A U.S. Army logistics officer who writes a fitness blog for the Defense Department's health website has been criticized for plugging Jesus and the Bible as a way of getting healthy.
Col. Thomas Hundley, who authors the Motivational Monday Message on Health.mil, the official website of the Defense Health Agency, urged readers of the Jan. 4 column to "improve your spiritual fitness through increased prayer."
Increased prayer was the first of five recommendations Hundley suggested for improvement in 2016 in a blog entry that also referenced a Bible story about Jesus feeding thousands of people with two fish and five loaves of bread.
"He just gave God a little something to work with," Hundley wrote, tying the story into getting fit by challenging readers to "attain a ‘new you' in 2016. All we have to do is give God and ourselves a little something to work with."
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which advocates for religious freedom in the armed forces, said he filed a complaint with the Army Regional Health Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, after hearing from service members critical of Hundley's inclusion of religion in an official website.
The command's public affairs office didn't immediately respond to Military.com's request for comment.
Weinstein said Hundley's use of an official blog to plug his religious views is proselytizing and unconstitutional.
"Apparently, Col. Thomas Hundley can't figure out whether he's an active duty senior Army officer or an evangelical Christian missionary," Weinstein said on Monday. "Col. Hundley has absolutely no business or authority under American law to be conflating his Army officer rank, title and position with his professed evangelical Christian faith."
In addition to authoring a weekly fitness column, Hundley is also the founder of Fit for A King Fitness Ministries LLC, of North Carolina, and author of "Fit For a King: God's Plan For Weight Loss And Total Health," which he sells through his website.
More than 40 Motivational Monday Message columns turned up through a search of Health.mil. Hundley's advice to readers often starts off by recalling some event or conversation with a family member early in his life.
In a December column in which he urged readers to "go higher" in their "physical, spiritual and emotional fitness," he recalled his grandfather telling him that the eagle is mentioned more often in the Bible than other birds because "God uses the eagle as an example of right living."
In a June post he recalled a conversation with his great-grandfather, in which the older man told him that God wants people to be more like a green tomato than a red one, because a green tomato "still got room to grow.
"But as soon as you start thinking you are a red tomato, the only thing left for you is rot," he wrote.
Weinstein said he is now representing 18 clients who are opposed to the religious slant to Hundley's writings. Weinstein does not reveal the names of his clients because they fear reprisal from commanders, but most of the 18 are Christian. Others are atheist, Muslim and Jewish, he said.
In a Jan. 8 letter to Weinstein, Gregory Hill, deputy commanding inspector general for the command, said that after a thorough review of his complaint the office determined it would be handled by another agency.
Weinstein told Military.com the letter did not identify the other agency. He said Col. Ivan Speights, the command inspector general, also refused to identify the agency that the complaint was pushed to.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.