- (Photo: REUTERS/Department of Defense/Spc. Ryan Hallock)
The Pentagon released a statement that detailed that soldiers could be prosecuted for promoting their faith. Even discussing their faith in general could be considered an offense warranting a court martial.
"Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense...Court Martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis," read the statement that was released to Fox News.
The Pentagon recently hired Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who had previously spoken out against a number of conservative Christian groups.
MRFF, which says its primary goal is to advocate for the separation of church and state, has said that most of its members are Christian. Weinstein, however, has decried what he calls "virulent religious oppression" coming from conservative groups, comparing them to "bigots" from the deep South during the civil rights era.
"These days, when anyone attempts to bravely stand up against virulent religious oppression, these monstrosities cry out alligator tears in overflowing torrents and scream that it is, in fact, THEY who are the dispossessed, bereft and oppressed. C'mon, really, you pitiable unconstitutional carpetbaggers?" Weinstein wrote for The Huffington Post.
In response to the Pentagon's new course of action regarding service members and their faith, retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is now Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council (FRC), said that the worst thing to do is limiting a service member's faith.
"It's a matter of what do they mean by 'proselytizing.' ... I think they've got their definitions a little confused. If you're talking about coercion that's one thing, but if you're talking about the free exercise of our faith as individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, especially for the chaplains, they I think the worst thing we can do is stop the ability for a soldier to be able to exercise his faith." Boykin's said during a segment on "Fox & Friends" Wednesday morning.
The FRC has launched a petition which has already collected over 40,000 signatures asking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to cut ties with Weinstein to prevent his anti-Christian organization from developing the military's policy regarding religion.