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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Yesterday, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council's executive vice president, and other members of the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition (RMRF) met with senior U.S. Air Force officials at the Pentagon to discuss the escalation of religious liberty infringements not just in the U.S. Air Force but across the military.
Air Force officials also accepted over 170,000 petitions appealing to Secretary of Defense Hagel to protect the religious liberties of service members. A second petition with nearly 50,000 signers appealed to the U.S. Air Force to stop the persecution of and possible legal action against Senior Master Sgt. Philip Monk at Lackland Air Force base. The officials also received a copy of the coalition's report documenting dozens of other religious liberty violations of service members.
Boykin was joined at the meeting by Col. (Ret.) Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association, and Kellie Fiedorek from Alliance Defending Freedom.
Boykin made the following comments after the conclusion of the meeting:
"The meeting included a productive discussion on the issue of religious freedom in the military as a whole and not just the U.S. Air Force. After delivering the petitions, we explained our concerns regarding the trend towards infringements on the constitutional liberties of service members in all uniformed services.
"We appreciate their offer to review decisions that do not reflect Air Force policy made by commanders at various bases. At their request, we will report future events and concerns directly to Air Force leadership. After reviewing a series of troubling incidents involving chaplains, the coalition members were assured in the meeting that chaplains would not be forced to do anything that violates the tenets of their faith.
"We also requested that the Department of Defense and the Air Force issue a definitive statement regarding the ability of service members to share their faith publicly. Previous statements on the subject have been confusing and contradictory.
"Additionally, we asked that the Department of Defense move quickly to implement the religious freedom protections enacted in last year's National Defense Authorization Act. Given new incidents of military personnel facing career reprisals for their religious beliefs, it is vital that regulations preventing discrimination be issued by the Secretary of Defense as required by law. We intend to remain in contact with the Air Force to ensure that the law's implementation is consistent with the intent of Congress," concluded Boykin.
The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition was launched in July at a Capitol Hill News conference. The coalition released a new report at the news conference documenting dozens of religious liberty violations in the military. Additionally the coalition launched a new website, www.militaryfreedom.org, to support the religious liberties of America's men and women in uniform.