More Protestants, fewer Catholics in Army’s recent religious shifts

The 109th Airlift Wing began administering COVID-19 vaccines on March 10, 2021. (Master Sgt. Christine Wood/Air Force)

Since the start of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the religious affiliations of the Army have seen some change, according to a recent report released by the RAND Corporation.

The report was prepared for the Army’s top chaplains to help them determine appropriate adjustments to the religious makeup of the service’s chaplain corps.

Enlisted troops from the active duty force have seen the biggest changes, the report said. Overall, the enlisted force is more Protestant and less Catholic than the general U.S. population.

According to the researchers, who based their analysis on Army data and figures representative of the whole U.S., the enlisted Regular Army has seen a increase in the number of Protestant Christian soldiers since fiscal 2000. That increase comes despite a decline in the number of Protestants in the general U.S. population during the same period, the report said.

Additionally, the proportion of enlisted Catholic troops in the active duty force has declined over the same time period, the researchers found. They are now slightly underrepresented compared to the overall U.S. population.

RAND said it couldn’t definitively determine why the shifts have occurred, but the report suggests it could be because “people with certain identities” have become more likely to join and remain in the Army, or because the Army may target certain regions more heavily for recruitment than others.

The report also compares officers’ religious preferences to those of enlisted troops. Overall, officers are more likely to list a religious preference, and they have seen similar but smaller shifts in their affiliations compared to the enlisted population.

The researchers believe that over the next five years, the share of enlisted troops reporting no religious preference will increase. They also project that officers’ preferences will remain roughly stable.

Davis Winkie is a staff reporter covering the Army. He originally joined Military Times as a reporting intern in 2020. Before journalism, Davis worked as a military historian. He is also a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.

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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.