ADL: U.S. Military Must Act to Safeguard Religious Freedom

New York, NY, January 29, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today highlighted the danger of proselytizing and harassment within the U.S. military and called for effective, uniform guidance promoting religious respect.

The League submitted its statement to the “Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services” hearing before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel.  ADL praised the U.S. Air Force Academy for its work in developing and implementing religious respect training and also commended Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for his work in implementing the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” exclusion policy.

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:

As one of the essential institutions in American society, it is critically important that our nation’s military be especially attentive to ensuring the religious freedom of its servicemen and women.  America’s honored military training universities bear a special responsibility to avoid religious coercion and to respect the rights of religious minorities guaranteed by the Constitution.

In recent years, there have been periodic problems with proselytizing and the appearance of official government sponsorship of one particular religious perspective by military officials.  Charges of religious harassment and unwelcome proselytizing are especially disturbing in the context of the command structure within the military and our nation's service academies.  Americans who choose military service should have the freedom to practice their religion – or no religion – without pressure to conform to the belief system of their commanding officers in order to gain acceptance or promotions up the ranks.

The same command structure that provides unique pressure to conform within the military – and the potential for inappropriate proselytizing and religious coercion – also provides an important opportunity to instill within our service personnel a deep appreciation for our shared democratic values, including those embodied in the First Amendment’s religious freedom clauses.

Our military is a prime example of how Americans of many faiths can come together to serve and protect America, regardless of their differences.  We urge the leadership of the Department of Defense to promote respect for religious differences and to promulgate effective, broad, uniform guidance promoting religious accommodation within all the service branches.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.