Air Force Policies on Religion

All Air Force regulations can be viewed on this official Air Force site.

Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Culture, Air Force Standards
07 August 2012 [Change 1 12 November 2014] [Government Site]

First AFI to attempt to explicitly regulate religion within the Air Force.  Changed under pressure in 2014.

From paragraphs 2.11 and 2.12:

2.11. Free Exercise of Religion and Religious Accommodation. Every Airman is free to practice the religion of their choice or subscribe to no religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own. Every Airman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment.

2.11.2. If it is necessary to deny free exercise of religion or an accommodation request, the decision must be based on the facts presented, must directly relate to the compelling government interest of military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment, and must be by the least restrictive means necessary to avoid the cited adverse impact.

2.12. Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.

Air Force Instruction 36-2706, Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) Program
05 October 2010 [Change 1 05 October 2011] [Government Site]
Primary document guiding conduct and resolution of discrimination or harassment.

From paragraph 1.1.1:

“It is against Air Force policy for any Airman, military or civilian, to unlawfully discriminate against, harass, intimidate or threaten another Airman on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, reprisal, or genetic information.”

“Religion— A personal set or institutionalized system of attitudes, moral or ethical beliefs and practices held with the strength of traditional religious views, characterized by ardor and faith and generally evidenced through specific religious observances.”

Note: The latest revision deleted a statement saying religious accommodation was not a reflection of “agreement or belief in such practices by a commander, chaplain, unit or the Air Force.”

Air Force Policy Directive 52-1, Chaplain Corps
19 December 2013 (1999 , 2006 versions)

A significant change was from the 2006 version, paragraph 3.4.2:

“Consistent with DoD and Air Force policy, chaplains adhere to the requirements of their endorsing religious organizations while providing for the spiritual and religious needs of all Air Force members, their families, and other authorized personnel.”

To this in the 2013 version:

“3.6.2. Chaplains must adhere to the requirements of their endorsing religious organizations.”

Air Force Instruction 52-101, Chaplain Planning and Organizing
05 December 2013 (2008 version) Leading Worship. Chaplains conduct worship services consistent with the tenets of their respective endorsing religious organization.

5.1. Privileged Communication. Privileged communication is protected communication IAW Military Rule of Evidence 503…

5.1.2. Judicial Proceedings. The Manual for Courts-Martial further affirms the absolute character of such privileged communication within the context of judicial proceedings and investigations for chaplains and chaplain assistants.

Religious Guidelines
August 2005 version (Superseded)
09 February 2006 version (Rescinded by Act of Congress)
SECAF Guidelines Message

Chief of Staff Sight Picture
28 June 2005

“The expression of personal preferences to subordinates, especially in a professional setting or at mandatory events, is inappropriate.”