By Benjamin Goad - 05/08/13 08:13 PM EDT
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.”
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 LeeThe Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Trump to meet with Senate GOP next week First trans Senate candidate: My gender won’t be an issue MORE (Utah), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves Senate panel passes bill that would create 4K visas for Afghans Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (S.C.) and Ted CruzTed CruzThe Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Trump to meet with Senate GOP next week Trump camp eyeing Mike Pence for VP: report 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."