February 8, 2006 – New York – The American Jewish Committee applauds the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Statement on Religious Freedom for Soldiers and Military Chaplains.
“We look forward to working with the NAE and other concerned organizations to ensure, in this nation’s best traditions, that the military remains an open and welcome environment for people of all faiths, without any element of religious coercion,” said Jeffrey Sinensky, AJC’s general counsel.
The NAE statement issued today recognizes that the military must respect the religious freedom rights of all armed forces personnel. It notes that military chaplains, when called upon to offer a blessing or conduct religious services for an interfaith audience, or to give a prayer in memorial or ceremonial contexts, should offer a religious message or prayer that is respectful of all present.
In addition, the statement affirms that, in the context of the commander-subordinate relationship, commanders bear a special responsibility to not use their authority to discriminate against subordinates on the basis of religion or to coerce anyone to participate in a religious practice. Further, commanders must also not make advancement or disciplinary decisions based upon a subordinate’s religious beliefs or lack thereof.
AJC will continue to be vigilant in ensuring that freedom of religious expression, rather than proselytizing and religious coercion, remains the watchword in all branches of the U.S. military.