ADL Urges Senate and House Armed Services Committees to Hold Hearings On Religious Coercion In Military
New York, NY, January 22, 2007 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on members of the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees to hold hearings on coercive proselytizing and religious activity in the military, with the aim of creating specific guidelines to ensure that the military remains "accessible and welcoming to servicemen and servicewomen of all faiths, and to those of no faith at all."
In letters to the chair and ranking member of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, the League expressed concern that the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Navy were directed to rescind their existing guidelines on religious activity as part of the fiscal year 2007 Department of Defense Authorization bill, approved at the end of the last session of Congress.
That decision reversed much of the progress that resulted from a series of meetings between high-ranking Air Force officials and ADL leaders after a pervasive climate of religious intolerance was exposed at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Those meetings, and the conclusions of an independent Pentagon inquiry, led, in August 2005, to the adoption of formal guidelines to protect against religious intolerance and discrimination in the Air Force Academy and the Air Force as a whole.
"Government institutions like the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy bear a special responsibility to avoid religious coercion and to respect the rights of religious minorities guaranteed by the Constitution," said Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Congress must work with the service branches to ensure that the guidelines they draft strike the appropriate balance between the constitutional guarantee of religious free exercise rights and the prohibition against governmental endorsement of religion."
The League also expressed concern about a "disturbing" promotional video produced by the Washington-based evangelical organization Christian Embassy, which featured effusive endorsements of the evangelizing work of the Christian Embassy by a number of high-ranking military officials who appeared on camera in uniform – some apparently in their Pentagon offices.
"Whether intentional or not, this promotional video gives the appearance of government endorsement of these evangelical Christian views and suggests, at least, Pentagon acquiescence in Christian Embassy evangelizing work," wrote Mr. Lewy and Mr. Foxman.
ADL has urged the Armed Services Committees to hold hearings that would "begin a process that will result in the promulgation of new guidelines on religious activity for the service branches."
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.