By Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service, with BJC Staff Reports
The Department of Defense announced a near doubling of its list of recognized religions. It will now formally recognize humanism and other minority faiths among members of the armed forces.
The move, which came at the end of March but was made public in late April, means servicemen and women who are adherents of small faith groups are now guaranteed the same rights, privileges and protections granted to their peers who are members of larger faith groups.
Previously, the U.S. military recognized just over 100 religions. The new list has grown to 221 to include the earth-based faiths, such as heathens and Asatru, and an additional eight Protestant groups, including the International Communion of the Charismatic Christian Church.
Jewish servicemen and women may now choose among Orthodox, Conservative and Reform instead of just “Jewish.”
The move was lauded by humanist organizations, which have been pushing for full recognition, including their own chaplains, for 10 years.
The move also means the Department of Defense will now have more accurate counts of each recognized religious group, which varies widely depending on who’s counting.
Humanism was recognized by the Army in 2014, but this new order expands that to all branches of the military.