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The Department of Defense’s list of recognized religions has now doubled.

The United States Department of Defense, in its quest for diversity in military chaplaincy, has announced an increase in the recognized religions list. In addition to a number of other religions, it has officially recognized Humanism.

The United States military previously recognized only about 100 religions. The brand new list recognizes 221 religions. The list of new beliefs includes earth-centric faiths, like Asatru, Druid, and Heathenism. Eight Protestant groups have been recognized as well. Thanks to the new order, Jewish servicewomen and servicemen could now select among Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative and not forced to tick only “Jewish.”

According to Josh Heath, a co-director of Open Halls Project, an organization that supports earth-centric faiths and heathens in the military, the newly recognized entities will find it much easier to apply for holidays and keep their own unique religious items inside the barracks.

This move means those servicemen and servicewomen who identify themselves as adherents of minority faith groups can now enjoy the same protections, privileges, and rights which were earlier granted to members of bigger faith groups.

The move came after Armed Forces Chaplains Board or AFCB made a thorough review of the faith groups recognized by the department. It then recommended that the faith groups' list should be expanded to better mirror the intent and language pertaining to section 533. It was then recommended by the AFCB to add new belief groups and faith to standardize and also better identify the religious preferences as recognized by military services.

The AFCB believes these changes will help religious support planning of the military services through better tracking of more belief and also faith systems. They will also offer a more accurate demographic data pertaining to religious groups. It will also help the military to plan better when it comes to religious support within the armed forces. The changes will also offer a better quality assessment of the requirements and capabilities of the Chaplain Corps of the Military Service.

Humanist organizations have applauded the move. They were pushing for such a recognition for ten years. According to Jason Torpy, the president of Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the new listing goes beyond humanism and is a victory for diversity. He said his Military Association is all set to help in “chaplain outreach” so that existing and future military chaplains could be trained in humanist needs and beliefs.

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