It started with an article on Brietbart that claimed the “Obama administration Pentagon appointees” were “meeting with anti-christian extremist Mikey Weinstein to develop court-martial procedures to punish Christians in the military who express or share their faith.” (Source: Brietbart) Then Fox News got involved and got a statement from the Pentagon which they promptly took out of context and told everyone that Christians in the military will now be prosecuted for sharing their faith. People on social media went nuts:
Including Rick Santorum who claimed it was an assault on religious freedom by President Obama.
The truth is that the military has always required that you respect the religious freedoms of others. ?Chaplains must be “willing to function in a pluralistic environment.” That does not mean that they cannot share their faith but it does mean they cannot force it on others. It is important to remember that Chaplains in the military are officers and have a unique responsibility to make sure that they do not have undo influence as a result.
The full statement from the Pentagon is much more clear:
The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution. The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.
Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization). If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence.
Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis.
The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and respects (and supports by its policy) the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs. The Department does not endorse any one religion or religious organization, and provides free access of religion for all members of the military services.
We work to ensure that all service members are free to exercise their Constitutional right to practice their religion — in a manner that is respectful of other individuals’ rights to follow their own belief systems; and in ways that are conducive to good order and discipline; and that do not detract from accomplishing the military mission.
LCDR Nate Christensen
DoD Spokesman, Defense Press Office, Personnel and Readiness
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense