(Photo: REUTERS/Molly Riley)
Following reports that the Pentagon has been planning on court martialing soldiers for religious proselytization, the Department of Defense has clarified that only those forcing their beliefs on others will be punished.
"Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization)," a Department of Defense spokesperson told the Alliance Defending Freedom on Thursday.
ADF had filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Wednesday seeking clarification over the issue, after concerns arose that evangelical members of the military might be targeted for sharing their faith with others.
"Members of our military should not be denied the very freedoms they fight to defend. Freedom of religion and speech are paramount among those freedoms," commented ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue. "We appreciate the Pentagon's clarification, but little or no evidence exists of coercive proselytization in the military, so we are still troubled over what motivated the original comments."
"We wish to ensure that the Pentagon does not deny members of the armed services the basic freedoms that the Constitution guarantees all Americans," La Rue added. "For that reason, Alliance Defending Freedom is serious about investigating this gross error."
On Tuesday, Fox News obtained a statement from the Pentagon that reportedly said: "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense...Court Martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis."
The statement created much confusion, as it was not clear how far soldiers would be able to go in sharing their faith before it was considered proselytization and a punishable offense.
Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has reportedly been consulting the Pentagon when it comes to questions of how to deal with religious tolerance.
Weinstein as spoken out against pro-family, traditional Christian groups by calling them "fundamentalist Christian monsters," and has vowed to fight what he sees as "virulent religious oppression."