WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Defense Department's (DOD) new regulations concerning religious expression in the military are an important step forward in the effort to strengthen religious liberty protections in the military, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jerry Boykin, executive vice-president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said today.
The DOD Instruction requiring protections for service members' expressions of religious belief was issued as part of an update to existing DOD policy on religious accommodation.
Of the new regulations, Boykin said:
"We are cautiously optimistic about this new Instruction. The DOD policy recognizes that the intent of Congress in both the FY 2013 and FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts was to protect service members' freedom to practice and express their faith.
"The key thing will be implementation: Does the Pentagon understand that religious liberty is our core freedom and that curtailing its expression in the military is not only unconstitutional but also deeply harmful to morale and unit cohesion?
"In light of that question, we have to ask if commanders at home and abroad will be encouraged to apply the new rules effectively and consistently, such that service personnel will be at liberty to express their most deeply held convictions without fear of reprisal.
"Careful phrasing only goes so far. Unless the new policy is backed by action, it will remain just words on a piece of paper. Family Research Council will be watching closely to see how our military puts the DOD Instruction into practice. During next week's scheduled House Armed Services Committee hearing on religious accommodation, we look forward to hearing from DOD about how the protection of religious expression will be implemented across our military." concluded Boykin.
FRC's comprehensive study of violations of religious liberty in the military, "A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military," can be downloaded at http://frc.org/clearpresentdanger.