The United States Marines Corps may soon be leveled with a lawsuit over language in one of its training documents, which cites “lack or loss of spiritual faith” as being a risk factor for suicide among soldiers.
According to reports, an anonymous soldier reported the clause found in a Marines Corps’ Force Preservation Program document to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). In a section outlining “potential risk factors,” a number of negative life circumstances are listed, including loss of a loved one, divorce, financial hardship, drug use and “lack or loss of spiritual faith.”
“The whole concept of judging service members based on their spirituality is completely unconstitutional,” MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein told reporters. “This country was founded on a very critical principle—the founding framers looked at the horrors that occurred throughout history by mixing religion and war, and they said, we’re going to separate church and state. And that means they cannot test for religion in the military.”
Weinstein was involved in a similar matter two years ago in regard to Army “Spiritual Fitness Testing.” According to the Huffington Post, if a soldier failed the test, they would be urged to improve their spiritual life–possibly by being required to see a chaplain.
“Spiritual fitness may be an area of difficulty,” an Army report would read. “You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and to others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles and values… Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal.”
However, due to outcry from atheist and church-state separatist groups, including MRFF, the Army has ceased to mandate the test, which is now voluntary.
The outspoken Weinstein also made headlines earlier this year for urging the Pentagon to enforce military laws pertaining to evangelistic activity by superiors.
“Someone needs to be punished for this,” he told conservative commentator Todd Starnes. “Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.”
“It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” Weinstein asserted.
The Pentagon later advised that while members of the military are free to share their faith, they must not “force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs.” Meanwhile, a number of Christian groups that were alarmed at Weinstein’s demands questioned why the Pentagon was willing to listen to MRFF at all.
In the latest matter surrounding the organization, the group says that unless the Marine Corps removes “lack or loss of spiritual faith” as a suicide risk factor in military members, it will file a lawsuit to challenge the assertion.
“In the same manner we dealt with the Army’s Spiritual Fitness Training, the insistence by chaplains that non-believers make inferior warriors, and the never ending message of hate leveraged by certain seditious officers, MRFF will not stand down until our Marines are free to serve without having their reliability brought into question through unconstitutional policies of religious testing,” said Blake Page, assistant to Weinstein.
As previously reported, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to the 2014 Defense Appropriations Act that bars atheists from serving as military chaplains.