Military clarifies ban on proselytizing - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Military clarifies ban on proselytizing

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CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

This week, the Pentagon caused a bit of a controversy when it banned military proselytizing - partly because it didn't define the term.

Those who see sharing faith as a key part of their life said it felt like an attack on the First Amendment rights of those who serve.

"About half our congregation is active-duty military guys," said Rev. Mark Totten, pastor at Grace Bible Church in Clarksville. "I would like to know what they mean by proselytize. If they mean, by that, a commanding officer or one soldier can force faith on another solider, then I have no problem with that."

The Department of Defense clarified its policy Thursday to better define the terms, stating that "service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization)."

For now, the controversy seems too close for comfort for some.

"They just got rid of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Sounds to me like they're trying to bring it back for Christians," Totten said.

Also in its clarified statement, the military re-affirmed its commitment to the constitutional rights of the troops.

What remains unclear, though, could be the role of military chaplains who routinely have faith-based conversations.

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