckoning: It’s just another breed of group hysteria, going under the more common name of fundamentalism, carried on in the name of (of all things) Christ.

  2. AND THIS FOLKS, IS WHY OUR MILITARY WITHOUT THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS OF EACH SERVICE COULD NOT WHIP THEIR WAY OUT OF A WET PAPER BAG. THE CHINESE ARE COMING AND IT IS GOING TO BE UGLY. WE, THE U.S. SPENT 19 YEARS IN VIETNAM AND CAME AWAY WITH NANA, WHERE AS THE CHINESE WENT INTO VIETNAM, SPENT 19 DAYS, KICKED THEIR ASSES AND WENT HOME. GOOD LUCK, YOU WHINING MF’S.

  3. Those who refused to go to this concert now have a little black mark on their records. But don’t feel bad. When it comes time for the suicide mission, you won’t be chosen.

  4. It is not only religion that brings demand to join or attend. If you are an NCO, you must join the NCO Association. If you do not join, you are stigmatized just as officers are if they do not join the Officers Assocation

  5. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    SERVING THE SATANIC TALMUD, WITH THE “KINGS TORAH”,
    GREAT,JUST GREAT , GOSH ,GOLLY GEE WHIZ,
    IS THERE AN AWARD FOR BEST SELF-PARODY, SELF-MOCKERY??????????

    We really believe that to be a Christian in today’s world, you have to be a warrior, and we feel very blessed and privileged that God has given us the tool to deliver His message and arm His army.”?????????????????

    AT WHAT POINT DO THE “CHRISTIAN ZIONIST FASCISTS CULTISTS”
    JUST TOSS AWAY THE CHRISTIAN TESTAMENT; AT THIS POINT THE
    THE “GOOD BOOK” IS JUST A PROP AND NOT ACTUALLY REFERENCED
    IN A COHERENT MANNER ANTWAY.

    A Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking “an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.”,???????????????

    PROJECTILE VOMITING AGAIN , GOTTA GO :) :) :) :) :)

    Has anyone, who even once in their life heard the screeching sounds of
    a “Christian” Rock Band agree they have no talent?? , They always suck,
    They are always extra greasy
    To try and get a few gigs they just pull the “Born Again”
    Rock Band identity crap. DECEPTION/DUPLICITY ROUTINE,SAME OLD SAME OLD

    Doesn’t everybody prefer musicians with real talent instead
    of idiots “strapping on the g-d label” ,
    I mean really , YUCK.

    Maybe the guys who didn’t want to go should be considered for extra
    promotion points for taking the initiative to avoid a load of bull.

  6. I don’t think that this is constitutional. I think it is wrong. Military code is in question here. I don’t think religion should be forced on anyone. I believe in God for instance, but if you don’t I can respect that. We are entitled to our beliefs and freedom of religion is definitely being impinged on here. These soldiers are under enough stress already without having to worry about this sort of thing.

  7. As a retired Marine and a Jew I am appalled at this. This idiot General needs to be fired and his staff punished for a blatent violation of the rules. Din’t I spill my blood to help keep the Constitution the law of the land. Freedom of Religion also means freedom from relgion.

  8. We were forced to go to worship in boot camp 1963. Overseas a couple times donating blood got me some liberty time. Didn’t bother me too much, figuring it was part of the military, however— I really hate christian rock.

  9. Clearly the soldiers didn’t want to attend the event because the Barlowgirls’ vaginas smelled horribly and were stinking up the joint.

    Can you blame them?

    I like skanks as much as the next GI but C’mon really? I mean really?….

  10. This looks like an offence under the UCMJ by the Commanding General and those who organized and pressured attendance in his program — and is likely Unconstitutional as well:

    …all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

    The threat of military discipline, which includes reduction in rank and “loss of office or public trust” is not an idle one. Even the threat here is “prejudicial to good order and discipline” as well; do none of these military scholars recall the Romans finally had to stop persecuting Christians because Christian soldiers refused to obey orders? Talk about turnabout! Note that we haven’t even got to wrangling about separation of church and state…

    ‘Course, I’m not a lawyer…

  11. so I wonder what to do to stop this?
    I appreciate learning about it but can’t anything be done to bring these people up on charges and stop spending exorbitant sums of money on this CRAP!

  12. If this had happened to me after my return from Korea I would have put up such a stink they would have put me in the slammer. This is going too damn far. What is needed now? Get the ones involved and dish out proper punishment. Right, a Gen. getting fired? Could be now that a few have gone down the tubes. It will depend on the right person to stand up and do what is right w/o cover-ups. Hope you keep us all posted as this plays out. We need to know. SEEVIEW

  13. This has been going on for a long time. The Christian far right has taken over the upper levels of the military levels of the Pentagon, infiltrated the service academies, and intimidating, no brainwashing our troops. We are too busy caught up in the many diversions that they are causing in our daily lives and on the political scene. Get involved and support the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. I am a Christian, but I hate what the radical right is doing and they have to be stopped. The first place to stop them is at the ballot box during the primaries and in November.

  14. This has me so angry that I am literally shaking. That is all I can say until I relax.

  15. I thought it was only MUSLIMS who want a theocratic society…

    Re BarlowGirl– J.C. sez,” I come not to bring to you peace, but to bring an M-16…on full auto….”

