Pentagon says military personnel can evangelize but not proselytize

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  • kristinagadfly bronx, NY
    Sept. 5, 2013 2:02 p.m.

    Its an interesting debate going on with regards to this subject. As I lean more conservative with regards to church state separation; I actually agree with this decision. Most believe the opposite is a liberal one, the origin of religious tolerance in America comes from dixicrats not the wig argument, how would a Mormon feel in a platoon of Catholics or Southern Baptists. The idea of adopting the creed of your platoon could mean following a bunch of Atheists. We had a civil war of religious intolerance against those who believed religion gave right to own slaves. These polices not deny religion but protect religion and anyone who feels its a liberal argument might simply feel denied so I do have to offer the reverse position for your considerations. we're one nation under god and that is all I think should unite those in the military, any other consideration would cause division among creeds. Unfortunately many conservative ideas seem liberal in this new society which lacks historical context and pushes popular misconceptions.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    May 10, 2013 6:17 a.m.

    All proselytizing should be done in a spirit to share and bless the lives of those struggling to find meaning and face tough situations. It should be done with the utmost love and respect always. There's no need to tear down other beliefs to prove your own--that's not how one establishes the truth. The truth builds on itself and the Spirit kindles a warmth in our souls that witnesses of that truth.

    The good news of the Gospel is that we have God on our side. It should feel like making a new friend, not getting a new boss, or submitting to a task master. If it doesn't then it's not being done in any way that comes of God.

  • Darkbull Pleasant Grove, UT
    May 8, 2013 10:22 a.m.

    I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness of the vast majority of statements. As a 15 year army veteran, may I offer a few things. @Twin Lights and @George: your concerns are not a religious issue; they are workplace discrimination, and are addressed by the military in regular training. Such behaviors, esp from a superior officer, are harassment, and there are steps that personnel are trained in to address these issues. I agree, there's no place for it in any workplace.

    Vague is the point of this. Stipulating a well defined policy would only great more divisiveness. This issue should be addressed on an individual basis. Personnel who have been alleged to "proselytize" should be dealt with individually, and allow any corrections to occur at the lowest level possible. If you try to define these two terms, it will only create more problems, and in the end won't benefit either the evangelizer or the individual with the complaint.

  • There You Go Again Saint George, UT
    May 7, 2013 1:32 p.m.

    The problem surfaced at the USAFA.

    Superior Officers were pushing their Christianity on Junior Officers.

    Slippery Slope...

    If a Superior Officer pushes Westboro Baptist Doctrine or is influenced by Westboro Baptist Doctrine to push that doctrine...we have a major problem.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    May 7, 2013 1:19 p.m.

    Manners is to be considerate and appreciative. Religion is what you do religiously.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    May 7, 2013 10:59 a.m.

    Re: Craig Clark

    The lame argument is made by you. An entertaiment corps? Where is that even controversial? As for Chaplins, what do you think they do when they go to chapels and chruches ect. on military installations, set up bingo games? It is as much public funded religion as if the LDS Chapels and Bishops were paid for by federal taxpayer money. Try explaining that.

  • donn layton, UT
    May 7, 2013 9:49 a.m.

    RE; Casey Ryback, “There's no difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants? What about Martin Luther? “
    "A simple plowboy a can understand the gospel, it takes a priest to make it difficult." Martin Luther.
    RE: RanchHand. Evangelical Catholics (meaning "gospel-centered"). Athanasian creed, Whosoever will be “saved,” before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic=(universal) faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity.(not deny).

    “ Saved” from what, what we are saved from is really a who—God Himself. That the glory of the gospel is that the One from whom we need to be saved is the very One who saves us.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 7, 2013 9:39 a.m.


    "The term seperation of church and state does not apply here, or anywhere else in the constitution. If it did, then there would be no state money being paid to military chaplins in the first place...."

    The Chaplain Corps is but one military division of specially trained professionals along with medical and legal corps comprised of commissioned officers serving as professionals to members of the Armed Forces. There is even an entertainment corps to serve the cause of troop morale. Many support components are needed to sustain a viable fighting force, the Chaplain Corps among them. It is not about promoting religion.

    No, the Constitution does not contain the phrase “separation of church and state” which some seize upon as evidence that no such concept was intended. That lame argument defies over two centuries of legal history. It defies American history itself.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    May 7, 2013 8:54 a.m.

