The relationship between religion
and the military has a long and varied history --whether it be
Christians in the Air Force, Sikhs in the Army, Muslims or
Buddhists in the Navy, or any combination thereof. It
involves not only the obvious military regulations, but also
Constitutional interpretation, Supreme Court decisions,
Congressional law, Presidential decrees, and more.
Below are some of the more important
references regarding both the current state and the history of
the religion/military relationship. Suggestions for
additions or critiques are welcomed.
Department of Defense
Department of Defense
(DoDI) 1300.17, Accommodation of Religious Practices
Within the Military Services.
10 Februrary 2009 [Updated
22 January 2014]
Primary document guiding all military services in their
interactions with religion.
Of note, from paragraph 4.b:
"Unless it could have an adverse impact on military
readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and
discipline, the Military Departments will
accommodate individual expressions of
sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral
principles, or religious beliefs) of Service
members in accordance with the policies and
procedures in this instruction."
Department of Defense Directive
(DoDD) 1304.19, Appointment of Chaplains for the Military
11 June 2004
Continues the educational and ecclesiastical requirements
for appointing military
From Section 4:
It is DoD policy that the Chaplaincies of the Military
4.1. Are established to advise and assist commanders in the
discharge of their
responsibilities to provide for the free exercise of
religion in the context of military service as guaranteed by
the Constitution, to assist commanders in managing Religious
Affairs, and to serve as the principal advisors to
commanders for all issues regarding the impact of religion
on military operations...
Department of Defense
(DoDI) 5100.73, Major DoD Headquarters Activities.
01 December 2007 [Updated 12 June
Identifies major DoD activities.
Paragraph E3.2.26 defines a "DoD
wide functional area:"
"Religious Affairs. Management of religious affairs,
counseling, and related moral welfare activities."
Department of Defense Directive
(DoDD) 5500.7-R, The Joint Ethics Regulation.
Change 7, 17 November 2011
Governing document guiding ethics in the Defense Department.
Includes discussion on
endorsement, fundraising, preferential treatment, airline
upgrades, receiving money from outside agencies, political
activity, and other sometimes controversial topics.
General Order Number 1B
04 April 2009 [Superseded by GO1C.]
From paragraph 3:
3.L. Prohibited Activities:
Proselytizing of any religion, faith, or practice.
General Order Number 1C.
21 May 2013
The updated GO1 substantially changed the wording of the
traditional GO, including justification and
explanation of almost every statement:
(1) This Order
prohibits entrance into a mosque or
other site of Islamic religious significance
(2) This Order
prohibits creating or reproducing an image
or likeness of the Prophet Muhammad.
(3) This order prohibits intentionally
descrating or defiling the following:
(a) religious items or symbols
(regardless of the religion);
religious holy books, such as the Qur'an,
Bible, or Torah...
(4) This Order
prohibits proselytizing of any
religion, faith, or practice to
local nationals or third country nationals
in countries in the USCENTCOM AOR. This rule
does not prohibit Chaplains from performing
their official religious duties.
Joint Publication (JP)
1-05, Religious Affairs in Joint Operations.
20 November 2013
Sets doctrine and guidance for US Armed Forces regarding
joint force religious support
"US military chaplains
represent specific religious organizations
and work together within the pluralistic
context of the military to ensure freedom of
religion within the joint force...
Military commanders are responsible to
provide for the free exercise of religion of
those under their authority as directed by
Joint Publication (JP) 1, Doctrine for the
Armed Forces of the United States."
Instruction 36-2706, Military Equal Opportunity (MEO)
05 October 2010 [Change
1 05 October 2011] [Government
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
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
Air Force Instruction
52-101, Chaplain Planning and Organizing
05 December 2013 (2008
220.127.116.11. Leading Worship.
Chaplains conduct worship services consistent with the
tenets of their respective endorsing religious organization.
Communication. Privileged communication is
protected communication IAW Military Rule of
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
2006 Version (Rescinded by
Act of Congress)
Chief of Staff
28 June 2005
"The expression of personal preferences to subordinates,
especially in a professional setting or at mandatory events,
1730.1E, Religious Ministry in the Navy
06 May 2003 [Previous
"Commanders shall develop and strengthen the moral and
spiritual well being of the personnel under their command,
and encourage and support chaplains in the performance of
Religious Ministry within the Department of the Navy
08 August 2008 (1730.7B,
Act of Congress)
trained and expected to cooperate with other chaplains and
RMPs and work within the specialized environment of the
military whil not compromising the tenets of their own
"Chaplains care for all Service members,
including those who claim no religious
"Attendance at divine services shall be
voluntary. Personnel present in an
official support capactiy are not considered
"Commanders shall not compel chaplains to
act in a way that is inconsistent with the
tenets of their faith. When invited to
deliver religious elements at command
functions, if the chaplain chooses not to
participate, he or she may do so without
The instruction also defines
Divine Services, Public Worship, Religious
Rights, and Religious Services. The
updated instruction removed the requirement
that "Other than Divine/Religious services, religious elements
for a command function, absent extraordinary circumstances,
should be non-sectarian in nature."
Army Regulation 165-1,
Chaplain Corps Activities
03 December 2009
"Chaplains cooperate with each other without
compromising their faith tradition or ecclesiastical
chaplaincy is an instrumentality of the US
government to ensure that the "free
exercise" rights of religion are not
Army Regulation 600-20,
Army Command Policy
18 March 2008 [Updated 20
Section 5-6 on
page 42, "Accommodating religious
practices," contains Army guidance on
religious exceptions, exemptions, and other
601-210, Active and Reserve Components Enlistment Program
08 February 2011 [Updated 12 March 2013] [June 2007
"Conscientious objectors are persons who
profess conscientious objections or
religious convictions at time of application
for enlistment that would restrict
assignments and who desire to enlist as
Supreme Court and Judicial Decisions
While not all of these cases
directly deal with religion in the military,
each has contributed to the cultural and legal concepts
under which the military must deal with religion, balancing
the sometimes contradictory precepts of military members'
free exercise without breaching establishment issues.
