The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band’s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.
Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps.
Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.” Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.
“Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down,” Smith said. “It seemed very much like a punishment.” Smith said he and the other soldiers were told not to use their cell phones or personal computers and ordered to clean up the barracks.
About 20 of the men, including several Muslims, refused to attend the concert based on their religious beliefs, he said.