The U.S. Navy is allowing personnel to attend in-person indoor worship services after criticism from some Congress members.
According to The Christian Post, The clarification to the order comes after the First Liberty Institute voiced concern that a June 24 order would keep personnel from attending indoor worship services during the pandemic. The order, however, allowed other secular indoor activities.
First Liberty sent a letter on June 29, arguing that service members have a “right to freely exercise religious beliefs via in-person religious services.”
Two Republican Congress members, Doug Collins and Doug Lamborn, also sent a letter on July 1 to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, saying, “While we can all agree that the health and safety of our troops is critical during the ongoing public health crisis, singling out religious gatherings while allowing other activities and unrestricted social gatherings to take place is unlawful.”
This week, however, Acting Undersecretary of the Navy Greg Slavonic released a memo saying that in-person worship was allowed as long as social distancing measures were followed.
"[The order should not] be construed to restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering,” he wrote in the memo released Wednesday.
"I am directing you to ensure that all Service guidance reflects the reference message and to inform Commanders to incorporate this clarification allowing attendance at religious services where COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures may be appropriately applied."
First Liberty General Counsel Mike Berry said the change is a “major victory for the Constitution and for religious freedom within our military.”
“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,” stated Berry.
“This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Zim286
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.