Marine Policy Says Lack of Faith a Risk

You may remember a couple years ago when the Army was forced to change its policy after reporting on this network revealed the “spiritual fitness test” required of soldiers that denigrated non-religious personnel. Now the Marines have been caught doing something quite similar. Official policy in at least two documents identifies those without religious belief as risky and dangerous.

Several days ago it was brought to our attention at MRFF that the United States Marine Corps (USMC) maintains in its doctrine that a “Lack or loss of spiritual faith” is just cause to increase scrutiny of any given Marine. This clause is present in at least two USMC publications, including Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Headquarters and Service Battalion Order 5100.29 and Training and Education Command Order 5100.1.

“Lack or loss of spiritual faith” is included as a “Guidance/moral compass issue” in both of these documents under a list of risk indicators for use by “leaders at all levels” to “identify and address risky behavior or events that may lead to risky behavior, as soon as possible.” This apparent character flaw is juxtaposed with such things as “lack of courage,” “history of psychiatric hospitalizations,” “past or current substance abuse history,” and being “anti-social.” In the simplest terms, it is the current official position of the United States Marine Corps that those who do not profess a religious belief or choose to leave their religion are to be considered a potential hazard to themselves and the Corps and be placed under greater scrutiny than their peers.

The documents go on to include directives on how to convene a “Force Preservation Council” with the mission to evaluate and assist Marines that are identified as high risk through the checklist of undesirable traits (such as lack of religion).

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has filed a formal protest over this. We’ll see what happens now.

12 comments on this post.
  1. Aliasalpha:

    “The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has filed a formal protest over this. We’ll see what happens now.”

    I’m guessing the writing of several furiously screeched emails containing racism, indirect threats, direct threats, magical proxy threats, special pleading and more mangled spelling than a 10 dictionary pileup.

    All in comic sans, of course

  2. eric:

    Its clearly a problem as written. But I would buy a neutral version “sudden and significant change in religious belief” as a risk indicator. Such a change probably means that something big is going on in that marine’s life – its worth thinking about how it might affect future performance or whatever.

  3. Modusoperandi:

    Now, look, faith in a higher power who has a plan for us all is critical to the morale and discipline of the men and women of our great nation’s fighting forces. Soldiers without faith might start to question why they’re being put in harm’s way on based lies and flimsy pretexts.

  4. bmiller:

    I agree with Modus. If one no longer has faith in religion…maybe “faith” in nationalism goes by the wayside, too. It certainly has for me. Especially under the reign of Hope N’ Change. :(

  5. Kaintukee Bob:

    @eric (#2): I think I would agree with that. The sudden, drastic change in previously-closely held beliefs IS a significant sign of at least temporary instability. I wouldn’t want someone who is currently undergoing a serious crisis of faith (or the sudden realization they have outgrown their faith) at my side in a firefight, nor would I want them armed and in a stressful situation.

    I WOULD want them to get the help and support they need to get through the crisis.

    My reading of the relevant statute is intended to guide leaders in identifying subordinates with potential problems so they can be helped, not to give leaders leave to browbeat their religion into their subordinates. Sadly, I’m sure there ARE people who do that.

    I would support changing the terminology to take away the justification for that behavior while retaining the intent that I have inferred.

  6. D. C. Sessions:

    I wonder how many officers have been passed over for promotion based on that criterion?

    It would certainly be an effective filter to make sure that officers (especially at field grade and higher) are all in with the Corps’ religious mission.

  7. John Pieret:

    Eric @ 2 & Kaintukee Bob @ 5:

    Worse, at least in some families, an open loss of faith (which it pretty much would have to be in order to come to the attention of commanders) can lead to divorce and/or shunning by parents, siblings and other family members. People going through personal crises are not necessarily the best people to allow near military weapons. But that scrutiny should be on the family members as much as on the soldier.

    On the other hand, of course, an otherwise well adjusted person who came into the military without faith should not be scrutinized soley on that basis.

  8. D. C. Sessions:

    Worse, at least in some families, an open loss of faith (which it pretty much would have to be in order to come to the attention of commanders) can lead to divorce and/or shunning by parents, siblings and other family members.

    Likewise a sudden religious conversion.

    For some reason the first is a black mark, while the Service tries its hardest to promote the second.

  9. Matt G:

    Another irony detector on its way to the city dump….

  10. Modusoperandi:

    D. C. Sessions “Likewise a sudden religious conversion. For some reason the first is a black mark, while the Service tries its hardest to promote the second.”
    Even Islam?

  11. jeroenmetselaar:

    TBH, the habit of blindly following orders from an idiot in a stupid costume is both useful in the military and religion.

  12. Pierce R. Butler:

    Remember your Latin, folks: how can anyone lacking faith claim to be “Semper Fi”?

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