Religious freedom is an issue that affects military service members in many different forms, including: accommodations for soldiers’ individual religious traditions, protections for LGB service members from religiously-based discrimination, and safeguards to ensure that those of minority faiths or no faith at all are free from unwarranted proselytization. AU supports military policies that support service members’ free exercise rights, while upholding the separation of church and state.

AU fully appreciates the need for and value of religious accommodations in the Armed Services.  The military has long had policies governing the issues of religious accommodations, which are designed to allow service members of different religious beliefs and none at all to serve together with respect and dignity.  But, even as AU supports religious accommodations, it recognizes the equally important and coextensive need to ensure that service members are not subject to coercive religious practices or unwanted proselytizing.  Americans who choose to serve their country in the military should have the freedom to practice their religion without the pressure to conform to the belief system of their commanding officers in order to gain acceptance or promotions up the ranks. Thus, it is of particular importance that the military protect service members—especially those of minority faiths and non-theists—from unwanted pressure to engage in certain religious activities or adopt particular religious beliefs.

Under the guise of “religious freedom,” Congress recently has made attempts to chip away at policies that protect soldiers from coercive religious practices.  AU continues to monitor and speak out against these attempts.

Another important aspect of religious freedom in the military is the role of military chaplains.  Military chaplains serve the dual role of providing worship services for their faith group and facilitating and serving the more diverse religious population in the military.  AU opposes the efforts of some Members of Congress to enact legislative language to promote and facilitate explicitly sectarian prayer by Chaplains at official military ceremonies and events, including those at which attendance is mandatory. These efforts show a lack of respect for the diversity of religious beliefs in our military and threaten to erode unit cohesion.

Additional resources:

  • AU letter concerning a proposed  Air Force regulation that would govern religious expression
  • Interfaith letter to the Department of Defense voicing concern about current religious accommodations for religious garb
  • AU testimony submitted for a Congressional hearing on religious accommodations in the Armed Services

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