WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced two amendments to protect the religious liberties of military service members, both of which passed last week in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
If passed by the full Senate and adopted into law, the amendments will:
- Strengthen existing law to protect the rights of conscience of military service members and protect troops who express their religious faith appropriately so that they are not discriminated against or subject to retaliation. The Lee-Cruz Amendment passed 19-7. All 12 Republicans on the committee supported the amendment, along with 7 Democrats. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) has introduced a corresponding amendment in the House, which prompted a veto threat from the Obama White House.
- Instruct the Defense Department Inspector General to investigate reports of religious discrimination against troops’ sharing their faith and also investigate any undue influence outside groups may have in creating Pentagon policy on religious matters. The amendment will also mandate an anonymous survey to determine whether the Pentagon is preventing chaplains from doing their jobs or trying to force chaplains to perform actions that violate their conscience. The Cruz amendment passed committee by voice vote.
“Freedom of religious expression is vital to our military culture, and I am deeply concerned by recent reports that servicemen and women have been prevented from exercising this fundamental Constitutional right,” Sen. Cruz said. “No soldier should fear a court martial for expressing his or her faith or made to fear negative reprisals for reporting threats to their freedom to worship God. The men and women of the military risk their lives every day to protect our Constitutional rights, and they should not be forced to surrender their religious liberty to do so.”
“The religious liberties of our men and women in uniform deserve strong protections,” said Sen. Lee. “The amendment ensures the rights of servicemen and women to practice and share their faith and puts in place strong oversight to guarantee their rights of conscience.”
The historic role and importance of military chaplains in our armed forces must be protected. Since 1775, approximately 25,000 military chaplains have ministered to some 25 million U.S. forces; more than 300 chaplains have died in the line of duty.
Photo credit: Lance R. Haynie via Flickr (CC-By-NC-SA 2.0)