Schempp, 17 June 1963
8-1 ruling that eliminated government-mandated Bible reading
in public schools.
Notably, the decision also
stated "There are certain practices, conceivably violative
of the Establishment Clause, the striking down of which
might seriously interfere with certain religious liberties
also protected by the First Amendment. Provisions for
churches and chaplains at military establishments for those
in the armed services may afford one such example."
Even the dissenting opinion noted that a lack of a
chaplaincy could violate a soldier's right to free exercise.
County v. ACLU, 3
Unusually worded decision defined the "endorsement test,"
which says an Establishment Clause violation is determined
by whether non-adherents "feel like 'outsiders' by
government recognition or accommodation of religion."
Laird, 18 December
1972 (DC Circuit Court)
Appellate court decision that ruled mandatory attendance of
religious services by cadets at the three US military
academies was unConstitutional.
Crowe v. Cobb County,
28 October 2008
Appellate court decision that upheld a lower court ruling
saying a Georgia Commission's practice of opening with
prayer was not unConstitutional. Notably, it said it
was not the government's place to "parse" the content of
Engel v. Vitale,
25 June 1962
5-2 ruling struck down New York law requiring officials to
start school day with prayer. One of the early cases in
which government religious activities were restricted.
Goldman v. Weinberger,
25 March 1986
5-4 decision stating that the
Air Force was not required to allow Jewish officers to wear
yarmulke. Congress addressed this by altering the law
allowing "neat and tidy" religious accoutrements (10
USC Sec 774).
Johnson v. Poway,
25 February 2010
District Court decision declaring that restricting
"Judeo-Christian viewpoint" while allowing others violated
the Establishment Clause. Also includes significant
citations of support for referencing God in government.
Katcoff v. Marsh,
1985, Second Circuit Court of Appeals
Held that the Army Chaplaincy did not violate the
Establishment Clause of the Constitution. It left open
the question about whether the Chaplaincy was necessary in
areas where military members had access to private sector
Lee v. Weisman,
24 June 1992
5-4 decision against graduation prayer. Notably, the
state can also not dictate the content of a prayer.
Often cited in reference to the military attempting to
"restrict" the content of a military Chaplain's prayers.
Donnelly, 5 March
5-4 ruling allowing Nativity display. Listed many
examples of our "Government's acknowledgment of our
religious heritage," including Congress' addition of the
words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.
Chambers, 5 July 1983
6-3 vote permitted practice of beginning legislative session
with prayer given by a publicly funded chaplain.
Frequently cited in reference to military chaplains.
Rigdon v. Perry,
7 April 1997, District Court
Chaplains were explicitly allowed to encourage their
congregants to contact Congress; such actions were not
considered political lobbying, which was prohibited for
United States v. Seeger,
8 March 1965
Conscientious objectors and the necessity of a sincere
Jaffree, 4 June 1985
6-3 decision invalidated Alabama moment of silence statute.
Defense Authorization Act of
| House Version
House version stated, "Each chaplain shall have the
prerogative to pray according to the dictates of the
chaplain’s own conscience..." (p183). The
statement was removed in conference
"In God We Trust"
Coinage (US Treasury) |
National Motto (36 USC
Article VI No "religious test" is allowed for any public
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
Download copies of the
Constitution from the
Indexed version of Constitution available at Cornell
Declaration of Independence
"We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."
"We, therefore, the
Representatives of the united States of America, in General
Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the
world for the rectitude of our intentions..."
"And for the support of this
Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of
Read and download at the
in the Military / "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Title 10, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 37, § 654
Department of Defense Policy:
Enlisted Administrative Separations
("Don't Ask, Don't Tell")
ADF Letter (Concern
for Chaplains & Morality)
Complaints and Public Actions
Pentagon/Christian Embassy Controversy
(Weinstein) | IG
Task Force Patriot "Salute to Heroes"
Complaint (AU) | Defense
Department of Defense
Atheist Harassment Suit Against DoD (Hall v. Welborne)
Press Release |
Law | Dismissal
Atheist Harassment Suit Against
DoD (Chalker v. Gates)
Motion to Dismiss |
Air Force Academy Religious
Yale Report |
Report | Lawsuit |
"The HQ USAF team found a
religious climate that does not involve overt religious
discrimination, but a failure to fully accommodate all
members’ needs and a lack of awareness over where the line
is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of
National Day of Prayer
US Law 36 USC Sec
Lawsuit Ruling NDoP Unconstitutional
"The President shall issue each
year a proclamation..."
Religious Freedom Day
US Law 36 USC Sec 119 |
RFD Guide |
"The President shall issue each year a proclamation..."
Public Expression of Religion
HR 2679 (2006)
Sought to prevent organizations from gaining attorneys' fees
when they sued a government organization for allegations of
As much of the religion
in the military often becomes a church/state debate (which
is inherently a political issue), it is worth noting the
military guidelines regarding political activities as a
Air Force: AFI 51-902
Department of Defense:
occasionally write papers as part of their Professional
Military Education (PME). These papers are their own work,
and do not dictate nor guide military policy. They can
sometimes make for a fascinating read, however.
Implications of American Millennialism"
Brian L. Stuckert, Maj, US Army
"Constructing Religious Empathy in the US
Jess W. Drab, Major, USAF (2008)
Greatest Threat...Spiritual Decay"
R.L. VanAntwerp, LtCol, US Army