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OU Submits Letter to U.S. Dept. of Defense Voicing Concern about Revised Religious Accommodations for Military Personnel

Posted on February 3, 2014 In Press Releases

Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, submitted a letter to Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. Wright concerning the Department of Defense’s recently revised instructions on “Accommodation of Religious Practices within the Military Services.”

The new instructions, which took effect earlier last week, were designed to improve religious accommodations for service members but, in practice, may hinder free religious expression. In the letter the Orthodox Union states:

“Under the new rules, service members may not wear any religious apparel without explicit permission from their immediate commanders. In the event a commander denies permission, service members must then apply for a waiver from a higher-level officer. We believe this inappropriately infringes upon religious practice in the military and violates the intent of the government statute…”

In the letter, the OU also expressed its concern for service members who, as a result of the directive, must now repeat requests for accommodation with “every new assignment, transfer of duty stations, or other significant change in circumstances.”

Regarding the letter, Nathan Diament, OU’s Executive Director for Public Policy, said, “The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations remains committed to supporting policies that enable individuals and institutions to conduct their affairs in accordance with their religious beliefs. It is our hope that the Department of Defense will revise these rules in a manner that conforms to that principle and the ‘presumptive permission’ service members benefitted from in the past.”

Read the complete text of the letter.