Navy Ends Ban on Sailors, Marines Attending Indoor Religious Services

The US Navy has revised its policy that prohibited active service members from attending in-person religious services.  

The change comes just days after First Liberty Institute, a non-profit religious liberty law firm, sent a letter on behalf of active duty officer Daniel Schultz and several other service members affected by the order, asking the Navy to grant an accommodation so that they may attend indoor religious services.

“We are grateful to Acting Undersecretary Slavonic and Navy leadership for righting this ship, and to Commander-in-Chief Trump for making religious liberty a priority,” said Mike Berry, First Liberty Institute General Counsel. 

“This is a major victory for the Constitution and for religious freedom within our military.  This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs,” Berry continued. 

The updated policy clarifies that service members are allowed to attend places of worship “where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.” It directs commanders to “incorporate this clarification allowing attendance at religious services where COVID-19 transition mitigation measures may be appropriately applied.” 

On June 24, the Navy issued an order specifically stating that “service members are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in . . . indoor religious services,” including its chaplains.