New Pentagon Rule Allows Proselytizing By Officers

The Military Times reports:

The Pentagon has issued new guidance on religious liberty within the military — following pressure from Republican lawmakers to “prioritize protecting the rights and freedoms of service members” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While critics of the revised regulation say it will encourage military superiors to push their religious beliefs on subordinates and fellow service members, proponents of the rule have hailed it as a victory for religious liberty.

“Service members don’t lose their religious freedom by virtue of being in the military,” Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute, told Military Times.

The First Liberty Institute is a Christian anti-LGBT hate group. Their senior counsel, former Family Research Counsel staffer and Breitbart columnist Ken Klukowski, was on Trump’s 2016 transition team.

Hemant Mehta reacts at The Friendly Atheist:

The new rules “accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” — i.e. allow proselytizing — as long as it doesn’t have an “adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, or health and safety.”

But by that logic, everything is permissible. An officer who tells his soldiers they need to accept Jesus could easily argue that God brings everyone together and improves their spiritual health. Unless a soldier complains about it — and there’s incredible pressure on that soldier not to do so — the proselytizing will continue unabated.

The other limitation is that an officer’s “sincerely held beliefs” cannot be used to punish anyone, denying someone a promotion, etc. But this, too, is easy to dance around; if a Christian officer punishes a Muslim soldier without explicitly citing religion, how could anyone prove otherwise?