The Obama Administration announced its objection to an amendment offered in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2014 (H.R. 1960) that would expand and implement protection for the rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces and their Chaplains. They said in a statement of administration policy on the bill:
The Administration strongly objects to section 530, which would require the Armed Forces to accommodate, except in cases of military necessity, “actions and speech” reflecting the “conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member.” By limiting the discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units, this provision would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.
This amendment was authored by Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) it was offered on June 5th. In a statement released then Congressman Fleming said, “The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms should not have their own religious freedom jeopardized during their military service. Steps to protect the religious liberties of our Armed Forces were taken in last year’s NDAA, but troubling reports indicate that the military may be focused only on protecting beliefs of service members and not the exercise or expression of those beliefs. My amendment is necessary to ensure that men and women of faith will not be discriminated against in the Armed Forces, and will be free to exercise their religious beliefs.”
Some of these troubling reports as reported by Todd Starnes of Fox News:
- An Air Force officer being told to remove his Bible from his desk because it might give the impression he is endorsing a religion.
- The Air Force censored a video created by a chaplain because it include the word “God.” The Air Force feared the word might offend Muslims and atheists.
- A service member received a “severe and possibly career-ending reprimand” for expressing his faith’s religious position about homosexuality in a personal religious blog.
- A senior military official at Fort Campbell sent out a lengthy email officially instructing officers to recognize “the religious right in America” as a “domestic hate group” akin to the KKK and Neo-Nazis because of its opposition to homosexual behavior.
- A chaplain was relieved of his command over a military chapel because, consistent with DOMA’s definition of marriage, he could not allow same-sex weddings to take place in the chapel.
Fleming told Fox News that the Administration is now endorsing these types of reprimands with its opposition to his amendment. “This administration is aggressively hostile towards religious beliefs that it deems to be politically incorrect,” Congressman Fleming said.
Kellie Fiedorek, litigation counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, told Caffeinated Thoughts that “Service members shouldn’t be denied the very constitutional liberties they have volunteered to defend. It is clear that the Obama administration opposes constitutional religious freedom for service men and women, and this is the latest example of this administration’s hostility toward religious service members. Antagonism toward people of faith–namely Christians–in the military is real, and it is disappointing that the president is unwilling to support laws that protect and defend the basic liberty of religious freedom.”