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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."


Any red-blooded man, Christian or no, would not need to be "forced" to go watch these ladies.

There's a good chance this silliness isn't religious coercion, it's just the practicalities of keeping junior troops on the traditionally short leash. I remember having the choice at Camp Pendleton in the mid-80s of paying the (bargain) price for a rec services outing to Disneyland or staying in barracks to "field day" (clean). Leaving large numbers of junior folks in barracks idle and unsupervised is asking for trouble. The instructor staff for whatever training course these folks are in quite naturally doesn't want to supervise a smorgasbord of entertainment options. That boils down to 'go on the unit outing to a concert' or 'stay in barracks, but if we have to tie down a duty instructor to keep an eye on you, you can get some work done'. Also, the military has a interest in making sure there are big turnouts for sponsored events - the performers like the stroke of a big crowd, and are more likely to come back (often gratis) if they liked the audience.
A conspiracy or other malicious action is always a possible but rarely is the most likely explanation.

A conspiracy or other malicious action is always a possible but rarely is the most likely explanation.