DoDIG memo to SECDEF highlights deliberate violation of Federal Law within the DoD

The Department of Defense Inspector General (DoDIG) submitted a memo to the Secretary of Defense on June 2, 2022 to inform him of “potential noncompliance with standards for reviewing and documenting the denial of religious accommodation requests of Service members identified through complaints submitted to my office.”

The memo states, “The Department of Defense Hotline received dozens of complaints regarding denied religious accommodation requests from Service members. We found a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies.”

At the bottom of the first page, the memo cites DoD Instruction 1300.17 which states:

“Religious Liberty in the Military Services” paragraph 3.2.d requires that “officials charged with making recommendations or taking final action on a Service member’s request for the accommodation of religious practices will review each request individually, considering the full range of facts and circumstances relevant to the specific request…. The means that is least restrictive to the requestor’s religious practice and that does not impede a compelling governmental interest will be determinative.”

The memo goes on to state “the volume and rate at which decisions were made to deny requests is concerning…. We bring this to your attention for any action you deem appropriate to ensure that published guidance, including DoD Instruction 1300.17, ‘Religious Liberty in the Military Services,’ are followed when acting on requests for religious exemption…”

We can see denial letters in the Air Force side by side involving multiple service members. The letters which emanated from the same commands are almost identical.

Here are twenty denial letters sent out by the Navy which all have identical wording to one another.

These are only a few examples of similar/identical denial letters we’ve seen. We’ve received hundreds of letters over the last ten months, and when viewed side by side, we can see the similarities are unmistakable.

On January 7, 2022, Commander Robert Green Jr. was relieved from his position as Executive Officer of MSRON-8 after he brought forward evidence the Navy had a standard operating procedure (SOP) for processing religious accommodations. The SOP was drafted by the Navy’s Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education Office, which is led by Vice Admiral John Nowell. The SOP outlined the process for systematically denying COVID-19 religious accommodation requests and provided proof of religious discrimination and multiple violations of regulation and constitutional rights. The SOP was utilized by Vice Admiral Nowell and his staff to process the surge in religious accommodation requests following the Secretary of Defense’s vaccine order on 24 August 2021.

Commander Green was notified on August 5, 2022 that his complaint had been dismissed. The letter from the Office of the Naval Inspector General states, “we reviewed and evaluated the information you provided. We applied applicable standards to your allegation. We determined that the alleged action did not warrant an investigation by this office because we did not find sufficient evidence to constitute a credible allegation of misconduct by a DON senior official.”

Another complaint submitted against the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) was dismissed in a letter which stated there was “insufficient evidence to indicate wrongdoing and an inadequate basis to warrant further investigation.”

Despite presenting evidence of an SOP which had the intent to give blanket denials of religious accommodations, in violation of DoD Instruction 1300.17, and despite a memo from the DoDIG to SECDEF stating that blanket denials did, in fact, take place across the branches of the DOD, the Navy’s IG still dismissed the complaint. Commander Green submitted a new complaint on August 26, 2022 against the Naval Inspector General for covering up federal crimes.

There is undeniable proof that the DOD has broken federal regulations by violating The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and DoD Instruction 1300.17. Not only can we see evidence of it in the denial letters contained within, but the DoDIG’s own investigation and subsequent memo to the Secretary of Defense states it. Congress MUST investigate these crimes immediately.

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Responses

    1. An individualized canned response. We have provided courts with documents showing that they have canned responses and they use to demonstrate a case by case review. Smoke and mirrors, my friend.

  1. Hmmm, what can Congress do about this, other than publicize it? Maybe refuse to confirm the officers that did this?
    Congressional oversight typically applies to Legislative purposes, i.e. making new laws. Its pretty obvious that even with explicit instructions in the RFRA, the DoD is bypassing said laws and doing whatever they want, with whatever loophole they can find. If the DoD is lawless, and Congress investigates, at best they can submit recommendations to the DoJ. Do we seriously expect the Executive Branch to impeach itself?

  2. I’m a former DON IG (Echelon II), now retired. Just an thought, but the Senate Armed Services Committee receives nominations (for approval) of military officers O-4 and above. It’s usually a “rubber stamp” process as they receive approximately 50,000 nominations per year. However, promotions may be held up if there are pending criminal, civil, or IG investigations.

    I’d “suggest,” if it were me (I once delayed an O-6 advancement to Flag), and I had been denied religious accommodation as outlined in the DOD IG findings, I would send a package of my documentation (canned denial letter and DOD IG Report, etc.) with a well-worded cover letter, to my two US Senators (even better if they are on the Senate Armed Services Committee), asking them to forward your complaint to the Ranking Member of the Committee. They could possibly flag that CO and stymie any potential promotion, for engaging in violations of The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and DoD Instruction 1300.17. It may be a long shot, but what do you have to lose, other than you career?