September 20, 2013 – Obama Administration Responds to a ‘We The People’ White House Petition by Citing Changes in ‘Spiritual Fitness’ Test Language and Applicability Recommended by MRFF

 

MRFF has long disagreed with the methodology of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) Program’s Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) and Global Assessment Tool (GAT) which required responses by enlisted soldiers to statements such as “I am a spiritual person” and “I believe there is a purpose for my life”. These statements were geared toward soldiers that hold particular religious beliefs, while punishing soldiers who do not share those beliefs, particularly atheists and non-theists. Soldiers who failed to perform sufficiently well on the spirituality component of the SFT were required to spend extra time and effort to undergo supplemental “spiritual training” to become “more spiritual” through the use of CSF Training Modules or whatever other “remedial” instruction their commanders prescribe. It was MRFF’s understanding that the military’s position was that soldiers were not fit for duty if they did not attain an adequate “spiritual fitness” score on the spirituality component of the SFT and GAT or did not undergo required remedial training in spirituality. On December 29, 2010, the international law firm Jones Day, on behalf of MRFF and its client Sgt. Justin Griffith, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Army regarding the development and implementation of the spiritual well-being component of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program’s Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) and Global Assessment Tool (GAT).   On December 30, 2010, Jones Day also filed a demand with the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff to cease and desist its policy of administering the spiritual component of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) Program’s Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) and Global Assessment Tool (GAT) to enlisted men and women and immediately discontinue all mandatory follow-up to that component of the test.

In response to these concerns, MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein was invited by and met with Dept. of Defense officials responsible for development and implementation of the SFT/GAT in Washington, DC. MRFF invited the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance to attend this meeting in support of MRFF’s position.

On October 1, 2011, Dustin Chalker, non-Theist Affairs Advisor for MRFF initiated a petition on the White House ‘We The People’ web site (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/) entitled End the Military’s Discrimination against Non-Religious Service Members. On September 20, 2013, the White House responded to this petition, in part, with this language:

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:

  1. I am a person of dignity and worth.
  2. My life has meaning.
  3. I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.
  4. The job I am doing in the military has enduring meaning.
  5. 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.

This response from the Obama Administration reflects specific language (I am a person of dignity and worth) proposed by MRFF in conjunction with Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. This response also addresses MRFF concerns about the religious and mandatory nature of the ‘Spiritual Fitness’ test as originally implemented.

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