An Air Force spokesperson said personnel are not allowed to proselytize but are free to express their personal religious beliefs so long as it “does not make others uncomfortable.” But a critic pointed out an Air Force officer was told to remove a Bible that was on his desk.
“When on duty or in an official capacity, Air Force members are free to express their personal religious beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable,” Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley said in a statement to Fox News. “Proselytizing (inducing someone to convert to one’s faith) goes over that line.”
Tingley said Air Force leaders “must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”
That statement has caused alarm among a number of religious liberty groups – including the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
“What does ‘As long as it does not make others uncomfortable’ mean,” executive director Ron Crews asked Fox News.
He said last year an Air Force officer was told he could no longer keep a Bible on his desk because it “may” appear that he was condoning a particular religion.
“Air Force officers must be allowed to live out their faith in a way that is consistent with their faith,” Crews said. “If the Bible is important, then an Air Force officer should be able to have one on his desk.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) also took issue with the Air Force spokesperson’s use of the word ‘uncomfortable.’
“If that is the standard, then Christianity will be over because there will always be somebody who is uncomfortable no matter what someone’s belief is when it comes to Judeo-Christian beliefs,” he told Fox News. “It appears it is getting more and more difficult to be a Christian and serve in the military.”
Gohmert said it’s a different U.S. military under President Obama.
“Under President Obama’s military you are no longer allowed to share your faith,” he said – noting that the policy is putting Christians in a tough position. “Do you follow President Obama or do you follow God and the teachings of Jesus?”
“That’s pretty tough when your commander in chief puts you on the horn for that dilemma,” he added.
Fox News asked for a clarification on the Air Force policy after the Dept. of Defense backtracked on whether or not they allow religious proselytizing and whether military personnel could be at-risk for court-martialing if they share their faith.
On Monday, the Dept. of Defense released a statement noting that religious proselytization is not permitted within the department.