A June 24 order issued by the U.S. Navy bans service members from attending indoor religious services while permitting in-residence social gatherings of any size, protests, and other activities, a religious freedom law firm recently told FOX News.
The Navy’s excuse for the ban is the coronavirus, and sailors could be court-martialed as punishment.
Major Daniel Schultz of the U.S. Air Force, currently in a Navy command, is requesting a religious accommodation to attend the church where he leads worship after the Navy issued the order stating “service members are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in . . . indoor religious services.”
Mike Berry, the First Liberty Institute lawyer who sent a letter on behalf of Shultz on June 29, said the order is “unlawful and immoral” and is calling on President Trump to demand its immediate retraction.
“President Trump recently declared churches as essential to America. In open defiance of the Commander in Chief, the U.S. Navy has now threatened to court-martial service members if they go to church,” Berry told FOX News. “It is absolutely outrageous that our troops can’t go to church, but they can host house parties of any size.”
Other chaplains also slammed the order.
“We are stunned that the Navy would issue this unlawful order,” said Chaplain Col. Ron Crews, US Army Ret., executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “Our chaplains have fought, bled, and even died for the right of every service member to enjoy religious freedom wherever they are, at home and abroad,” Crews added. “For the Navy to strip away that freedom in this manner is unconscionable.”
Bishop Derek Jones, who chairs the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, called on the Navy to rescind the “unlawful order immediately.”