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An $88,000 Piano for an Army Chapel? What Military Cutbacks?

11/27/2013 01:30 pm ET | Updated Jan 27, 2014
  • Chris Rodda Senior Research Director, Military Religious Freedom Foundation; Author, 'Liars For Jesus'

Apparently, military cutbacks don't apply to church music.

Sebastian Sprenger at Inside Defense reports that the Department of Defense has just spent $88,000 for a Steinway piano for a chapel at Fort Riley, Kansas, writing: "That's some church piano. What might have gone into the Army's decision to spend almost $90,000 on a concert-pianist grade instrument for a chapel in Ft. Riley, KS, when the service is facing for some serious cuts -- not to mention government programs writ large?"

According to Sprenger, a spokesman for Ft. Riley, Kan. said the piano will be used during religious services inside a new chapel being built there.

(Inside Defense is a paid subscription site, so here are the links on the freely accessible Federal Business Opportunities website to what Sprenger found -- the original solicitation, the contract award.)

I can't say that I was surprised to hear about this example of outrageously extravagant spending on a military chapel when someone emailed me about it this morning. Back in 2011, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the organization I work for, did a bit of investigation into just how much the military spends on religious programs. That 2011 investigation was sparked by two things -- the complaints received by MRFF from soldiers who were being forced to attend events like Christian concerts, which led to the discovery of the outrageous amounts of money being spent on these religious events, and the excessive spending on military base "chapels" like the $30,000,000 mega-church at Fort Hood.

All of this leads me to something that I just can't figure out.

In recent months, a coalition of fundamentalist Christian organizations along with members of Congress like Rep. John Fleming have been claiming that the persecution of Christians in the military is so great that service members are afraid to even go to church. But the reason given to justify the spending of outrageous amounts of money to build mega-churches on military bases is that there are so many service members attending religious services that our present military base chapels aren't big enough to accommodate all of them.

Think about it. If service members are so afraid of being "outed" as Christians that they're afraid to even go to church, as the organizations and Congress members crying Christian persecution claim, then how can there be so many service members attending worship services that the military needs to build mega-church size chapels to accommodate the large crowds showing up for services? Obviously, these two completely contradictory claims can't both be true. Either service members are afraid to attend church or there are so many of them attending that our military bases need mega-church size chapels to accommodate them all. So, which is it?