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Religious-freedom group: DoD disclaimer on faith-based fitness messaging falls short

February 3, 2016 (Photo Credit: Defense Department via Health.mil)
column on the Defense Health Agency website

That fix did not suit the leader of the group behind the complaint, who is still awaiting word from the Army regarding where the complaint stands – or even what agency is considering it.

The disclaimer is “nothing more than a pathetic attempt to essentially put lipstick on a pig,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which claims 40,000 clients. The MRFF filed a complaint on behalf of 18 of those clients against Col. Thomas Hundley, whose Jan. 4 “Monday Motivational Message” at Health.mil included “Improve your spiritual fitness through increased prayer” as its top tip for the new year.

The column remains on the website, but now includes an additional paragraph, in bold type: “Individual contributor articles are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Defense Health Agency, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, or the Defense Department.”

The new language was added to Health.mil columns Jan. 13 and will be part of such items going forward, DHA media operations chief Kevin Dwyer said in an email. Hundley will continue to write pieces for the website. 

Asked whether any further action would be taken to address the matter, Dwyer said the agency “has taken the necessary steps to clearly identify individual contributor content on Health.mil such as Motivational Monday Messages as the personal opinions of the author.”

That response fell short of Weinstein’s proposed fix, which includes “very public punishment and discipline” for Hundley, who Weinstein called "a very senior U.S. Army officer using an official DoD website to blatantly proselytize his version of his fundamentalist Christian faith.”

Hundley has served in the surgeon’s office at Army Central since August. He forwarded interview requests made last month to ARCENT public affairs officials, who have not made the colonel available to the media.

Also not made available, according to Weinstein, have been any updates on the process of his group’s complaint. He received a Jan. 8 memo from the inspector general’s office at Regional Health Command-Atlantic, where the complaint was filed, saying the matter had been referred "to a separate agency for resolution.”

Weinstein said the Army has not informed him what agency that is. Army and Defense Department public affairs personnel have not responded to Army Times requests for that information.

“DoD is apparently ‘investigating’ MRFF’s … complaint in some sort of secretive and veiled Star Chamber, the particulars of which DoD shamefully refuses to specify,” Weinstein said in an email.

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