August 24, 2010
Go See the BarlowGirl Concert. Or Else . . .
Army soldiers claim they were punished for skipping a concert by the Christian chick rockers
Saying he didn't want to "be preached at," U.S. Army Private Anthony Smith told the Associated Press that he and other soldiers opted not to attend a Christian rock concert on their Virginia base in May -- and that they were punished by a staff sergeant as a result.
When Smith and about 100 other skipped the show -- featuring Christian chick rock band BarlowGirl -- they were "locked down" in their barracks, he said. "It seemed very much like a punishment." Smith says they were forced to clean their barracks while others attended the show.
Smith and about others filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity office at Fort Eustis, a base in Newport News, Virginia. The Army is investigating; at the Pentagon, Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said the military shouldn't impose religious views on soldiers.
"If something like that were to have happened, it would be contrary to Army policy," Collins said.
The concert was reportedly part of the "Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concerts" at Fort Eustis, a project undertaken by Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers. While the series was billed as encompassing a wide variety of faith perspectives, so far only evangelical Christian acts have been booked. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Chris Rodda said, “’[S]piritual fitness’ is just the military’s new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. And this concert series is no different.”
As for BarlowGirl -- a trio of sisters from Elgin, Illinois -- they say they knew nothing of the "politics" surrounding the event. "Wow there's a lot of press in regards to our show for the troops. We loved playing that show & knew nothing about them being forced to come," Alyssa Barlow wrote on her Twitter page. Lauren Barlow tweeted, "We knew nothing at all about soldiers being forced to go to our show."