Congressmen Criticize US Military Religious Liberty Implementation

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Congressman John Fleming (R-La) recently wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that was critical of the way the Department of Defense has implemented the religious liberty provisions of the 2014 NDAA — legislation they authored.

In short, the two say the military has focused on accommodation of religious clothing and failed to specifically address religious expression [emphasis added]: 

We share deep concerns about an evolving military environment increasingly hostile to religious practices, one in which service members fear that expressing their religious beliefs would be grounds for disciplinary action or hinder career advancement…

We are extremely concerned about the Department’s lack of a comprehensive response…[DoDI 1300.17] focuses narrowly on religious accommodation for specific clothing or jewelry… This Instruction fails to address the issue of censorship of religious speech and fear of reprisal for expressing one’s beliefs, the primary intent of the FY2013 and FY 2014 amendments.

General perceptions of the military’s publication of the DoDI seem to bear that out: The media focus, for example, has been almost exclusively on religious beards, hair, jewelry, and clothing.

Chaplain Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty applauded the letter, noting that efforts to curtail religious exercise continue in the military:

Crews related the story of one chaplain who was told he had to provide his sermon and notes to a supervisory chaplain because the sermon was deemed “controversial.” After the chaplain’s endorser became involved, the supervisory chaplain backed down…

It would seem fortunate that US troops now have a coalition of external organizations dedicated to protecting military religious freedom — a change from the groups that have done nothing but attack religious freedom for the past several years.

Via the ADF.