The US Department of Defense has expanded its list of religions recognized in the military to include Humanism and Druidism.
Previously, there were only 100 religions in the list, but with the inclusion of many new belief systems, the list has more than doubled with 221 recognized religions, World religion news reports.
The updated list of faith groups lists new Christian and non-Christian territorial groups. There are eight new Protestant groups on the list, new Jewish groups, and land-centered beliefs such as Druids, Asatrus, and Pagans.
The update was made after the Armed Forces Chaplains Council (AFCB) concluded that there is a need to add new beliefs and denominations to more fully represent religious affiliation among members of the military.
This decision means that military members and military women who belong to minority faith groups will enjoy the same level of protections, rights and privileges enjoyed by those who belong to members of larger faith groups.
Josh Heath, co-director of Open Hills Project, a group that supports land-centered and pagan religions in the military, told World Religion News that members of the newly added religions will now have an easier time keeping religious items inside their barracks as well. than to ask for a vacation.
“If you are having a communication problem regarding your religious needs, you can say it is my official religious preference and be accommodated,” he said, according to the Information service on religion.
Humanist Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers, noted that this change in the list of recognized religions is a “victory for diversity in general”.
Humanism was recognized by the military in 2014, but until this order it was not recognized by all branches of the military.
“There have been prior statements that the government or the military have recognized humanism in one way or another,” Torpy said. “But it’s different.”
While many new faith groups, such as “The Spiral Tree Church” and “Dianic Wicca” have been added to the list, some have been removed. Faith groups such as the Tioga River Christian Conference, as well as non-denominational Protestants have been removed from the list.