Yesterday, the Pentagon issued another statement regarding the rumors of a crackdown on religious speech. The Hill picked up on the comments and I have the Department of Defense statement here. In response to queries from various sources, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen sent along the following comments:
EEOC rules do not apply to military personnel.
There is no DOD wide policy that directly addresses religious proselytizing. Furthermore, there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the UCMJ, including under Article 134.
Service members may exercise their rights under the 1st Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission; even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member. In general, service members may share their faith with other service members, but may not forcibly attempt to convert others of any faith or no faith to their own beliefs.
Concerns about these issues are handled on a case by case basis by the leaders of the unit involved.
Again, these comments distinguish between proselytizing and simply speaking about one’s religious views. Even Rear Admiral William Lee, who has been quoted at length recently by right-of-center groups, said he opposes proselytizing (at the end of this speech). The issue and has always been about using one’s position or other means of coercion to impose beliefs or expectations of religious behavior.
Although not bound by EEOC rules, the DoD has responded to concerns about workplace conditions which create a hostile environment and to provide accommodations when necessary to allow first amendment freedoms while maintaining order and cohesion in the ranks.