Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Religious liberty advocates painted widely divergent pictures

13 minutes ago
Advocates paint differing pictures of the state of religion in the military
Stars and Stripes
By Chris Carroll
Published: November 19, 2014

WASHINGTON — Religious liberty advocates painted widely divergent pictures of the state of faith in the U.S. military for House legislators Wednesday, with some claiming rampant proselytization and others complaining that believers are punished for expressing their faith.

The purpose of the hearing by the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee was to examine the effects of recent changes to federal law and Defense Department policies governing religious expression in the military.

The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Department of Defense to accommodate religious expression as much as possible without damaging the military, and exempted chaplains from performing religious duties they believe violate their faith. DOD followed up in January with a policy that critics and supporters alike say loosens the reins on religious expression.

Among other affects, policy change eases the way for members of religious minorities who believe their faiths require beards, turbans other types of traditional grooming or dress to receive official accommodation for not meeting uniform regulations.

But retired Navy chaplain Rabbi Bruce Kahn told legislators that the new policy may also open a door for those inclined to relentlessly try to bring others to their faiths.

“Where you have individuals who believe they’re on a mission to bring others to their point of view … then you have cracks in unit cohesion and you have real problems with maintaining readiness and being prepared to go to war,” Kahn said.
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