Religious liberty wins in the U.S. Navy

Religious services can commence again.

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Religious freedom won a big victory in the U.S. Navy late last week, as the Department of the Navy eased off stringent guidelines regarding attendance at faith services.

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Acting Undersecretary of the Navy Greg Slavonic released a memo Wednesday night on “Clarification of Guidance Related to Attendance at Religious Services.” The acting assistant secretary of defense also put out a communication on Tuesday that dealt with liberty of conscience and faith. Both relaxed restrictions on indoor religious services.

In the Slavonic memo, commanders were directed that public health guidance should not “be construed to restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering… I am directing you to ensure that all Service guidance reflects the reference message and to inform Commanders to incorporate this clarification allowing attendance at religious services where COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures may be appropriately applied.”

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A Department of the Navy spokesman further clarified, “Service members assigned to Navy units must continue to follow force health protection protocols, such as maintaining social distance and use of face coverings should they choose to participate in religious services or visit places of worship. This change applies to those service members within the continental United States.”

The memo was written because on June 29, Major Daniel Schultz, USAF, posted to a Navy unit, requested a religious waiver to go to the church where he leads worship. A newly issued order banned indoor services, but allowed parties and protests. It was an obvious PC hypocrisy.

Mike Berry, the First Liberty Institute general counsel who won the argument for Shultz, was gratified by the Navy’s clarification.  He sees this as a “major victory” for the Constitution and religious liberty within the armed forces.

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“We are grateful to Acting Undersecretary Slavonic and Navy leadership for righting this ship, and to Commander-in-Chief Trump for making religious liberty a priority. This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs.”

Before the Slavonic memo, Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, slamming the Department of Defense for not protecting service members’ freedom of conscience.

“For too long, the Pentagon has turned a blind eye as our military leaders have completely disregarded their obligation to protect the religious freedom of its service members,” Congressman Collins said last Thursday. “I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Esper and leaders at the Department of Defense to further discuss how we can protect religious freedom across all branches of our military.”

It is easy to think that the military, given its traditions and commitment to the nation, would be free from the PC bacillus. If only that were true. For decades, but especially under the Obama administration, the military was used as a vehicle for PC social engineering. Under President Trump that unethical and dangerous practice has been reversed.

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