Air Force Updates Religious Guidance after Outcry

The Air Force announced it has updated AFI 1-1 — because of issues regarding religious liberty [emphasis added]:

Air Force officials approved Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, Nov. 7, to clarify guidance on Airmen’s religious rights and commanders’ authority and responsibility to protect those rights.

The announcement contained a summary of the changes. The changes [emphasis added]

clarify guidance for how commanders should handle religious accommodation requests or when Airmen’s rights to free exercise are questioned. Chaplain corps officials also clarified policy language to assist commanders in balancing the constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs with the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.

Importantly, General Welsh is quoted as specifically reversing a former prohibition [emphasis added]:

“We trust our commanders with the great responsibility of caring for our Airmen,” Welsh said. “That includes Airmen’s physical, mental, social and spiritual health…”

Previously, commanders had been forbidden from addressing Airmen’s “spiritual health,” as the former Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, had segregated that topic to the chaplaincy, a move that was criticized by some as the Air Force failing to “trust” commanders.

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, a critic of religious liberty in the US military, has been lobbying against these changes for months, fearing they will protect the religious freedom of Christians.  Weinstein has claimed credit for the Air Force publishing the religious text that has now been revised.

For the moment, the AFI 1-1 on the Air Force’s e-publishing site is still the old version.