    The term seperation of church and state does not apply here, or anywhere else in the constitution. If it did, then there would be no state money being paid to military chaplins in the first place. No churches built on government property, ect. Seperation of church and state is NOT a term in the U.S. Constitution, and it shows by examples I've just given. It is a hope by the anti-religious types that it be there, kind of like privacy to justify Roe/Wade. The constitution trumps any particular judge or court. Unless we have a "living breathing constitution" open to interpretation, in which case, we have nothing except the whims of judges. Any citizen of America should be scared by that system. You may like some liberal judge rulings, but one day, a conservative judge will demolish all your liberal progress on a whim using the same ability to "interpret". Best advise, stick with the written constitution, and if you want more, or less, amend it.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    May 7, 2013 8:48 a.m.

    Wow, I agree with most of the comments made today. What a topsy-turvy world we're living in these days.

    @donn; @What Casey Ryback said. It bears repeating.

  • Casey Ryback Chapel Hill, NC
    May 7, 2013 5:19 a.m.

    " .. This is a difficult situation for Bible believing Christians. They should not go over the line yet They have a *command from on high as well:"

    Again -- such persons should then leave military service and enter the private sector. Where they will be free to do what they want, under common law.

    No one -- no one -- has the right to abuse, under color of authority, the constitutional rights of others. This is the USA (at least, for now). This is not Cuba, North Korea, China, Russia, etc. -- yet.

    And BTW:

    There's no difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants? What about Martin Luther? My God, I cannot believe that has to be explained, in a forum like this.

  • donn layton, UT
    May 6, 2013 5:37 p.m.

    RE: Casey Ryback, At places like USAFA, Colo., you have Protestant commanders trying to lecture(Evangelize/gospel) Mormons, (Roman Catholics), Jews, and others about Protestantism, in a very heavy-handed way. True,

    This is a difficult situation for Bible believing Christians. They should not go over the line yet They have a *command from on high as well:

    “Therefore *go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Mt: 28:19, The Trinitarian Baptism formula.

    oman Catholics are Christians and are saved by belief in the triune God same as Protestants.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    May 6, 2013 5:17 p.m.

    Casey Ryback mentioned problems at the Air Force Academy that may have been a spur for this policy.

    A few years back at the Academy the situation with Evangelical Christians running things got to be pretty blatant:

    -The football coach had a big sign over his office at the Academy that said "Team Jesus", with the strong implication that Jesus was the one Evangelicals worshipped, not Mormons, probably not Catholics, certainly not Jews.

    -Important religious meetings were held at the on-Academy home of the Academy Commander, with suspicions from non-"Christian" cadets that plumb assignments among the cadets were handed to appropriately worthy believers of the same religion.

    -At least one lawsuit was filed, by a 2nd generation Air Force cadet who happened to be Jewish, asserting that discrimination was occurring with preferences given to "Christian" cadets.

    For LDS, this is not unlike a situation in Texas where a highschool had an official "prayor" student body officer position who would offer the pregame prayers before football games. Before one game the prayer called on God to help the Catholic and Mormon kids see the error of their ways.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 6, 2013 4:21 p.m.

    U.S. military chaplains are volunteers who have to meet qualifications for being an officer to be accepted into the Chaplain Corps. If accepted, they become commissioned officers who answer to the military chain of command, not to any ecclesiastical authority.

    They are required to honor separation of church and state be they Catholic chaplains, LDS chaplains, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, etc. The reason specific religions are represented is not to promote any belief but to be able to minister to the spiritual needs of a diverse group of soldiers. All chaplains, regardless of which religion they represent are ethically sworn to answer a call to minister to any soldier seeking solace regardless of his or her personal creed or lack thereof.

    Chaplains are to be found in battle, generally not bearing arms.

  • Darrel Eagle Mountain, UT
    May 6, 2013 4:02 p.m.

    @Twin Lights

    I absolutely agree.

    I had a commanding officer who liked to talk religion, and so do I. We were of different faiths, but I understood that when we spoke like this (always off duty, or when on duty it didn't go beyond a few minutes) it was man to man, not Soldier to Soldier. He would make that very clear before any discussion was had. He understood that I understood where the line was.

    I don't think or feel he crossed a line because there was no coercion, nor use of Military status, and it was not done in front of the Company, rather in private. However, it would have been very easy to cross that line.

    Looking back, it may not have been the most prudent thing to do, but I have met very few men I respect more.

  • George New York, NY
    May 6, 2013 3:21 p.m.

    @twin lights

    I think you bring up an important distinction that should be made. I think people in authority over another person should not be evangelizing to that person at all due to the real or perceived power difference. Such a distinction is often made in the work place with reference to other non-work related subjects.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    May 6, 2013 2:51 p.m.

