June 2017 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in March expanded its list of recognized religions in the United States military, increasing from just over 100 religions to 221 faith groups.

The list, which was publicized by the DOD in April, now includes nature-themed religions, heathens and more. It also expands identity choices. For example, Jews can now state whether they’re Orthodox, Conservative or Reform instead of merely listing their faith as “Jewish.”

Additionally, although Humanism has been recognized by the U.S. Army since 2014, the new list expands that recognition to every branch of the military. The list was met with approval by secular groups.

“Beyond Humanism, the new listing is a win for diversity in general,” Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, told Religion News Service. “There have been prior declarations that the government or the military has recognized Humanism in one way or another, but this is different.”

Supporters of the newly expanded recognitions argued that the list makes it easier for adherents of some faith groups to get religious holidays off, travel to religious gatherings and more.

But some critics were not pleased.

Roger Drinnon, an editor for Reporter, the newspaper of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, argued that the military’s recognizing more faiths was a result of “heavily secularized military culture, stemming from ongoing atheist activism and LGBT advocacy.”