Press Release

New DOD regulations a belated step in the right direction

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

“The members of our nation’s military give their lives to protect our liberties. But in recent years, our national commitment to protecting the religious liberty of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines has appeared to waver. As a remedy, Congress passed not one, but two laws instructing the Department of Defense to issue strong legal protections for religious liberty. Yesterday, the Administration took a tardy but welcome step in the right direction. Under its new regulations, the military is now more respectful of diverse religious viewpoints. It is also signaling a new willingness to accommodate the attire requirements of religious minority groups who, under the previous regulations, were all but barred from access to military service. Further, the military expressly imported the gold standard for religious liberty protection—the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act—and made it a part of every commander’s toolkit for safeguarding the free exercise of religion.
But there are problems. Most glaring, the regulations redefine RFRA’s shield for religious exercise in a way that forces government officials to make theological judgments about which religious beliefs deserve respect. Courts have overwhelmingly rejected such unwieldy definitions, and the military will both harm our service members and invite litigation until it corrects this error. In addition, the new accommodations for religious attire aren’t accommodating enough—one even requires religious minorities to violate their beliefs before they can obtain protection for those beliefs. This means that the door to military service remains presumptively closed to many religious Americans. We can, and should, do better than that. Still, the new regulations are a good start, and Becket looks forward to working to ensure that the Administration continues the military tradition of protecting religious liberty.” – Daniel Blomberg, Legal Counsel for Becket Law