Wait and see: Implementation of new AF policy on religious expression

Monday, November 17, 2014
 | 
Chad Groening (OneNewsNow.com)

An advocate for religious liberty in the armed forces is grateful the Air Force has revised its policy regarding the freedom of religious expression for men and women in uniform.

The U.S. Air Force has taken action in the past favoring objections by atheists and agnostics to religious expression in its ranks, despite language in a policy regarding religious liberty protections for service members – language that Congressmen Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) describe as "misleading and confusing for commanders to apply."

Now thanks to the efforts of those two lawmakers, a revised Air Force Instruction 1-1 more clearly reflects the priority of religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution and in the conscience protections for service members and chaplains that Congress passed in the National Defense Authorization Act.

Crews, Col. Ron (Chaplain Alliance)Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says the changes are a step in the right direction. "It brings their policy closer in line, I think, with the intent of Congress to provide protection for Air Force personnel and to allow religious expression in the Air Force," he tells OneNewsNow.

According to information from the Public Affairs Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, several changes were made to the policy "to clarify guidance for how commanders should handle religious accommodation requests or when airmen's rights to free exercise are questioned." Chaplain corps officials also clarified policy language "to assist commanders in balancing the constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs with the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion."

The Alliance spokesman says now the test is going to be how the new policies are implemented throughout the Air Force. "While we commend the Air Force for a positive change in their policy, we're wanting to see how commanders are now going to implement this policy," he states. "That's where the rubber meets the road, and it's going to take time to tell."

Crews plans to present his concerns during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee this week.

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