WASHINGTON, DC — The Interfaith Alliance today expressed concern over recent reports that soldiers at the Fort Eustis Army base were punished for refusing to attend a Christian rock concert in May. The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, a practicing Baptist minister and President of Interfaith Alliance, issued the following statement:
"We welcome the Pentagon’s decision to investigate U.S. soldiers’ claims that they were punished for refusing to attend an Army-sponsored event featuring a performance by a Christian rock group. Though we do not yet know all the details of this situation – or of the reported “Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concerts,” of which this concert was part – we commend the soldiers for coming forward and publicly standing up for their beliefs. This, too, qualifies as an act of defense of our nation and its Constitution.
"Historically, our service men and women have committed themselves to defending our country and its many freedoms, including the right to religious liberty. Not all battles involve guns. The Army’s sponsorship of these concerts is on shaky grounds as is; forcing our soldiers to attend an event that goes against their beliefs, or else be unfairly punished. No American should have to experience such an imposition of religion. Whether it is the Army or any other organization mandating attendance at a religious event, it is a grievous violation of the First Amendment and an insult to the freedoms upon which this country was founded."
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.