Facing Intense Backlash, Navy Reverses Course and Upholds Sailors Right to Attend Church

The Navy has revised a policy that originally prohibited sailors and soldiers from attending off-campus religious services ostensibly due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. After weathering intense backlash from people of faith and being warned that its policy violated the First Amendment, the Navy has now rescinded it.

The original order stated that service members were, “prohibited from visiting patronizing, or engaging in . . . off-installation specific facilities, services or activities . . . to include indoor religious services.”

A new memo which cites the revised order, signed by the Acting Under Secretary of the Navy, Gregory Slavonic, now says, “nothing in [the original order] should be construed to restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.”

The controversy over the Navy’s original policy bubbled up after First Liberty Institute sent a letter to the Navy on behalf of Major Daniel Schultz, a devout Christian, who wanted to attend off-base church services during the pandemic. Due to the Navy’s restricting guidelines, he was barred from doing so.

Now due to the revisions, Major Schultz will be free to attend and help lead worship services without fear of breaking naval guidelines.

“Our Commander in Chief, President Trump, made it clear that churches are essential in America,” Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty, told The Daily Citizen about the policy revision. “The Navy received that message loud and clear, and our service members are once again able to attend church. We commend the Navy for quickly and favorably resolving this issue. This is a great victory for religious freedom within our military.”

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