I already posted a short note about this on Facebook, but I wanted to spend some more time on my thoughts about this very disturbing event series. First, let me be clear, I am all in favor of soldiers being treated to concerts and other entertainment to help them unwind from a very stressful work environment, especially when stationed in active war zones.
That said, what is happening with this event is quite disturbing on a number of levels. First, if given the option of opting out of something it should be made clear when the option is presented that opting out means you face punishment detail. This effectively means that there really is no opt-out option.
Second, the amount of money being spent on these events under the guise of consulting or training is money that might be better spent. I do not object to religious concerts being put on for the soldiers, but they should be donated efforts, not events that the military has to pay for, and there should be a balance of performers. Do not even try to tell me that there are not musical performers for other religions. On the pagan side of things there are a lot of musical groups that I am sure would love the opportunity to perform for the troops if given the opportunity, and they are not all folk style music.
This brings me to the third point, which is the clear violation of the Constitution, and the forced evangelism to those of other faiths. Religious freedom is a cornerstone foundation in our nation, and while many of the original colonists may have been of one Christian path or another, the founding fathers intentionally chose non specific language when addressing the religion topic because they believed that everyone should have a choice and not be punished for what they believe. Our troops swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, which is a physical documentation of the beliefs and standards that those who founded our nation felt we should strive to uphold. That someone who has sworn to uphold these standards is clearly violating them, and is forcing those under his command to attend these events under threat of punishment if they choose not to attend, is a gross violation of the very standards that he swore to uphold. By doing this he is effectively removing their right to choose. Never mind that only Chaplains are allowed under military regulation to put on religious events, and that by putting on these events outside of the Office of the Chaplain the CO is also violating regulations.
It should be noted that it was not just non-Christians who objected to this forced participation. Some of the objectors were Catholic, and while their reasons for opting out, and thus facing punishment were not noted in the article, I think it is telling that they also objected. One commenter noted a question pondering what might happen if somebody of a Christian path that objects to rock concerts of any sort as wrong, and a violation of their faith were to object and opt-out. Having been raised for part of my life in a church that believed this way I know exactly what he is talking about in his comment.
Even in our military there is a freedom believe as you wish, and this is rigorously enforced. To have this so blatantly ignored simply to pursue one man’s campaign to bring his belief to those he commands is a very disturbing violation of this freedom. We are a diverse nation of diverse beliefs, and while I may object to how some people express their beliefs, I strongly believe that they have a right to them so long as they are not harming another, either physically or psychologically in the practice of their belief. If I chose to lift a horn in toast to my gods, or in respect of my ancestors, that is my right in this country, and I am legally protected from persecution for expressing my faith, whether others respect that faith or not. If my family chooses to pray to a god that I have chosen to not follow, that is their right, and I respect their choice even if I choose to not participate in the expression of their faith at family events. Our country was founded on the principle that everyone has the right to worship as they choose, and that nobody can force them to do otherwise. To see this principle being violated in such a public was is extremely disturbing to me, and I hope to see a positive outcome from this violation rather than something simply being cancelled and the whole thing being swept under the rug.