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Protecting Military Servicemembers from Religious Discrimination and Preserving Freedom of Religious Expression
Thank you for your petition regarding the importance of ensuring non-religious members of our armed forces are not discriminated against.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution not only provides that the government cannot establish religion, it also guarantees every citizen the right to practice the religion of their choice or no religion at all. These are important founding principles of our nation.
The Obama Administration strongly supports every American's right to religious freedom. This support extends equally both to the many members of our armed forces who hold religious beliefs and to those members of the military who do not hold such beliefs.
The Administration will continue to uphold the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state, and promote religious freedom for all Americans.
Your petition expressed concern about a self-assessment survey given to soldiers as part of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) program. You can learn more about the CSF2 program here. Along with questions on physical, emotional, social, and family fitness, a part of the CSF2 program's self-assessment survey includes questions concerning "spiritual fitness." Importantly, however, the "spiritual fitness" portion of the CSF program does not promote religion; instead, it encourages soldiers to develop greater inner strength and resilience, whether soldiers take a religious or non-religious approach to such matters. The program defines its "spiritual" element as: "The spiritual dimension entails one's purpose, core values, beliefs, identity, and life vision. These elements which define the essence of a person enable one to build inner strength, make meaning of experiences, behave ethically, persevere through challenges, and be resilient when faced with adversity. An individual's spirituality draws upon personal, philosophical, psychological, and/or religious teachings and forms the basis of their character. "
Moreover, the self-assessment emphasizes at the beginning of the survey that "[t]he spiritual dimension questions on the [survey] pertain to the domain of the Human Spirit: they are not 'religious' in nature."
The spiritual dimension questions in the Global Assessment Tool were changed in September 2012 in order to reflect more accurately the perspectives of both religious and non-religious users. These are the current measures by which users self-assess:
- I am a person of dignity and worth.
- My life has meaning.
- I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.
- The job I am doing in the military has enduring meaning.
- I believe there is a purpose for my life.
It is also important to understand the results of the self-assessment survey are only for the soldier, and are not shared with the command or with any other person. This survey is simply a resiliency tool to help soldiers self-identify areas where they may need additional emphasis in their lives. Soldiers are free to disregard the feedback from the automated program if they feel that it does not apply to them, and no training on spiritual fitness is mandatory.
Military members who believe that they face discrimination due to their religious beliefs, or lack of such beliefs, should refer specific allegations to the Office of the Inspector General for their Service, or to the chain of command.