The Air Force, under pressure from evangelical Christian groups and members of Congress, softened its guidelines on religious expression yesterday to emphasize that superior officers may discuss their faith with subordinates and that chaplains will not be required to offer nonsectarian prayers.
This is good."This does affirm every airman's right, even the commanders' right, to free exercise of religion, and that means sharing your faith," said Maj. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, the Air Force's chief of chaplains....
They should not be allowed to proselitize, especially from a position of power, but the previous regulations, especially those constraining what a Chaplin could say, were too restrictive.The revised guidelines are considerably shorter than the original, filling one page instead of four. They place more emphasis on the Constitution's free exercise clause, which is mentioned four times, than on its prohibition on any government establishment of religion, which is mentioned twice.
The guidelines still warn superior officers to be "sensitive to the potential" that personal expressions of faith may appear to be official statements. But they say that, "subject to these sensitivities, superiors enjoy the same free exercise rights as all other airmen." They now add that there are no restrictions in situations "where it is reasonably clear that the discussions are personal, not official, and they can be reasonably free of the potential for, or appearance of, coercion."