Example: [Collected via e-mail, April 2013 ]
In a stunning attack on the speech rights and free religious exercise of U.S. soldiers, the Obama administration has released a statement confirming the unthinkable: Any soldier who professes Christianity can now be court-martialed and may face imprisonment and a dishonorable discharge from the military ... even if they are a military chaplain.
Origins: In April 2013 a number of conservative sources reported that the rights of free speech and religion among military chaplains and troops were under threat from a new administrative directive enabling the court martial of "any soldier who professes Christianity." Although there is something to the underlying issue, the reporting of it has included a good deal of speculation and exaggeration.
The issue at hand is one of proselytizing within the military, a controversy about which the Deseret News and The Tennessean noted:
The Defense Department said this week that proselytizing — trying to get someone to change faiths — is banned. Its statement does not define proselytizing or address the role of military chaplains. It also does not rule out court martial for those whose share their faith too aggressively.
If superior officers try to convert those under their command, they should face a court martial, said Mikey Weinstein, president of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Weinstein's demands caused a stir on Twitter after the Pentagon told Fox News about the ban on proselytizing.
The latest salvo came this week when conservative blogger Todd Starnes wrote on Fox News and the Christian Post that the Pentagon confirmed that "religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense."
The regulation is not new. In August, the Air Force issued a policy telling its chaplains that they must balance an airman's right to religious exercise with a prohibition against government establishment of religion. A violation of the policy could result in a court-martial.
The Washington Post reported:
The most recent outrage, he said, was reported by a West Point cadet who wrote to Weinstein to say that after the Boston bombings, an active-duty instructor said in class that he would "bet his life on the Muslims having been behind it like they always are. It's always the Muslims and everyone knows it, and everybody is afraid to say it. Well, I am not."
That's just one of many complaints.
The stories are legion. Most complainants don't want to be identified for fear their careers would be destroyed or, worse, for fear for their safety, even their lives.
On 2 May 2013, the Pentagon clarified its position on this topic. As summarized by Stars & Stripes:
That’s what the Pentagon said Thursday, attempting to clarify its position on religious speech in uniform as controversy swirled up around press reports over possible prosecutions of troops for sharing their faith.
What it comes down to, officials said, is that discussing matters of faith and religious practice with a willing audience is allowed, but pushing religious beliefs on those who don’t want to hear it is a form of harassment forbidden under Defense Department policies.
Brown, Matthew. "Rhetoric Heats Up in Debate Over Proselytizing in the Military." Deseret News. 1 May 2013. Carroll, Chris. "Pentagon: OK to Talk About Faith, But Not to Push Beliefs on Pthers." Stars & Stripes. 2 May 2013. Quinn, Sally. "U.S. Military Should Put Religious Freedom at the Front." The Washington Post. 26 April 2013. Smietana, Bob. "Pentagon Ban Raises Specter of Court Martial for Soldiers Sharing Faith." The Tennessean. 1 May 2013. Starnes, Todd. "Pentagon: Religious Proselytizing Is Not Permitted." FOXNews.com. 30 April 2013. Weinstein, Michael L. "Fundamentalist Christian Monsters: Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." The Huffington Post. 16 April 2013.