Thursday, January 10, 2013

Defense Bill Defends Religious Liberty

One of President Obama’s first moves in 2013 was to sign into law the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that authorizes and prioritizes funding for the Department of Defense and other select national security programs. Yet along with his signature, President Obama issued a statement criticizing several portions of the bill—including the religious freedom protections for military chaplains and other servicemembers (Section 533).

The President called the provisions “unnecessary and ill-advised,” and said “The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct. My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that.” Regulations issued by the Department of Defense will determine specifically how the conscience protections are implemented.

The repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military in 2011 raised concerns that servicemembers whose religious beliefs conflicted with homosexual behavior would face discrimination and disapproval. Despite the President’s statement to the contrary, the religious freedom protections contained in the NDAA require the Armed Forces to accommodate servicemembers’ religious convictions, as long as they do not “threaten good order and discipline.” The language also prohibits the military from using a person’s beliefs as the basis for adverse personnel action, and ensures that chaplains will not be forced “to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to [their] conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs.”

Members of the Prayer Caucus worked aggressively to ensure that the final version of the defense authorization bill included these key religious freedom protections. While President Obama has indicated his eagerness to protect the rights of gay and lesbian servicemembers, one also hopes he will support measures to ensure citizens need not leave their faith at home when they volunteer to serve.

President Criticizes “Ill-Advised” Religious Freedom Protections in Defense Bill
Original by The Congressional Prayer Caucus
January 9, 2013 


SEC. 533. PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE OF MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES AND CHAPLAINS OF SUCH MEMBERS.

    (a) Protection of Rights of Conscience-
      (1) ACCOMMODATION- The Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs of a member of the armed forces reflecting the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.
      (2) DISCIPLINARY OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION- Nothing in paragraph (1) precludes disciplinary or administrative action for conduct that is proscribed by chapter 47 of title 10, United States Code (the Uniform Code of Military Justice), including actions and speech that threaten good order and discipline.
    (b) Protection of Chaplain Decisions Relating to Conscience, Moral Principles, or Religious Beliefs- No member of the Armed Forces may--
      (1) require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or
      (2) discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a requirement prohibited by paragraph (1).
    (c) Regulations- The Secretary of Defense shall issue regulations implementing the protections afforded by this section.

No comments:

Post a Comment