Update: J.B. Wells wonders aloud if the DoD intentionally produced the policy to change the religious freedom focus to turbans and beards while keeping “liberal constituencies” like Michael Weinstein “at bay.”
There have been a wide variety of responses to the US military’s update to DODI 1300.17 (accommodating religious freedom), with language that seems to imply a more open attitude toward outward display and expression of religious belief.
The Christian Post, like many sites, focused on the apparent ability to wear religious accoutrements:
The Pentagon reportedly decided to change its policy on religious wear after Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, spoke at a Congressional briefing about the challenges American Sikhs face in the military earlier in January. Kalsi told members of Congress that he believes he can effectively serve his country while still maintaining his religious appearance, including an uncut beard and a turban.
While that may or may not have been a factor, the DoDI clearly includes language from both the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts — that is, requirements levied by Congress, not just reconsideration based on serving Soldiers.
The US Navy appeared to try to quell Read more
A host of websites have reported the US Department of Defense has “relaxed” its rules regarding religious accommodation. More accurately, the military has updated its policies on requesting such accommodations in a manner that does seem to imply they will be more amenable to such requests. Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17 (DoDI 1300.17) now has “Change 1”, which can be found here (PDF).
“The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members,” [Pentagon spokesman Navy LtCmdr Nathan Christensen] said, “unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.”
When a service member requests such an accommodation, he added, department officials balance the need of the service member against the need to accomplish the military mission. Such a request is denied only if an official determines that mission accomplishment needs outweigh the need of the service member, Christensen said.
The key word in the quote and the instruction itself — the DoD will accommodate.
These changes include an apparent allowance of religious facial hair and “body art,” as well as direct responses to the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) requiring the US military to accommodate religious expression: Read more
US Rep Randy Forbes (R-Va) reportedly “grilled” relatively new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel over
a steady stream of religious discrimination complaints over the past four years from Christian soldiers.
For his part, Secretary Hagel said he’d have to get back to the Congressman:
Hagel said he had no idea what the congressman was talking about.
“I don’t know about all the specifics of the information you presented,” he told the lawmaker. “I will get it. And I will find out about it.”
When asked if the DoD was enforcing section 533 of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama, Secretary Hagel again pled ignorance Read more