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U.S. Department of Defense Releases New Religious Liberty Policies

The U.S. Department of Defense released a new guidance strengthening religious freedom within the military.

Under the revised regulation, Religious Liberty in the Military Services, “…service members have the right to observe the tenets of their religion or to observe no religion at all, as provided in this issuance.”

This new guidance is a huge step in the right direction for America’s brave service members, for whom faith is an essential element of their life and duty. —Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute

The policy, released early this month, states that the military “will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) which do not have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, or health and safety.”

The guidelines protect a personnel’s religious belief and such “sincerely held beliefs” will not be used to discriminate, harm, or deny promotion, assignment or any other benefits, reports Military Times. In promoting religious freedom, the policy also calls on the military services to provide the necessary education and training on religious liberty policies.

The updates reflect the requirements stated in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. The law states that “governments shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” The directive also prohibits service members from requiring chaplains to “perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain.”

While critics denounced the latest regulations as a means for superior military personnel to push their religious beliefs on subordinates, advocates such as First Liberty Institute lauded the move.

The Texas-based organization welcomed the updated guideline. “We still have a lot of work to do, but this new guidance is a huge step in the right direction for America’s brave service members, for whom faith is an essential element of their life and duty,” said Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. He added that, “Since the days of the Revolutionary War, religious freedom has been a force multiplier for our military.”

Berry stressed that, “Service members don’t lose their religious freedom by virtue of being in the military.”

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