An Army colonel's to-do list for better fitness in 2016, presented as one of his weekly "motivational messages" on a Defense Department-run health website, has outraged an advocate for religious freedom in the military.
"Improve your spiritual fitness through increased prayer," Col. Thomas Hundley wrote in a Jan. 4 posting at Health.mil, the online home of the Military Health System. That message, and others in a piece that asks readers to "give God a little something to work with," drew an official complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group that claims more than 40,000 service-connected clients.
Eighteen of those clients, the majority of them Christian, were behind the complaint, MRFF president Mikey Weinstein said, many having worked under or around Hundley during his time as a logistics officer at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"The bottom line here is, this is all about the time, the place and the manner," Weinstein said. "This is not the manner in which this individual should be using his senior position as a full colonel in the United States Army: as a missionary. He's there to handle logistics ... people view him as a fundamentalist Christian bully."
Weinstein's complaint, filed last week with Regional Health Command — Atlantic, has since been forwarded to another agency, according to a memo from the command provided by Weinstein to Army Times. The memo did not state which command; emails to the command were not returned.
Emails to MHS public affairs also were not returned. Hundley referred an interview request to the public affairs office at his new command, Army Forces Central; a spokesman did not immediately make the colonel available, nor did he answer questions posed via email. A Defense Department spokesman also did not answer questions submitted via email regarding the Health.mil publication process and other topics.
Hundley has been writing the "Monday Motivational Message" at Health.mil since at least early last year. Most postings discuss diet and exercise, as well as other common health topics, and do not mention religion. Those that do generally do so as part of wisdom offered by another individual, a family member or a character in a story Hundley is telling, rather than the colonel himself. A June 2015 piece related a story from Hundley's great-grandfather, for example, comparing people's mindsets to tomatoes: "I think God wants us to be more like this green tomato here," the story goes. "You see, as long as you are a green tomato, you still got room to grow."
A personal Facebook page and website appear to show Hundley as active in fitness-related ministry while out of uniform. While Weinstein made clear that his foundation's complaint focused on in-uniform concerns, he called a July 4 posting about Lot's wife and marital roles "misogynistic" and suggested it violated military social media policy.
Hundley also authored a faith-based fitness book, "Fit For The King," which includes a workout DVD.
"I don't think he understands that his oath [of service] is not to his version of the New Testament," said Weinstein, adding that the MRFF clients who made the anonymous complaint felt doing so through the chain of command would result in reprisal.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.