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Army's "Spiritual Fitness" Test Comes Under Fire

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This article is the first, by Jason Leopold, Army's "Spiritual Fitness" Test Comes Under Fire.

The second is Martin Seligman's Response to Truthout's Jason Leopold's Report on Army "Spiritual Fitness" Test - a response by Martin Seligman, who emailed me, requesting that I publish it. He also emailed it to Jason Leopold and posted it to a positive psychology listserve I've been a member of for approximately ten years (some of my work with positive psychology appears on my website www.positivepsychology.net

The third is my commentary Positive Psychology-- Throwing out the Baby With The Bathwater and the embedded video of the segment of the Keith Olbermann show which reported on this story .

Reprinted from Truthout.org

Test Was Designed by Psychologist Who Inspired CIA's Torture Program

An experimental, Army mental-health, fitness initiative designed by the same psychologist whose work heavily influenced the psychological aspects of the Bush administration's torture program is under fire by civil rights groups and hundreds of active-duty soldiers. They say it unconstitutionally requires enlistees to believe in God or a "higher power" in order to be deemed "spiritually fit" to serve in the Army.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) is a $125 million "holistic fitness program" unveiled in late 2009 and aimed at reducing the number of suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases, which have reached epidemic proportions over the past year due to multiple deployments to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the substandard care soldiers have received when they return from combat. The Army states that it can accomplish its goal by teaching its service members how to be psychologically resilient and resist "catastrophizing" traumatic events. Defense Department documents obtained by Truthout state CSF is Army Chief of Staff George Casey's "third highest priority."

CSF is comprised of the Soldier Fitness Tracker and Global Assessment Tool, which measures soldiers' "resilience" in five core areas: emotional, physical, family, social and spiritual. Soldiers fill out an online survey made up of more than 100 questions, and if the results fall into a red area, they are required to participate in remedial courses in a classroom or online setting to strengthen their resilience in the disciplines in which they received low scores. The test is administered every two years. More than 800,000 Army soldiers have taken it thus far.

But for the thousands of "Foxhole Atheists" like 27-year-old Sgt. Justin Griffith, the spiritual component of the test contains questions written predominantly for soldiers who believe in God or another deity, meaning nonbelievers are guaranteed to score poorly and will be forced to participate in exercises that use religious imagery to "train" soldiers up to a satisfactory level of spirituality.

Griffith, who is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, took the test last month and scored well on the emotional, family and social components. But after completing the spiritual portion of the exam, which required him to respond to statements such as, "I attend religious services, In difficult times I pray or meditate, I am a spiritual person, my life has lasting meaning, I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world, " he was found to be spiritually unfit because he responded by choosing the "not like me at all" box.

His test results advised him, "spiritual fitness" is an area "of possible difficulty for you."

"You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life," Griffith's test said. "At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles and values. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal."

In an interview, Griffith, who was not speaking on behalf of the Army, said he was "deeply offended" by the spiritual questions he was forced to answer.

"It seems like my destiny is all messed up and that I am unfit to serve in the United States Army, if you believe the results of this test," said Griffith, who has served in the Army for five years. "When I think of the word spirituality I go to the root of the word: spirit. I don't believe in that."

Lt. Greg Bowling agreed, acccording to a comment he posted on an official Army website last April, that the test "asks rather intrusive questions about soldiers' spirituality - coming perilously close to violating the 1st Amendment."

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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"The Army states that it can accomplish its goal b... by Kitty Antonik on Friday, Jan 7, 2011 at 7:18:21 PM
When I look at the whole picture, I see the Army t... by Mel Smith on Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 at 2:29:58 AM
This Dr. Seligman's 'theories' are just that, theo... by James Hadstate on Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 at 11:22:31 AM
I really laughed at that statement. As someone dia... by John Shriver on Monday, Jan 10, 2011 at 11:31:28 AM
I've made this comment before, but it sounds like... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 at 11:41:45 AM
I strongly agree with you and other posters that i... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 at 8:05:27 PM
Thanks.... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jan 9, 2011 at 11:39:09 AM
It seems to me that the powers that be in the arme... by Robert Tracey on Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 at 12:11:49 PM