AFI 51-508, DODI 1325.06 outline military participation in non-partisan gatherings

  • Published
  • Air Education and Training Command

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects and preserves all Americans’ right to exercise free speech and the freedom of assembly. 

Accordingly, in accordance with paragraph 3.1.1., AFI 51-508, Political Activities, Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly of Air Force Personnel, dated 12 Oct 18, Air Force commanders must preserve the service member’s constitutional right of expression to the maximum extent possible, consistent with good order, discipline, and national security. 

Airmen are reminded that both DoDI 1325.06 and AFI 51-508 stipulate that military members are prohibited from participating in demonstrations or rallies:

1) while on duty;

2) when in uniform;

3) when their activities constitute a breach of law and order; or

4) if violence is likely to result.

Per AFI 51-508, para. 2.4., while military members may attend both partisan and nonpartisan political fundraising activities, rallies, conventions, campaigning events, or political debates, they may not actively participate in partisan political activity.  Partisan political activity is an activity supporting or relating to candidates who represent, or issues specifically identified with, national or state political parties or associated or ancillary organizations.  Active participation includes more than mere attendance as a spectator. 

Additionally, AFI 51-508, para. 3.4., states military personnel must not actively advocate supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.  NOTE: This list is not all inclusive and other actions, depending on the circumstances, can warrant a command response. 

Members who violate the above prohibited activity are subject to disciplinary action under Article 92, in addition to any other appropriate articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

While Airmen are able to attend demonstrations as long as they conform to the above limitations, they must also remain mindful of current public health emergency restrictions and executive orders as they relate to public gatherings.

Airmen should remain vigilant of their surroundings and remember that all military personnel must abide by the requirements in AFI 51-508, as well as the applicable DoD, state, and local guidance related to the threat of COVID-19. Should any protest or demonstration become violent or otherwise unlawful, military members must leave the event as quickly and as safely as possible, avoiding unnecessary risk.

For questions, Airmen are encouraged to contact their chain of command or their local staff judge advocate's office.