    When the person sharing their beliefs is is your sergeant or commanding officer, the line between evangelizing and proselytizing could be fine indeed.

  • Darrel Eagle Mountain, UT
    May 6, 2013 2:34 p.m.

    Here is what I see being the distinction.

    A Chaplain is perfectly free to preach what his religion is from the pulpit. DoD policy prohibits them teach anything contrary to their established religious beliefs.
    Said Chaplain can perform any rite authorized by his religion on any Service Member wanting and qualifying for said rite. (e.g. baptism, eucharist)

    What the Chaplain cannot do, or any other officer, is require a Service Member to attend a worship service, or participate in any rite.

    A Soldier who is friends with another soldier may share religious beliefs, but the moment the receiving Soldier wishes it to end, it must. However, a leader sharing may cross that line of undue influence.

    A First Sergeant in formation may announce times for Church call, however he cannot direct that Soldiers attend any particular service.

    It really isn't more complicated than any other job and proselytizing. Would your employer like you to be using Company time to preach? No, but they let you use the company bulletin board in the break room to announce an activity your Church is conducting. There's a world of difference.

  • Casey Ryback Chapel Hill, NC
    May 6, 2013 2:12 p.m.

    There's been a huge amount of confusion about this. Let me try to bring clarity.

    At places like USAFA, Colo., you have Protestant commanders trying to lecture Roman Catholics, Jews, and others about Protestantism, in a very heavy-handed way.

    That's wrong. That is not the American way.

    If those commanders need to be corrected about this basic U.S. tenet -- they need to leave military service and re-enter the private sector. And they can do whatever they want. That would be more honest, fair, and authentic.

  • George New York, NY
    May 6, 2013 2:10 p.m.

    While I think it is important to set some type of guidelines I sadly have to agree I think they just muddied the waters more not less. You will never be able to give clear cut definitions of what is and is not acceptable in every individual case but I think they need to keep working on a better set of guidelines.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    May 6, 2013 1:32 p.m.

    Let me help you to understand.

    If 2 Mormon Missionaries come knock on my door to share their "gospel", and I tell them thanks but no thanks, No problem.

    If they come back the next day and try again, that IS a problem.

    Bottom line. Don't push religion where it is not wanted. Even if you think you have a religious "mandate" to do so.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 6, 2013 1:10 p.m.

    If I were an enlisted in the Armed Forces, I would have no problem discussing my beliefs with my fellow GIs. But if I were an officer, I would avoid even the appearance of spreading my views of the Gospel to those under my command.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 6, 2013 12:58 p.m.

    According to my American Heritage Dictionary, evangelize and proselytize have a virtually identical definition. The Pentagon couldn't have made things any more confusing for the average GI.

  • Montana Mormon Miles City, MT
    May 6, 2013 12:38 p.m.

    So, it's the difference between consensual religious discussions and forced religious discussions, right? I see definite potential for linguistic litigation over perceived attributions. How would one prove, or defend, intent? I trust there will be more specific guidelines, perhaps even a rubric, to clarify the distinction between the two scenarios.

  • Eliot Santaquin, UT
    May 6, 2013 11:43 a.m.

    It's nice that some here seem to have it figured out but others may wonder about the two most important words in the statement: unwanted and intrusive. If a soldier says that he is Christian and believes in the Bible he will probably be ok. But what if he offers his Bible to another soldier to read? If a soldier announces to his buddies that he is a Christian and is going to church that should not be a problem. But what if he invites some of his buddies to go to church with him? If a soldier prays alone at his bunk before hitting the sack no one can object. But what if he tries to organize some of his buddies to meet each night to pray together and some in the unit feel left out or uncomfortable because they don't share the same faith. Just exactly where is the line that once crossed becomes unwanted and intrusive? No, I don't think this will put an end to the discussion at all.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    May 6, 2013 11:17 a.m.

    “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),”

    Who could possibly argue or disagree with this interpretation?

    This should put an end to the "war on religion" in the military discussion.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    May 6, 2013 11:10 a.m.

    I'm not sure how fine the semantics get between evangelise and proselytize. One thing is for sure, however, is that the relationship among military personnel is such that it can become very easy for religion to become an expectation and imposition, rather than a voluntary exercise. It has no business in a military environment, except as a personal experience only. It poisons environments and enables behaviour that otherwise would not occur.

  • Jon W. Murray, UT
    May 6, 2013 11:08 a.m.

    It seems like the Pentagon is re-defining words to suit its purposes