Conservatives have mixed reactions to the new Department of Defense policy aimed at accommodating service members’ religious observances.
The Pentagon this week approved a new policy that will let troops seek waivers to wear religious clothing, seek prayer time or engage in religious practices.
Defense officials say approval of the waiver will depend on where the service member is stationed and whether the change would affect the military mission or readiness.
A request can only be denied if it is determined that the needs of the military mission outweigh the religious needs of the service member.
“This is a good thing. It’s to balance rights of religious liberty with the needs of the military,” says Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness.
But there is concern that the Obama-run Pentagon has turned a blind eye to questionable Muslim practices in the military, says Sandy Rios, director of governmental affairs at the American Family Association.
“There’s been a real effort to go out of the way to accommodate Muslims in government and in military life, and then to hurt Christians in military life,” says Rios. “So until we see more specification on this – knowing their habits and their practice in the past few years – I’m not at peace with this yet.”
According to Donnelly, the new rules “make very clear the military is not the same as the civilian world,” she says, explaining that the military is not allowing people to “dress anyway you want.”
Rios says the administration has a serious problem distinguishing between peaceful patriotic Muslims and those who want to inflict harm on America – like convicted Ft. Hood murderer Nadal Hasan.
Ron Crews with the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“That’s the language [in the new policy] we asked Congress to include in the National Defense Authorization Act,” he says. “The question becomes now how commanders are going to implement this guidance and to make sure that those who come from evangelical backgrounds are going to be allowed to speak freely concerning their faith.”
And like Rios, Crews doesn’t think the religious expression of individuals who seek to do harm to others should be accommodated.