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Pentagon says sharing religious faith is OK, but forcing it on others is not
U.S. troops are free to share their religious faith as long as they don't harass others. That's according to a statement just released by the Defense Department. It was put out after rumors spread that the Pentagon was considering disciplining or even court-martialing Christians who share their beliefs.
Despite the rumors, authorities say there are no plans to single out any religious group for punishment. But they say pushing your faith on someone who doesn't want to hear it is not allowed.
Joanie Lewis, an Army veteran who served from 2003 to 2012, told us, "There wasn't really any problem. I think that everyone was pretty respectful."
Lewis and other veterans talked with us about their experiences with religion in the military.
Lewis said, "I served with people that were atheists, people that were Jewish, just a variety. I didn't think they were treated any different."
And Don Villines, an Air Force veteran, said, "Those who wanted to attend church services of their choice could do so."
Kevin Smith, another Army veteran, said, "You had the choice. You had the choice not to participate."
The latest controversy stems from reports about a recent Pentagon meeting on harassment and tolerance issues. Some outlets reported that the Defense Department's policy against proselytizing, or attempts to convert people, also applied to those who evangelized, or shared their religious beliefs. They also reported court martial as a possible penalty.
Authorities say none of that is true.
A Pentagon spokesman says the reports take policies out of context. And some wrongly identify Mikey Weinstein, a critic of the military's religious policies, as a Pentagon adviser.
The Pentagon says it does not endorse any one religion or religious organization, and provides free access of religion for all members of the military.