Air Force upgrades policy to include religious freedom protections

Last week the Air Force took a positive step toward protecting the cherished religious 2013-10-27 17.50.25-2freedom of Airmen.  By updating current policies, the Air Force under the direction of General Welsh, renewed their commitment to protecting the religious rights of military personnel.  The changes came as a result of a Religious Freedom “Focus Day” held earlier this year when Air Force chaplains met to discuss the unclear policies. The following positive changes have been made:

  • The language now prioritizes protections for free exercise of religion and religious expression, consistent with the First Amendment and the conscience protections passed by Congress.
  • The word “neutrality” has been dropped, freeing commanders from the misleading and inappropriate inference that in order to be neutral, a commanding officer must never reference faith.
  • The language now references well-established standards for religious freedom found in the First Amendment and in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Liberty Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports religious freedom, made this statement about the change:

“This is an important step in the right direction for people of faith serving in the Air Force,” said Mike Berry, the Liberty Institute’s senior counsel and director of military affairs. “Before these changes, the Air Force had the most problematic policy regarding religious accommodation for its members. Now they have a policy that, in writing, protects religious freedom to a greater degree than previously. But only time will tell if this written policy is put into practice.” 

The press release is here and the revised instruction is here. Below is a joint press release issued by Reps. Lamborn and Forbes.

_____________________________________________________________

Forbes, Lamborn Praise Revision of Air Force Policy

Washington, DC- Representatives J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) and Doug Lamborn (CO-05) issued the following statement in response to an announcement from the United States Air Force that they have revised Air Force Instruction 1-1:

ReligiousFreedom“The Air Force’s new policy more clearly reflects the priority of religious freedom in our Constitution and in the conscience protections for servicemembers and chaplains that Congress passed in the National Defense Authorization Act. Whereas the old language was misleading and confusing for Commanders to apply, these revisions point to well-established standards for protecting religious expression. We are grateful to General Welsh and Chaplain Stendahl for their leadership in revising this policy, and hope that this new language will better aid commanders in maintaining the high standard that our Nation has always had for protecting freedom of religion for our men and women in uniform.”

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