NOVEMBER 11, 2014, WASHINGTON (AFNS) – Air Force officials approved Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, Nov. 7, to clarify guidance on Airmen’s religious rights and commanders’ authority and responsibility to protect those rights.
The changes come as a result of a Religious Freedom “Focus Day” earlier this year when leaders in the Air Force’s chaplain corps came together to discuss Air Force policy regarding religious freedom as directed by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.
At the Focus Day, chaplains discussed Air Force law and policy, the complaint process and how to educate and communicate with Airmen about their rights.
“We provide, or provide for, the free exercise of religion and we advocate its free exercise for every member of the Air Force and the joint environment and their families,” said Maj. Gen. Howard D. Stendahl, the Air Force chief of chaplains.
Several changes were made to the Air Force policy to clarify guidance for how commanders should handle religious accommodation requests or when Airmen’s rights to free exercise are questioned. Chaplain corps officials also clarified policy language to assist commanders in balancing the constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs with the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.
“We trust our commanders with the great responsibility of caring for our Airmen,” Welsh said. “That includes Airmen’s physical, mental, social and spiritual health. We owe them clear guidance on what their responsibilities and rights are to protect and care for their Airmen.”
Airmen who feel their leadership has failed to accommodate their religious expression appropriately or whose behavior infringes on the prohibition against governmental establishment of religion should first attempt to resolve the conflict through their chain of command, said James Carlock, the Air Force director of equal opportunity.
Civilian and military Airmen should also be informed of their rights to discuss their concerns with an equal opportunity advisor in the local EO office.
“We are committed to creating an environment in which Airmen can realize their highest potential, regardless of their personal religious beliefs or lack of beliefs,” Carlock said. “Taking care of our Airmen is our number one concern.”