Pentagon: No plans to limit religious freedom of service members

The Pentagon moved Wednesday to quash reports that the Defense Department was pursuing new regulations limiting religious freedom among service members.

“Service members may exercise their rights under the First Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission,” Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen told The Hill Wednesday. “Even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member.”

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The controversy began after reports that the military might begin courts-martial for Christian soldiers began cropping up on conservative websites.

The headlines caught the attention of a trio of GOP senators who pressed Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelThere's still time for another third-party option Hagel says NATO deployment could spark a new Cold War with Russia Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill MORE on the rumored regulations against proselytizing. Sens. Mike LeeMike LeeObama signs opioid bill Thiel said to explain support for Trump in convention speech Convention erupts at Cruz snub MORE (Utah), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump: 'I hope' Russia is able to get Clinton's emails Syria activists cheer Kaine pick Vulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine MORE (S.C.) and Ted CruzTed CruzGrassroots battling establishment on trade at conventions Fixing the disastrous nomination process Attacking Trump for the few sensible things he says is bad strategy MORE (Texas) fired off a letter asking Hagel to confirm the rights of members of the armed services to “practice and share their faith.”

"Policies that prohibit the discussion of religious matters by military members could create a chilling effect on members of the armed services of any faith and have an adverse effect on recruitment and retention efforts and the morale of our troops,” the lawmakers wrote.

But Christensen said the Pentagon had no department-wide policy that directly addresses religious proselytizing.

“Furthermore,” he said, “there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the (Uniform Code of Military Justice).

“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," Christensen said. “Concerns about these issues are handled on a case by case basis by the leaders of the unit involved."