U.S. Department of Defense to Implement Guidelines to Protect Service Members' Religious Freedom

Amanda Casanova

The U.S. Department of Defense says new guidelines will be put into place to protect religious liberty rights for military service members.

According to CBN News, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper began looking into the issue after hearing that some military members and chaplains were banned from attending worship services off base during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new guidelines, called Instruction 1300.17, say that the DOD must:

  • Acknowledge that service members have the right to observe the principles of their religion.
  • Accommodate religious practices and procedures for service members.
  • Ensure that religious beliefs shall not serve as a foundation for discrimination, loss of promotion, education, training, or assignment.
  • Require that military departments implement training and oversee the performance of these policies and procedures regarding the religious practices of service members, commanders, chaplains, and recruiters.

The policy also states military leadership must accommodate “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs,” adding that “a Service member’s expression of such beliefs may not, in so far as practicable, be used as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.”

First Liberty Institute first submitted a letter to Esper in May, asking for “clear DOD guidance, consistent with Congress’ directive, that strongly protects religious freedom within the DOD.”

"This new guidance is a great victory for America's brave service members, for whom faith is an essential element of their life and duty," said Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute.

"Since the days of the Revolutionary War, religious freedom has been a force multiplier for our military. We applaud our Commander in Chief, President Trump, and Secretary Esper for ensuring that religious liberty is alive and well in our Armed Forces."

He added, however, that “there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

“I think there are going to continue to be issues regarding religious liberty but … this new regulation should go a long way to at least providing clarity and … strong protections for religious freedom in the military,” he said.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/MivPiv

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.