“[Commanders and NCOs] will ultimately ensure we balance Constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the Constitution’s prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.”
- Gen. Norton Schwartz
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or entity. As they defend and protect our nation through the accomplishment of countless missions, service members rely on their faith in one another. Many service members also cherish a deep faith in religious or other beliefs that inspire, encourage and strengthen them. Some choose not to follow any faith tradition. No matter what faith, if any, all service members should feel safe to practice their beliefs without fear of retribution.
Religious diversity in the military closely mirrors that of American society. Service members currently practice 107 different distinct belief systems. The number of service members who self-identify as holding non-believing, non-traditional, or non-Christian belief systems has increased steadily over the course of the past decade. In theory these service members and their beliefs should be as accepted within the ranks as those who practice traditional Christian beliefs. In reality these service members often experience scrutiny and questions about their commitment to defend our nation.
A small percentage of service members distrust individuals who hold different religious views than their own. This distrust can lead to unwillingness to serve with religious “others.” As a result, service members may distance themselves from their faith and lose an important source of support.