This report by the Washington Post claims that the Pentagon says they are not targeting any particular religious group for persecution. While they actively barr proselytizing, defined as ”unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs,” they do not oppose evangelization which they define as an individual sharing their faith. While this is commendable, it may come down to “he said, she said” if one person believes they are merely sharing their faith and another feels as though an interchange was forced and intrusive. Where is the line drawn, how is this decided and are punishments really necessary? Will persecution increase amongst service members? Only time will tell.
By David Gibson
5/2/2013 USA (WashPost)- Christian conservatives have grown increasingly alarmed in recent weeks over reports and rumors that the Pentagon is considering new policies aimed at discriminating against Christians and disciplining or even court-martialing those who share their faith.
But the Department of Defense on Thursday (May 2) sought to debunk that speculation, saying that while aggressive proselytizing is barred, evangelization is still permitted and the rights of all believers — and non-believers — will be protected.
“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement. “The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.”
“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),” Christensen added.
He also said that “when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis.” He did not specify what the range of penalties could be.
The latest statement was aimed at refuting widely circulated reports in conservative media outlets that Christian soldiers could be court-martialed for sharing their faith.
Whether the push back will be successful in dispelling suspicions, even within the ranks, is uncertain. Even as Christensen released his statement Thursday, Rear Adm. William D. Lee of the U.S. Coast Guard warned of threats to faith within the military while speaking at National Day of Prayer observances on Capitol Hill.
“I am not talking about proselytizing; I am vehemently against that,” the admiral said in remarks that drew a standing ovation. “I’m talking about gently whispering the gospel.”
The current controversy seems to have originated with Fox News contributor Todd Starnes, who on Tuesday wrote about a Pentagon meeting on harassment and tolerance issues; among the attendees was the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein.
Weinstein is known for his inflammatory rhetoric about religious believers and Christians in particular, and he didn’t disappoint this time: he told The Washington Post after the April 23 meeting that proselytizing in the military is akin to “spiritual rape,” among other things.
The Fox News report on Weinstein’s remarks also cited a statement from Christensen, the Pentagon spokesman, who reiterated the preexisting policy against proselytizing. But the Starnes piece went on to claim that the policy also applied to evangelizing, or sharing the gospel. In addition, the story highlighted court martial as a possible penalty.
Outlets like Breitbart.com then amplified the reports with stories such as “Pentagon May Court Martial Soldiers Who Share Christian Faith.” The Washington-based Family Research Council then launched a petition drive — which had more than 100,000 signatures as of Thursday — to urge the Pentagon “to scrub plans to court-martial Christians.”