The Public Record, By Chris Rodda, August 19
When the average American thinks of military spending on religion, they probably think only of the money spent on chaplains and chapels. And, yes, the Department of Defense (DoD) does spend a hell of a lot of money on these basic religious accommodations to provide our troops with the opportunity to exercise their religion while serving our country. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the DoD’s funding of religion. Also paid for with taxpayer dollars are a plethora of events, programs, and schemes that violate not only the Constitution, but, in many cases, the regulations on federal government contractors, specifically the regulation prohibiting federal government contractors receiving over $10,000 in contracts a year from discriminating based on religion in their hiring practices.
About a year ago, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) began an investigation into just how much money the DoD spends on promoting religion to military personnel and their families. What prompted this interest in DoD spending on religion was finding out what the DoD was spending on certain individual events and programs, such as the $125 million spent on the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program and its controversial ”œSpiritual Fitness” test, a mandatory test that must be taken by all soldiers. The Army insists that this test is not religious, but the countless complaints from soldiers who have failed this ”œfitness” test tell a different story. The experience of one group of soldiers who weren’t ”œspiritual” enough for the Army can be read here. But the term ”œSpiritual Fitness is not limited to this one test. The military began using this term to describe a variety of initiatives and events towards the end of 2006, and this ”˜code phrase’ for promoting religion was heavily in use by all branches of the military by 2007.
Although it was clear from the start of MRFF’s investigation that determining the total dollar figure for the DoD’s rampant promotion of religion (which is always evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christianity) would be next to impossible, as this would require FOIA requests to every one of over 700 military installations to find out how much each is spending out of various funds at the installation level, one thing we could look at was DoD contracts, so that’s where we started. What we’ve found so far is astounding.
Even though this is still an ongoing project, and we’ll certainly be finding much more, I thought that given all the current brouhaha over what should be cut from the federal budget, people might be interested to see some of examples of how the DoD is spending countless millions of taxpayer dollars every year to Christianize the military.
As mentioned above, what MRFF is looking at does not include chaplains or chapels ”” not even the excessive spending on extravagant ”œchapels” like the $30,000,000 mega-church at Fort Hood, or the ”œSpiritual Fitness” centers being built on many military bases as part of what are called Resiliency Campuses. The examples below are all strictly from DoD contracts, with the funding coming out of the appropriations for things like ”œOperations and Maintenance” and, somehow, ”œResearch and Development.” (Summaries of all contracts referenced below are publicly available at usaspending.gov)
For more details on these and other taxpayer funded schemes to Christianize the U.S. military, see ”œAgainst All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic,” [PDF] the chapter I wrote for the 2010 book Attitudes Aren’t Free: Thinking Deeply about Diversity in the US Armed Forces, published by Air University Press, the publishing arm of the Air Force’s Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.
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