Friday, December 18, 2009

Americans United Urges Army Officials To Alter ‘Church Retreat’ Program At Missouri Base

Watchdog Group Says Further Changes Are Necessary To Avoid Religious Coercion At Fort Leonard Wood

December 18, 2009

U.S. military officials should make further changes at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri to ensure that soldiers are not subjected to unwanted religious proselytism, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In July of 2008, Americans United wrote to Department of Defense officials to raise concerns about the “Tabernacle Baptist Church Retreat” (previously known as “Free Day Away”), a program sponsored by a church in Lebanon, Mo. Under the program, soldiers are taken to the church for food and recreational activities but are required to attend an evangelistic service while there.

Soldiers who chose not to attend were left behind at the base to continue with their military responsibilities. The fort is a training center for new recruits, and the “Church Retreat” program is the only day (other than the day before graduation) off base allotted to enlistees. Officials at the fort had been promoting the program for 36 years.

Shortly after AU sent its missive, Department of Defense officials issued guidelines stating that it should be made clear that attendance is voluntary and that soldiers who remain behind should be allotted free time and not made to work.

Read the full press release at

Read the follow-up letter sent to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

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