The military is putting to rest any rumors that Christian service members could face court martial for sharing their faith.
According to the Tennessean, the Defense Department has clarified its position, saying that members of the military are free to evangelize, as long as they don’t harass others.
“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),” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, told the newspaper by email.
The perceived, important difference between “evangelism” and “proselytization” has become a hot-button issue for the military this week, after a barrage of criticism erupted among conservatives.
Fox News reported that Pentagon officials had met with Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who is well known for his hyperbolic allegations against Christians and against religious influence in the military, prompting a back-and-forth exchange of views.
In response to Fox, the Pentagon released a statement on proselytization to Fox News. According to the statement, “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense…Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis.”
This led Breitbart News’s Ken Kuklowsi to report that the Pentagon was “confirming that soldiers could be prosecuted for promoting their faith.” Family Research Council, a conservative D.C.-based lobbying organization, also launched a petition to protect troops’ religious freedom.
But according to the Defense Department, there is essentially no need. It won’t be charging military chaplains or Christians with federal crimes under military law any time soon—as long as the evangelism doesn’t interfere with military missions.