Written by Don Byrd
Military chaplains minister to the spiritual needs of personnel, but are barred from proselytizing their religious point of view to servicemen and women unless they are seeking guidance voluntarily. In the same way, military officials may not use their positions of authority to promote religion or mandate religious activities. Neither may they base rewards and punishments on personnel’s religion. These are not new policies.
But you would never know that by following the recent conservative tempest after the Pentagon reiterated that position last week. Groups including the Family Research Council are up in arms over the possibility that military leaders may be discussing ways to enforce those longstanding regulations. Earlier today the Department of Defense moved to quell rumors that an actual shift in policy is under way to target Christians.
“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement. “The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.”
“Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization),” Christensen added.
As Brent Walker has written before, chaplains should aid the military in accommodating religion, not promoting religion. Enlistees should not be forced to choose between serving their country and being true to their conscience. Nothing about that axiom is a new development. You can read more from Stars and Stripes on the Pentagon’s clarification here.