Pentagon again addresses rumors of crackdown on Christians

Yesterday, the Pentagon issued another statement regarding the rumors of a crackdown on religious speech. The Hill picked up on the comments and I have the Department of Defense statement here. In response to queries from various sources, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen sent along the following comments:

EEOC rules do not apply to military personnel.

There is no DOD wide policy that directly addresses religious proselytizing.  Furthermore, there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the UCMJ, including under Article 134.

Service members may exercise their rights under the 1st Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission; even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member.   In general, service members may share their faith with other service members, but may not forcibly attempt to convert others of any faith or no faith to their own beliefs.

Concerns about these issues are handled on a case by case basis by the leaders of the unit involved.

Again, these comments distinguish between proselytizing and simply speaking about one’s religious views. Even Rear Admiral William Lee, who has been quoted at length recently by right-of-center groups, said he opposes proselytizing (at the end of this speech). The issue and has always been about using one’s position or other means of coercion to impose beliefs or expectations of religious behavior.

Although not bound by EEOC rules, the DoD has responded to concerns about workplace conditions which create a hostile environment and to provide accommodations when necessary to allow first amendment freedoms while maintaining order and cohesion in the ranks.




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  • Patrocles

    I really wish people would use plain and clear speech. For example, when the WCC banned “proselytizing”, it meant every organized and intentional attempt to convert members of other Christian churches, by what means of converting ever (but didn’t include the converting of Non-Christians)!

    You could perhaps say that there’s some kind of “force” (or power) behind every organized and intentional attempt, and in that case the Ltd.Cmdr’s “forcible attempt” would mean rather the same like the WCC’s “proselytizing”, only w.r.t all religions.

    But eventually it seems that the army and the Ltd Cmdr wants to make a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate means of converting (which is a completely different problem). Only he fails to make clear where he sees the red line.

    He gives the impression that the army feels threatened by conversions at gun’s point or obvious extortion. But are that the real dangers the army wants to forecome???? And if not, what kind of scenario is before his eyes? Seduction (in the colonial tradition of making “bread Christians”? Bubba telling his mate Muhammad one time too often that he should repent his sins and rely on the vicarious suffering of Jesus?

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Status quo ante. Professional agitators drum up contributions with tempest in teapot.

  • JD

    these comments distinguish between proselytizing and simply speaking about one’s religious views

    No, actually they don’t. They distinguish between conduct that is harassment and that which is not. He clearly avoided saying “proselytizing” was restricted, likely because of criticisms the DoD was making up its own definitions of words.

    The issue and has always been about using one’s position or other means of coercion to impose beliefs or expectations of religious behavior.

    Bingo. And the military, when asked, said it could provide exactly zero examples of that happening. Ever. So why are we going through such pains to articulate a rule for a non-existent problem?

  • ken

    JD says:

    May 9, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    “the military, when asked, it could provide exactly zero examples of that happening. Ever.”

    Who said there were zero examples of it happening? I would also point out, not being able to provide examples is not the same as it not happening. there are other reasons someone might not be able to provide examples, ex. confidentiality, not having direct knowledge of the situation(s), not having a procedure for reporting/cataloging those specific types of complaints etc.

    And despite Weinstein’s vitriol, MRFF has documented such examples.

    As for why this is an issue, it is because people (ex. Starnes), have been mis-representing the air force’s stance on this issue, implying they are going to court-martial service members for being christian.

  • Patrocles

    The aims of Weinstein and the army seem not to be identical, but only overlapping.

    Weinstein wisely avoids any attack on “proselytizing” and concentrates on abuse of power by superiors. (Weinstein seems to copy the succesful business idea of the SPLC at the smaller range of the army – uncovering the Great Evangelical Conspiracy To Overthrow the U.S. Army – which logically must come top-down – and finding well-to-do people who are terrified and send him money. Which explains why he speaks about “sedition” and “treason” and this way suggests the idea of “court-martialing”.)

    But the army itself seems not so much interested in the activities of superiors. I bet their dark vision is that they’ll get riots between different groups of plain soldiers because of religious controversies, and they want to forecome this.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    Ah, this one says “Throckmorton” all over it. Gay issues, Gen. Jerry Boykin and the FRC, the US Air Force and military religious freedom. What’s not to love?

    Updating our earlier report on Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, a Christian serving in the Air Force whose unit is now commanded by a lesbian: according to Monk’s complaint filed with his superiors, he was relieved of duty for refusing his commander’s order to say he supports gay marriage.

    Now the Air Force has taken the first steps to criminally investigate Monk for talking to the media about his situation. Despite the fact that earlier this year the Obama-Hagel Pentagon said they would never court-martial a service member for their Christian faith, they have taken the first steps to possibly court-martial Monk.

    On Aug. 27, an Air Force investigator met with Monk and his attorney, Mike Berry from Liberty Institute. Berry expected it to be a routine meeting to take a statement from his client, but during the meeting the investigator said that he would read Monk his Miranda rights.

    Monk was advised that he is being investigated for committing a crime by the U.S. military for making a false official statement, that he has the right to remain silent, and that he has the right to an attorney. The Air Force then assigned military defense counsel to him and is deciding whether to formally charge him with a crime, at which point Monk would either have to admit guilt and accept further punishment or face a court martial.

    Monk is being investigated and might be formally charged for violating Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which makes it a crime to make a false official statement. But Monk’s explaining his situation to the media is not an official statement.

    More than that, another element of this alleged crime is that Monk must be making a statement he knows is false or that he reasonably should know is false. All Monk is saying is that he believes he’s being punished because of his traditional Christian beliefs.

    Monk explained in a statement to Breitbart News, “I immediately got the sense that this was a retaliation against me for coming forward with my religious discrimination complaint.”