DoD Updates Religious Accommodation Instruction

The Defense Department released an update to the Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services instruction effective Jan. 22, 2014. The changes to this policy are as follows:

  • The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members unless they have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline.
  • When requests for accommodation are made, the needs of the requesting service member are balanced against the needs of mission accomplishment. Only if it is determined that the needs of mission accomplishment outweigh the needs of the service member may the request be denied.
  • All requests for accommodation of religious practices will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Each request must be considered based on its unique facts; the nature of the requested religious accommodation; the effect of approval or denial on the service member’s exercise of religion; and the effect of approval or denial on mission accomplishment, including unit cohesion.
  • Immediate commanders may resolve requests for accommodation of religious practices that do not require a waiver of Military Department or Service policies regarding the wearing of military uniforms, the wearing of religious apparel, or grooming, appearance, or body art standards.
      • Requests that require a waiver will be forwarded to the respective military department for approval.
  • Factors used to determine if an item of religious apparel interferes with military duties include, but are not limited to, whether or not the item:
      • Impairs the safe and effective operation of weapons, military equipment, or machinery.
      • Poses a health or safety hazard to the Service member wearing the religious apparel and/or others.
      • Interferes with the wear or proper function of special or protective clothing or equipment (e.g., helmets, flak jackets, flight suits, camouflaged uniforms, protective masks, wet suits, and crash and rescue equipment).
      • Otherwise impairs the accomplishment of the military mission.

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