When the average American thinks of military spending on religion, they probably think only of the money spent on chaplains and chapels. And, yes, the Department of Defense (DoD) does spend a hell of a lot of money on these basic religious accommodations to provide our troops with the opportunity to exercise their religion while serving our country. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the DoD's funding of religion. Also paid for with taxpayer dollars are a plethora of events, programs, and schemes that violate not only the Constitution, but, in many cases, the regulations on federal government contractors, specifically the regulation prohibiting federal government contractors receiving over $10,000 in contracts a year from discriminating based on religion in their hiring practices.
About a year ago, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) began an investigation into just how much money the DoD spends on promoting religion to military personnel and their families. What prompted this interest in DoD spending on religion was finding out what the DoD was spending on certain individual events and programs, such as the $125 million spent on the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program and its controversial "Spiritual Fitness" test, a mandatory test that must be taken by all soldiers. The Army insists that this test is not religious, but the countless complaints from soldiers who have failed this "fitness" test tell a different story. The experience of one group of soldiers who weren't "spiritual" enough for the Army can be read here. But the term "Spiritual Fitness is not limited to this one test. The military began using this term to describe a variety of initiatives and events towards the end of 2006, and this 'code phrase' for promoting religion was heavily in use by all branches of the military by 2007.
Although it was clear from the start of MRFF's investigation that determining the total dollar figure for the DoD's rampant promotion of religion (which is always evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christianity) would be next to impossible, as this would require FOIA requests to every one of over 700 military installations to find out how much each is spending out of various funds at the installation level, one thing we could look at was DoD contracts, so that's where we started. What we've found so far is astounding.
Even though this is still an ongoing project, and we'll certainly be finding much more, I thought that given all the current brouhaha over what should be cut from the federal budget, people might be interested to see some of examples of how the DoD is spending countless millions of taxpayer dollars every year to Christianize the military.
As mentioned above, what MRFF is looking at does not include chaplains or chapels -- not even the excessive spending on extravagant "chapels" like the $30,000,000 mega-church at Fort Hood, or the "Spiritual Fitness" centers being built on many military bases as part of what are called Resiliency Campuses. The examples below are all strictly from DoD contracts, with the funding coming out of the appropriations for things like "Operations and Maintenance" and, somehow, "Research and Development." (Summaries of all contracts referenced below are publicly available at usaspending.gov)
Evangelical Christian Concerts Under the Guise of "Spiritual Fitness"
One of the most direct expenditures of money on religious proselytizing, under the guise of "Spiritual Fitness" spending, is the funding of concerts with the top evangelical Christian performers. These concerts are most prevalent on Army posts, although they also occur on installations of other branches of the military. One concert series that stands out, both because soldiers were punished last year for not attending one of the concerts and because of the cost of hiring the musical acts, is the "Commanding Generals' Spiritual Fitness Concert Series" at Fort Eustis and Fort Lee in Virginia. This is not a chapel concert series, but a command sponsored "Spiritual Fitness" program, paid for with DoD contracts.