The US military has just updated its regulations with the intent of improving the protection of military religious freedom.
Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1300.17 was previously known as “Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services,” but is now re-titled simply “Religious Liberty in the Military Services” (PDF). The new DoDI title sets the tone for a policy that presupposes religious liberty, rather than treats it as an outlier that may sometimes be “accommodated.”
That change in tone mimics the tone change in religious liberty policies in the Air Force – which may not be a coincidence. The new DoDI was approved by Undersecretary of Defense Matthew Donovan – a former Air Force fighter pilot who has been both an Undersecretary of the Air Force and even the Acting Secretary of the Air Force in the past few years, during which the tenor (if not always the actions) of Air Force policy leaned toward religious freedom.
It seems President Trump’s selection of Undersecretary Donovan may have set the stage for improving religious liberty in the US military.
As to the DoDI itself, it notably Read more
Various outlets have reported the US Navy reversed the “controversial” decision (highlighted here yesterday) to cancel contracts for civilian Catholic chaplains, which was reportedly done either as a cost-savings or because it didn’t serve the proper demographic, depending on who you asked.
The religious services will continue for at least the next year, Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander Navy Region Southwest, said in a statement to Fox News on Tuesday.
“Contrary to previous discussions, this year we will continue contracted religious ministry programs and services similar to what we’ve had in place previously,” Bolivar said. “We will also continue to assess how best to meet the needs of our sailors and their families throughout the region.”
The decision to axe the civilian chaplain contracts was criticized by Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Archdiocese that encompasses the military service.
The Navy’s actions had even caught the attention of their Commander-in-Chief, with President Trump tweeting about the reversal: Read more
Various news outlets covered the US Navy’s decision not to renew the contracts of civilian chaplains who were filling critical billets in the military chaplaincy:
The Navy has declined to renew contracts with Catholic priests in a supposed “cost-cutting” move, leaving bases without enough chaplains to keep services going…
The San Diego Tribune’s headline was somewhat misleading, as “other religious services continue” because most of the contract chaplains are Catholics, so the “other religious services” will continue to be served by active duty military chaplains.
Part of the Navy’s reasoning, according to Vice Admiral Yancey Lindsey, was that chaplain contracts were ended
at bases where those services are readily available in the surrounding community outside the base.
Such reasoning is dangerous toward Read more
LtCol Jonathan “Flood” Kassebaum, commander of the 125th Operation Support Squadron at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida, flew an F-15 Eagle last week – eight months after nearly being electrocuted in his backyard.
Kassebaum was severely injured while working on a project in the backyard of his family home. He remained lifeless for nearly 12 minutes after the electrocution and was placed in a medically induced coma.
In his civilian life, Kassebaum is the Lead Pastor of the Crossing Church, and he told his story at the Read more
Though it occurred somewhat under the radar these past two weeks, new US military policies clashed with religious freedom, resulting in outside groups coming to the aid of US troops and their liberties.
Late in June, the US Navy Fleet Forces Command, which administratively oversees Naval forces based within the continental United States, issued “additional Force Health Protection guidance” regarding COVID-19 mitigation procedures. In theory, Fleet Forces Command had already declared “HPCON C minus” in late March, and the late June message was a “reiteration” or reminder of that status. However, the latest release was notable (making the local news in many places) and very specifically clarified the somewhat vague HPCON C- with detailed mandatory procedures and prohibitions – including a specific statement on religious services – even those off military installations.
As printed in the Navy message (PDF):
5.A.7.B.4. (U) SERVICE MEMBERS ARE PROHIBITED FROM VISITING, PATRONIZING, OR ENGAGING IN THE FOLLOWING OFF-INSTALLATION SPECIFIC FACILITIES, SERVICES, OR ACTIVITIES…
5.A.7.B.4.F. (U) DINE-IN RESTAURANTS (TAKE-OUT AUTHORIZED), BARS, NIGHT CLUBS, CASINOS, CONFERENCES, SPORTING EVENTS, CONCERTS, PUBLIC CELEBRATIONS, PARADES, PUBLIC BEACHES, AMUSEMENT PARKS OR OTHER EVENTS DESIGNED TO PROMOTE LARGE GATHERINGS, TO INCLUDE INDOOR RELIGIOUS SERVICES.
While seemingly Read more
Chris Rodda has long been a “creative” writer, despite her sometimes claim to be an apparent amateur historian. While she has been quick to call out the errors of others with whom she disagrees, she ignores the errors of those who are on her side. She has also published a bevy of, to put it nicely, misleading writings. For someone so quick to call others “liars,” she has a very unique view of the truth.
With that in mind, Rodda published a blog yesterday with an attention-grabbing title:
National Defense Authorization Act to Include Military Training on How to Force Religion on Others.
Like much of what she writes, though, her title wasn’t true. (Most obviously, the NDAA hasn’t left either side of Congress yet, much less gone through conference committee or to the President. In other words, the NDAA doesn’t “include” anything yet.)
The short version of a long, meandering blog (Rodda has never been one for being succinct), is that Rodda is upset about Senate bill 4049, which was introduced in the Senate only a couple of weeks ago. Within it, the Senate requires the US military to conduct training on “Religious Accommodation” that must include:
- Federal statutes, DoD Instructions, Service regulations regarding religious liberty and accommodation for members of the Armed Forces
- The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993
- Section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013
- Section 528 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016
Of that content, Rodda takes issue only with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA is fairly short, and it says the government cannot “substantially burden” exercise of religion, with some Read more
With politics, COVID-19, and racial tensions enrapturing the US public these past few months, there’s been little to discuss in the realm of military religious freedom. There has been little public movement in the case of the Manchester VA and the POW Bible. The decision to censor US Army chaplains, while significant, has quickly fallen out of the public view. (The conversation continues at higher levels, where there may yet be a coming resolution.)
As a result, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein – with a self-described “laser like” focus on religion in the US military – has had to find something else to talk about.
It started with a Weinstein complaint about headstones in a VA cemetery in San Antonio, TX, where German POWs from World War II are buried. It seems many Read more
On Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx) sent a letter (press release, PDF) to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper highlighting the US Army’s kowtowing to Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s demands to restrict religious liberty in the Armed Forces. Some of the language may seem very similar to what was written on this site the same day [emphasis added]:
The [MRFF] has been waging a campaign against the chaplaincy, and frankly, against religious freedom in the military generally. In response, the Army has censored chaplains’ religious speech based on the flawed and arbitrary notion that military chaplains may not carry out their official duties outside of a religious ceremony that occurs within the four walls of a chapel.
As with other members of Congress in the recent past, Cruz reminded Read more