Written by Don Byrd
The Chief of Staff for the US Air Force has released new standards of conduct, created in an effort to establish a “one-stop shop for standards-related guidelines.” Included is a section entitled “Government Neutrality Toward Religion.”
Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example,they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline. Airmen, especially commanders and supervisors, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline in the Air Force or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force.
“Free Exercise of Religion and Religious Accommodation” reads:
Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the Air Force core values and the ability to maintain an effective team.
2.12.1. All Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion, or subscribe to no religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own.
2.12.2. Your right to practice your religious beliefs does not excuse you from complying with directives, instructions, and lawful orders; however, you may request religious accommodation. Requests can be denied based on military necessity. Commanders and supervisors at all levels are expected to ensure that requests for religious accommodation are dealt with fairly.
Some fairly strong language, especially the requirement to avoid the actual or apparent use of position to promote personal beliefs. One question, though, while this document seems to be new, is this particular religious neutrality language a new development? Or has it been included in Air Force standards elsewhere before now?