Air Force releases revised religious guidelines

 by Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
 Air Force Print News

 WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The Air Force released a revised version of its religious guidelines Feb. 9, its latest step in a process started after a review at the U.S. Air Force Academy indicated a need for additional guidance.

Air Force Directorate of Personnel officials issued a first set of interim guidelines in August. The newly revised version was written after getting diverse feedback and careful consideration of the U.S. Constitution, laws and military necessity.

"This interim guidance outlines the basic principles we expect all military and civilian Airmen to follow as we solidify formal policy," said Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, Air Force deputy chief of staff for personnel.

After the first set of guidelines were released, the Air Force received feedback from members of Congress, the public, religious groups, members of groups professing no faith, legal and civil liberties groups and individual citizens. In addition, more than 500 active, Reserve and Guard Airmen from eight Air Force bases were also interviewed.

"The feedback fell into three camps -- that we got the guidelines about right, that we went too far in imposing constraints on religious expression, and that we didn't go far enough in avoiding establishment (neutrality) problems," General Brady said. "Basically, the views of Airmen reflected those you hear from across the spectrum in the greater American population."

The most obvious change in the latest set of guidelines is its length; it is now one page long as opposed to four.

"We found that we could more effectively express them (the guidelines) with leaner, broader verbiage," General Brady said. "These guidelines help clarify religious respect issues and provide a simple document that is easy for all Airmen to comprehend."

The Air Force's guidance on the freedom of expression by chaplains is also clarified.

"The guidelines address prayer at military events, but in no way restrict private prayer or chaplains' activities in religious settings," General Brady said. "We respect the rights of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their individual faiths, and they will not be required to participate in religious activities, including public prayer, inconsistent with their faiths."

"This is an open and honest debate, so another interim period is appropriate prior to this (set of guidelines) being made the final version," he said.

Though the national debate about religious guidance in the military will continue, General Brady said he is confident the Air Force is moving in the right direction.

"We'll reach our goal for all Air Force members to understand their responsibilities as Airmen and their rights as Americans," he said. "When coupled with respect for each other, the freedoms we enjoy strengthen our ability to perform our shared purpose to defend the United States."