So is the case about Pentagon policy closed? Not at all, say some religious-liberty advocates.
For one thing, the Pentagon statement clarifying that military personnel would not be court-martialed if they “evangelize” also said that “proselytization” is considered a Uniform Code of Military Justice offense. Yet the definitions of those two words are almost identical: Merriam-Webster defines proselytization as “to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause” and evangelize as “to preach the gospel to or to convert to Christianity.”
In response to the Pentagon statement, two Southern Baptist leaders issued their own statement on May 6 voicing concern about religious freedom, even while cautioning Christians to refrain from jumping to conclusions. “What incidents have taken place, we wonder, that would call for this seemingly arbitrary distinction between ‘evangelizing’ and ‘proselytizing’?” asked the Rev. Russell Moore, president-elect of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Rev. Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. “With a subjective interpretation and adjudication of such cases, we need reassurance that such would not restrict the free exercise of religion for our chaplains and military personnel.”