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Breaking: U.S. Navy Reverses Course, Ends Ban on Troops Attending Indoor Religious Services

July 9, 2020

News Release
For Immediate Release: 7.9.20
Contact: Lacey McNiel,
Direct: 972-941-4453

Breaking: U.S. Navy Reverses Course, Ends Ban on Troops Attending Indoor Religious Services
First Liberty Institute urged U.S. Navy to accommodate the religious beliefs of its service members and chaplains to attend in-person religious services

Washington, DC–The United States Navy revised its policy prohibiting active service members from attending in-person religious services.  The change comes just days after First Liberty Institute sent a letter on behalf of active duty officer Daniel Schultz and several other service members affected by the order asking the U.S. Navy to grant an accommodation so that he may attend indoor religious services.

The updated policy is available here.

“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,” said Mike Berry, First Liberty Institute General Counsel. “This is a major victory for the Constitution and for religious freedom within our military.  This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs.”

The updated policy clarifies that service members are allowed to attend places of worship “where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.”  It directs commanders to “incorporate this clarification allowing attendance at religious services where COVID-19 transition mitigation measures may be appropriately applied.”

On June 24, the Navy issued an order specifically stating that “service members are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in . . . indoor religious services,”  including its chaplains.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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