The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths. The original wording sought to tamp down religious fervor and to foster tolerance throughout the Air Force. It discouraged public prayers at routine events and warned superior officers that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements.
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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."
At the same time, it sounds as if there is still room for improvement. The news story also points out that Representative Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) "said the guidelines still call for 'nondenominational, inclusive prayer or a moment of silence' at military ceremonies. 'There is some progress, but it does not go as far as it needs to go in making sure that Christian chaplains can pray in the name of Jesus and other chaplains can pray according to their faiths,' Jones said."
Nevertheless, I'm still pleased to hear about these improvements in the Air Force guidelines. There simply would be no such thing as evangelical chaplaincy without the proclamation of the gospel. I look forward to these chaplains pressing on in their ministry, preaching Christ and Him crucified.