Army probes alleged punishment of soldiers for not attending Christian concert
The Army is investigating an alleged incident where a group of soldiers were punished because they would not attend a Christian concert held at a Virginia military base.
Fort Eustis spokesman Rick Haverinen confirmed the investigation is ongoing, but did not comment on details. Col. Thomas Collins of the Pentagon said it is contrary to Army policy to force religious beliefs on soldiers, the AP said.
Pvt. Anthony Smith, 21, said that last May when he was stationed at the Newport News base he and other soldiers refused to attend a concert, and as a result were made to stay in their barracks and clean up, the AP said.
According to Smith, a sergeant told some 200 men who were in their barracks that they could choose either to go to the concert or stay in their barracks. Some 80 to 100 chose to remain, the AP said.
However instead of being allowed to have personal time they were placed on lockdown. While in barracks Smith said the soldiers were not allowed to use their personal computers nor cell phones. Some 20 of them, including Muslims, did not go to the concert because of their religious beliefs, the AP said.
Smith, 21, who is now with the National Guard in Phoenix, AZ, said the event was part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.” Smith was based in Virginia for seven months before his current post, the AP said.
The incident was reported by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation who said that a number of soldiers came to them about the incident. MRRF president Mikey Weinstein said, “Whenever we see this egregious, unconstitutional religious tyranny our job is to fight it,” the AP said.
Lauren Barlow, band member was surprised to hear that some soldiers were forced to go to the concert and in a tweet message said, “That’s horrible. We never knew that. We thought they had a choice. If we would have known we would have said something,” Truthout said.