WASHINGTON — Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn has asked the Air Force to update its current rules to ensure that there are adequate protections in place for religious freedom for its personnel.
Lamborn led nearly two-dozen Republicans including Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman to sign a letter Tuesday to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James stating their concerns that the outdated regulations are the most restrictive policy of any military branch.
“Unfortunately, the August 2012 Air force regulations which govern religious freedom and expression are inconsistent with Congressional intent and current law,” the lawmakers said.
“The right to free speech and religion is a self-protecting right – not grounds for a bystander to silence a leader’s speech simply because the bystander objects to certain opinions,” the lawmakers said.
Congress has passed legislative language in two national defense authorization bills ordering the armed forces to accommodate individual expressions of belief “unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline.”
Critics say the current regulations put subjective and unworkable restrictions on a leader’s ability to speak about their faith forcing them to avoid the topic altogether.
The lawmakers said such “limits on free speech and religion of those in leadership are both unnecessary and unconstitutional.”
“The bottom line is the Air Force religious freedom regulations and practices are inconsistent with the Constitution and with current law,” the lawmakers said.
“For all of these reasons we urge you to immediately revise (the regulations) and provide clear guidance on implementation to ensure that the Air Force adequately protects the religious freedom of all airmen,” the lawmakers said.
Lamborn said that the restrictive regulations were a driving force behind several instances of religious freedom violation complaints, including the so-called “whiteboard incident” at the Air Force Academy.
A cadet last month wrote a passage from the Bible on a whiteboard that hung on his door, but he was told to erase it after a complaint from the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.