    • PWL:

      I think there are Christians with a fair amount of influence that actually want to set up a Christian Theocracy in the United States. Sarah Palins church from what I hear. No, tragically the Muslims are not the only one.

      Do these people know the sponsors of the Inquisitions?

      There is no Christian Country and the New Testament is for Christians not a government or a social program.

      Gospel at gunpoint is anathema to everything the Master taught.

      Kill, conquer – convert

      This is not –
      Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – Jesus
      Love they neighbor as thy self – Jesus
      Thou shall not murder – Jesus
      Are you going to leave me also – Jesus
      *asked if his disciples when everyone else was leaving. The Master forced no one to stay. Love is polite
      No greater gift can a man give than to give his life for that of a friend – Jesus – Not take it

      Do you see where the teachings are contradictory?

      I don’t think these “warriors” for Christ are suffering much to spread the Gospel at a hundred grand a pop. I am a born again Christian and I have noticed that there is a fortune to be made in America’s corrupted (er-Christian) Churches. Well – We have the greed (er-prosperity) gospel now.

      Jesus forbid the heirchey you see in the Papacy and the modern church

      Do not call anyone on earth father; you are all brothers and sisters in Christ – Jesus

      This is anathema to biblical Christianity – If they don’t want it; wipe the dust off your feet in judgeship and leave.

      They are beating up Atheists in the name of the God of love?

      This is just my opinion and being a slob probably not worth much; I don’t think this is exactly the way to spread Christs abuse (er-love).

      This is surrealistic dammit. I can’t believe I am even seeing this crap.

      People in the church have been doing what god has commanded the not to do throughout the ages.

      This is wrong, it is so wrong.

      I am a Christian and now I have to deal with the back lash of this garbage and how many souls are lost?

      You people had better stop and think hard, long and hard and I am talking to you General or whatever the hell your damn rank is. We all know exactly what I’m talking about.

      There will be those who come to me in the last days and say lord, lord did we not prophecy for you, cast out demons for you and I will look at them and tell them – depart from me you doers of evil; I never knew you. – Jesus

      You travel to the ends of the earth to make a single convert and you make them twice the demon of hell as you are – Jesus

      There will literally be hell to pay
      There is only one correct answer to a sum
      There is zero other option

      Abuse in the name of the God of love – again?

      Solomon was right – There is nothing new under the sun.

  16. Evangelical Christians in my unbiased opinion are not much different than the Taliban! I’m sitting home 1 night and a friend from my Psychology Class calls me and tells me I have to watch “Jesus Camp” and how disturbing it is. I pull it up and the opening scene was disturbing! The Pastor said how they “train” the children like the Muslims train their children. What I see next was a bunch of children in a Church dressed in Camo doing a combat presentation in song and dance with pole-arms. I knew that these children have been indoctrinated into this Religious philosophy. Children are susceptible and suggestible. It doesn’t sound like far-fetched nonsense to a child, children are credulous. Religious indoctrination is a form of Child Abuse because to children, threatening them to the eternal fires of hell is damaging! Many people have revealed great emotional scars caused by religious indoctrination and the fear of hell. As I was watching this debacle of a Religion I was thinking what a scary thought it was if they started to infiltrate our Military, then I read this story! When it comes to religious beliefs people will throw Our Constitution out the window to fulfill what they believe to be the “will of God”, thus Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers decision to punish the soldiers for choosing not to attend “HIS” concert. This guy is an embarrassment to his uniform for punishing Soldiers of different religious beliefs for not conforming to his, which goes against the Constitution and this is all happening at Taxpayer’s expense! Is he going to start cutting of their hands for reporting it? You would think that these people would realize that they are doing what Red China did to its citizens and what the Taliban are doing now! Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers is going against the beliefs this Country was founded on and should be relieved of duty!

    • I completely agree with you, but when you go into the Army they think they own you. When I was in the military they even tried to force me to give blood. They didn’t push it, but I got the message that my body was not my own anymore. I was raised in an Evangelical family and the scars are immense. I can’t worship a God like the one I was raised with. I choose to believe my own version of a benevolent God who understands each person’s need to worship him in their own way. My mother had been so scared by what she was taught that she was an evangelical (but after 15 years old we could choose to go to church or not.) that she stayed in the church. At one point she wanted to be a Jehovah’s Witness but her family came down on her like deprogrammers. I hadn’t realized how bad it was for her, but I knew how bad it was when my brother said, “I don’t have to go to church. I can look in the mirror and say ‘You’re a bad person, a sinner and you’re going to hell’.

  17. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    With the cross of Jesus going on before.
    Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
    Forward into battle see His banners go!

    Oh yeah! Add a little Rudyard Kipling, and we’re ready for Iraq and Afpak:

    Take up the White Man’s burden—
    Send forth the best ye breed—
    Go send your sons to exile
    To serve your captives’ need
    To wait in heavy harness
    On fluttered folk and wild—
    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
    Half devil and half child

  18. Christian bands are all gay. No one wants to go to them which is why almost half of the soldiers opted out. The commander who came up with these spiritual musical gatherings is out of touch with reality. Soldiers like to get drunk, fornicate, and fight, and usually have sense enough to recognize true bullshit (virgin births, talking snakes, etc). I can imagine the concerts appeal to the young privates who have yet to lose their virginity and have a hard time making friends.

  19. what is an nco doing passing out article 15 punishments? He needs to go to jail.

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