Gee, I wonder if they sang this one at the concert?
The Army said it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band’s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.
Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps. “My whole issue was I don’t need to be preached at,” Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. “That’s not what I signed up for.”
Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.”
Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.
“Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down,” Smith said. “It seemed very much like a punishment…”
Smith said he and the other soldiers were told not to use their cell phones or personal computers and ordered to clean up the barracks.
About 20 of the men, including several Muslims, refused to attend the concert based on their religious beliefs, he said.
The Christian evangelical proselytizing theme clings like stink to many American military bases – especially those in the Bible Belt. Often introduced by a small cadre of over-the-top fundamentalist officers linking throughout our wonderful worldwide network of military enclaves.
It’s something folks haven’t had to report on, blog about, complain about as much since the religious glory days of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld; but, nonetheless persistent and pernicious. The only humorous bit being officer types who should know that “the book” – in the military sense – always takes precedence over their holy roller guidebook.