After being contacted by an active duty soldier representing over 43 U.S. Army clients/complainants (most of whom are young and very junior enlisted soldiers attending Advanced Individual Training [AIT] School) on October 14, 2017 regarding forced attendance at a “Spiritual Bar B Que”, MRFF demanded an immediate investigation into this matter. It was reported by local media in Augusta, Georgia on October 16, 2017 that while Ft. Gordon issued a statement denying any undue influence to attend this event, Ft. Gordon would be “…conducting an inquiry to ensure there was no undue command influence to attend.”
One month after initiating this investigation, on November 16, 2017 MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein was informed by Colonel Samuel Anderson, Fort Gordon Chief-of-Staff that their messaging and miscommunication regarding this event led U.S. Army AIT trainees to believe attendance at the Christian Spiritual Fitness Barbeque was mandatory, not voluntary. Mikey summarized the results of this investigation:
This official Army investigation found, among other deficiencies, that there had been ‘miscommunication’ propagated to Army soldiers about the so-called ‘voluntary’ status of this sectarian Christian religious event. In other words, the investigation found that at least some soldiers WERE, in fact, ORDERED to attend by their Army leadership.
MRFF also strongly recommends that those Army leaders at any level in the chain of command who have been found to be complicit in forcing junior Army subordinate soldiers to attend this event be officially admonished and punished to absolutely ensure that such an egregious violation of the Constitutional separation of church and state never again occurs.
MRFF commends the Commanding General, Major General John B. Morrison Jr., and his senior staff, for thoroughly and fairly investigating this unfortunate matter and reaching rational and reasonable conclusions and findings. In particular, MRFF notes the stellar professionalism, oversight and competence of General Morrison’s Chief of Staff, Colonel Samuel Anderson III, who personally managed the Army’s investigation and kept MRFF fully apprised of all of the salient developments as the investigation ensued, via timely e-mail and phone communications. Indeed, Col. Anderson went the extra mile to steward this official inquiry by ensuring that MRFF’s clients were dutifully interviewed and given the full opportunity to freely express their unfettered testimony to the Inquiry Officer as to what had transpired without concomitantly experiencing any reprisal and/or retribution.