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The United States Marine Corps Officially Declares 'Lack of Spiritual Faith' as a Sign of Instability

07/25/2013 12:05 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2013
  • Blake Page Special Assistant to the President, Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Article VI of our constitution clearly establishes that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." This clause was included by our country's founders with the unmistakable intent of preventing any body of the United States government from levying legal authority as a tool of tyranny by the religious majority. One does not require the suffix Esquire to understand that if a federally instituted organization chose to judge its members on their religious leanings in formal policy, that said organization would be in open defiance of our Constitution.

In 2011 the Army faced public scrutiny after the exposition of once mandatory "Spiritual Fitness" testing which assessed the resiliency of soldiers on such qualitative measures as frequency of prayer or attendance of religious services. When a soldier failed this religious test they were denigrated with the following:

Spiritual fitness may be an area of difficulty... 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.

Of course, no military organization is content with a tongue lashing as a response to failing a mandatory test. For the test to have been worth anything, Army leadership determined remedial training in the form of training modules and even the requirement to visit with chaplains for religious counseling was appropriate.

Fortunately, after extensive efforts by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), and concerned soldiers, the Army decided in February of 2011 that religious testing would cease to be formally mandatory and remedial training for failing such tests would be optional.

Sadly, this was not the end of religious tests being included in formal policy throughout our military. Several days ago it was brought to our attention at MRFF that the United States Marine Corps (USMC) maintains in its doctrine that a "Lack or loss of spiritual faith" is just cause to increase scrutiny of any given Marine. This clause is present in at least two USMC publications, including Marine Corps Base Quantico's Headquarters and Service Battalion Order 5100.29 and Training and Education Command Order 5100.1.

"Lack or loss of spiritual faith" is included as a "Guidance/moral compass issue" in both of these documents under a list of risk indicators for use by "leaders at all levels" to "identify and address risky behavior or events that may lead to risky behavior, as soon as possible." This apparent character flaw is juxtaposed with such things as "lack of courage," "history of psychiatric hospitalizations," "past or current substance abuse history," and being "anti-social." In the simplest terms, it is the current official position of the United States Marine Corps that those who do not profess a religious belief or choose to leave their religion are to be considered a potential hazard to themselves and the Corps and be placed under greater scrutiny than their peers.

The documents go on to include directives on how to convene a "Force Preservation Council" with the mission to evaluate and assist Marines that are identified as high risk through the checklist of undesirable traits (such as lack of religion).

After receiving notice of this inquisitorial policy, MRFF notified the Executive Deputy of Training and Education Command, Jeff Bearor, of the clear constitutional failure of his organization's standing policy. As of now, Mr. Bearor has neither responded nor acknowledged receipt of our message.

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.

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