Update: Retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty was similarly “grateful” that President Obama signed this “improve[d] religious liberty provision” into law.
The Family Research Council released a statement regarding the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act which has passed the Senate and gone to President Obama for his signature. In short, the FRC was pleased to see a strengthening in specific liberty language.
Noting last year’s version of the language, the FRC said the [emphasis added]
DOD has refused to issue the implementing regulations required by that law…Moreover, military branches such as the Air Force have interpreted the law very narrowly to apply only to a service member’s ability to hold a belief, not to practice or express that belief.
That truncated view of religious liberty has resulted in protections for a service member to attend a house of worship but no clear protections for a service member to apply the teachings of that house of worship to their daily life. Confusion at the command level has resulted in restrictive stifling of speech and career reprisals for some soldiers and Airmen who have vocalized their faith.
The FRC notes the new language requires the military to accommodate religious expression, not just religious belief, and it must report to Congress on its promulgation – an apparent means to force the military to actually implement the law.