Sunday, September 29, 2013

Did You Pass Your Spiritual Test?

The military made it mandatory for their soldiers to take a “Spiritual Fitness” test to measure their levels of faith, beliefs and values.  It was not until 2011 that the Army faced public scrutiny of such testing and most Americans were at disbelief that such a test exists. 

"no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." (Article VI of our Constitution)

Some may argue that this is a very self-explanatory clause; no religious test should be required as a qualification to be part of any office or government position in our country. Blake Page interprets that our founders included this clause in order to prevent "anybody of the United States government from levying legal authority as a tool of tyranny by the religious majority." If any government institution uses religious testing to choose their members, that institution is clearly violating the Constitution based on this clause. 

If one were to fail this test the Army offered to have these individuals attend "remedial training" that required them to undergo spiritual training and visit chaplains. Under serious publicity and efforts from religious freedom organizations (Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers), the Army decided in February of 2011 to not have these religious tests as a mandatory requirement for their soldiers but remedial training will still be offered but it would be optional. 

The Marines however has not put an end on this mandatory test and it has been found in their doctrines that any "lack or loss of spiritual faith as a guidance/moral compass" becomes a risk indicator that leads to a lack of courage, psychiatric hospitalizations, substance abuse and becoming anti-social. In other words, the Marines have a strong stance that those who lack religious beliefs or do not partake in any religion are considered to be a risk to themselves and the Corps and therefore are placed under high surveillance and inspection.   

I think that it is absolutely ridiculous that there is such a thing as a mandatory "Spiritual and Religious" test. As a military organization you would think that there would be some kind of neutrality where individuals are entitled to their own beliefs. Their argument is that such a lack of belief and spiritually means that an individual is unstable to carry out their duties and responsibilities and in order to avoid any mishaps they are required to undergo remedial training. Remedial training? As in, imposing a religion on these individuals? Then comes the question: which religion is chosen for this remedial training? Wouldn't atheists fill attacked because they hold no kind of spirituality? And what about those individuals who are in different religions and do not agree with the religion offered in this remedial training? Taking these questions into consideration, I believe that such test is a clear violation of the clause, "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification." I also think that the Marines are overgeneralizing that everyone who does not have a religion or spirituality are incapable and unstable to function, an argument that I think is rather weak. It is important to address this issue because there needs to be a line drawn between religious freedom and government institutions imposing religion. 

Therefore I think that the Marines should do exactly what the Army did, take away this mandatory test but offer remedial training to those Marines who please to seek spiritual guidance. However in order to sustain neutrality, there should be a variety of religions offered rather than just one. What if instead of calling it "remedial training" it can be called "remedial therapy"? At least in my opinion, this way there will be no religion imposed and one has the freedom to seek religious/spiritual guidance if they wish to do so. 

What are your thoughts about this "Spiritual/Religious" test? Are these mandatory tests constitutional/unconstitutional? Should they be banned? And this brings us to the question: to what extent should we legislate morality? 


Liz L. said...

In my opinion, testing someone’s religious beliefs is unnecessary and unconstitutional. Challenging people’s religious beliefs creates conflict and causes tension within the group. According to the Constitution, the federal government is not permitted to establish a religion or to promote a certain religion. “Remedial training” for those who “fail” the spiritual exam is basically concluding that those who think differently than you are bad people. Requiring a spiritual exam leads to discrimination based upon religious beliefs. However, the purpose of the test is to look for values, not necessary religious beliefs. People who are religious tend to be more selfless, and selfless people are more likely to behave properly on the battlefield. This is why the spiritual test exists. The name should be changed to a personality test, and instead of counseling, activities that foster values would be a better solution.

Gabby D. said...

I completely agree with Yessica and Liz. I can see where the Army/Marines are coming from in asking their soldiers to take this test. They want to test the morality of their trainees because in battle, and also when one is captured, there is a necessity for the soldiers to have strong morality and a strong sense of what's right and wrong. I don't know if I could totally agree with Liz's argument of religious people being more "selfless" as a whole, but I do agree that a certain degree of morality is required in military service.

However, I believe the testing of spirituality is an infringement upon the rights of the soldiers. The government is violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by not being neutral. Non-neutral in this sense is favoring religion over non-religion. Since those who do not "pass" this exam are then led to certain training to change their beliefs, it seems very obvious to me that there is no such neutrality.