Help Safeguard Religious Freedom in the Military

By:  Ann Shibler
04/03/2012
       
Help Safeguard Religious Freedom in the Military

The Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, H.R. 3828, has been introduced in the House.

Back on September 30, 2011, unelected political appointee Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley circulated a Pentagon memo stating that military chaplains would no longer be prohibited from officiating at same-sex unions. Major General Stanley’s pronouncement came on the heels of the September 20 repeal of the “Don’t Ask, don’t Tell,” policy.

An organization representing over 2,000 military chaplains -- Evangelicals and Orthodox -- quickly responded to the Pentagon’s memo describing it as a “direct assault” on marriage because it authorized the use of federal facilities for private same-sex union ceremonies. Dr. Ron Crews, executive director of the Alliance for Religious Liberty and an ex-military chaplain said the Pentagon’s move contradicts current federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, and also is a “direct assault on the fundamental unit of society, husband and wife.” Crew rightly noted that the right NOT to participate in same-sex “marriage” ceremonies is “not given by the Pentagon, but rather given by the Creator and protected by the chaplain’s faith group.”

In February 2012 when the Obama administration issued its HHS contraceptive mandate that violated the conscience rights and moral principles of the Catholic Church, Catholic bishops across the land responded with letters of protest and pastoral guidance to be read at every Mass on Sunday, the Obama Administration silenced Catholic Army chaplains from reading the letter to their congregations. That letter was authored by Archbishop Timothy Broglio. But Catholic Army military congregations didn’t hear it.

From instituting a direct contradiction to DOMA via edict, circumventing proper legislation, to mandating the violation of conscience rights, to banning Catholic military chaplains from reading a pastoral letter to their own faithful, it’s clear to see that there is indeed an attack on religious liberty. Some are even fearful that the Pentagon and the Obama Administration are on track to establish an official government church that would serve as a mouthpiece for government and military propaganda as in the case of some communist countries.

The recently introduced Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, H.R. 3828 with 43 cosponsors (as of April 3, 2012), would protect the conscience rights, moral principles and religious beliefs of both military members and military chaplains. This legislation includes these provisions:

  • Protection of Rights of Conscience-- The sincerely held religious or moral beliefs of a member of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality shall be accommodated and shall not be the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment....
  • A military chaplain shall not be directed, ordered, or required to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain or contrary to the moral principles or religious beliefs of the chaplain's faith group. The refusal by a military chaplain to perform a duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain or contrary to the moral principles or religious beliefs of the chaplain's faith group shall not be the basis for any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment....

These are much needed safeguards for our military men and women and the chaplains who serve them.

Currently, H.R. 3828 is sitting in the Subcommittee for Military Personnel of the House Committee on Armed Services.  The Subcommittee members are:

                 Joe Wilson, South Carolina Visit Site

                  Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Visit Site

                  Mike Coffman, Colorado Visit Site

                  Thomas J. Rooney, Florida Visit Site

                  Joe Heck, Nevada Visit Site

                  Allen West , Florida Visit Site

                  Austin Scott , Georgia Visit Site

                  Vicky Hartzler, Missouri Visit Site

                  Susan A. Davis, California Visit Site

                  Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania Visit Site

                  Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam Visit Site

                  David Loebsack, Iowa Visit Site

                  Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts Visit Site

                  Chellie Pingree, Maine Visit Site

Contact these subcommittee members and ask them to support getting H.R. 3828 reported out of committee and brought to the House floor for a vote.

Also, be sure to send an email message to your Representative and Senators in support of H.R. 3828, "Military Religious Freedom Protection Act."

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