July 31, 2008

Army Coerces Soldiers Into Attending Baptist Church

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the U.S. Department of Defense to investigate Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for promoting attendance at a Baptist church. This is certainly not the first time we've heard about Christian proselytizing in the military (and it won't be the last), but it is of the few cases I can recall where soldiers were directed toward a particular denomination of Christianity.

The troublesome practice in this case, according to Americans United, is the Army base's coercion of soldiers to attend church as part of their training.
Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri offers "Free Day Away" as one of only two opportunities for soldiers to leave the base during eight weeks of vigorous Army training. (The other day is the day before graduation, which can be spent with parents and guests.) During "Free Day Away," trainees are picked up by a bus sent from the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Lebanon, Mo., to participate in a day full of recreational activities, followed by dinner and a required church service.
For trainees who want to leave the base on their "Free Day Away," attendance at this particular Baptist church apparently required. Americans United also reports that trainees are under the impression that this activity is sponsored by the Army.
Trainees are given the impression that the event is sponsored by the Army and that they must attend. If they do not attend, they have to remain on the base and continue with training, while those who attend the event have a break for the day.
As if this was not all bad enough, the particular church they must attend is determined to "save" them and even requests information about their families for the purpose of "saving" them. This really is outrageous, and I would expect non-Christians and even non-Baptist denominations to be at least equally upset about this. I mean, where the hell is Bill Donahue on this one? And yet, it once again seems to fall on atheists to protect the separation of church and state which benefits religious individuals every bit as much as atheists.

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