A battle is raging in the U.S. military – over religious rights of the soldiers who defend American lives and values.
An amendment in the recently passed military budget bill actually strengthens religious freedom rights for service members, and was placed there after Barack Obama essentially ignored a similar provision last year.
“We are very concerned about his disdain not just for the members of faith in the military but the legislative branch as well,” said Brig. Gen. Doug Lee, retired, chairman of the executive committee for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
In last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp successfully sponsored an amendment that was intended to protect the religious freedom rights of service members.
Huelskamp proposed the amendment following reports of service members facing retaliation for expressing their religious beliefs following Congress’ repeal of the Revolutionary War ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.
Among the cases cited by the Chaplain Alliance are:
- A senior chaplain on a major stateside military installation recently was stripped of his authority over the chapel under his charge for his insistence that, in accordance with federal law and military regulations proclaiming the chapel as a “sacred space,” the chapel would not be used to celebrate “marriages” between same-sex couples.
- A chaplain was threatened with early retirement, then was moved to an assignment where he could “be supervised,” after he forwarded an email to his subordinates that was a thoughtful reflection on the military’s former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
- At Andrews Air Force Base a senior NCO asked a chaplain for assistance over an incident that occurred in the public food court. Two sailors under his command were eating and talking when one of them mentioned he might want to be a chaplain someday but didn’t know how the new regulation allowing homosexuals to serve would affect that plan. Another service member at the next table who was listening to the conversation stood up and berated the two sailors for talking about the new policy and reported the “incident” to the NCO. Unsure of what to do, he instructed the soldier who want to become a chaplain that he needed to be more careful in public.
- A chaplain on funeral duty with some enlisted sailors heard them discussing how they felt it was unfair that fellow service members that chose the “gay” or lesbian lifestyle were allowed to choose their roommates, but as heterosexuals they were unable to do the same.
- A service school that trains officers experienced an incident in which a male service member sexually harassed another male service member through text messages, emails, phone calls and visible confrontations. The targeted member was not interested in a same-sex relationship, but the offending male insisted the two would make a good couple. The harassment was reported, but no disciplinary action resulted.
Sec. 533 of the 2013 NDAA said, “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.”
The 2013 bill also prevented the military from taking adverse action against chaplains who refuse to comply with requirements that are contrary to their conscience, moral principles of religious beliefs.
However, despite the language in last year’s NDAA, retaliation against service members has increased. WND recently reported how an Army master sergeant was investigated, reprimanded, threatened with judicial action and given a bad efficiency report after he hosted a personal promotion party at Chik-fil-A. It has long been a tradition in the military for staff non-commissioned officers to host a party upon their promotion to a new rank.
“They say he is no longer a team player and was not performing up to standards,” Chaplain Alliance Executive Director Ron Crews told Fox News. “This is just one little example of a case of a soldier just wanting to express his views and now he’s been jumped on by the military.”
The military also received unwanted publicity when it was revealed that officials were vowing to punish Christians for engaging in evangelism. Following widespread criticism over the policy, the Pentagon backtracked, claiming while evangelizing would be acceptable, proselytizing would not. However, the problem is the definition of proselytizing.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines proselytizing as “to induce someone to convert to one’s faith; to recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause.” This definition would include a Christian sharing their faith in any attempt to persuade them to become a Christian, no matter how benign the approach might be.
When Obama signed the 2013 NDAA into law he said the conscience protections were “unnecessary and ill-advised.”
But Huelskamp said it now seems evident why Obama made that statement.
“That may explain why, six months later, the Obama administration has not yet promulgated regulations to enforce the new statutory protections,” the congressman said in a statement on his website. “To compound the president’s failure to effectuate the new law, administration officials have been meeting with none other than Mikey Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein is the notorious anti-Christian zealot who says the military ranks are full of ‘Christian fundamentalist monsters’ whose evangelizing constitutes ‘spiritual rape,’ ‘a national security threat,’ and ‘sedition and treason.’”
In order to help the administration understand what Congress meant when it passed the section with the religious protections last year, the House passed the 2014 NDAA with even stronger language. The new bill strikes the phrase “The armed forces shall accommodate the beliefs” and replaces it with “Except in cases of military necessity, the armed forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions, and speech” of members of the armed forces.
Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has blasted the House of Representatives for voting for the religious freedom provisions in the NDAA.
In a vitriolic piece protesting the religious freedom amendment, he called Christians in the military who sincerely believe the Bible, “fundamentalist Christian predators.” He went on to say requiring the military to respect a soldier’s sincerely held religious beliefs that homosexuality is a sin are engaging in the “legalization of G.I Jesus Tourette’s Syndrome.”
Weinstein said the NDAA should strip out the religious freedom section because it “enrages our Islamic enemies.” He went on to say if the conscious protections were to become law fundamentalist Christians will use it to go on a virtual killing spree.
“If Section 530 were to ever become law, our nation better get accustomed to the nightmarish prospect of a free-range, proselytizing ’007 license to kill’ being handed over to these same sickening religious bigots,” Weinstein said. “Section 530 would allow every bigoted slimeball within the American armed forces – the homophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, misogynists, anti-constitutionalists, fundamentalist/dominionist Christians, and/or all of the above – to be given absolute free rein to slither out of their stinking closets of putrid prejudice and spout their twisted, Christian-jihad poison.”
Obama issued a statement saying he “strongly objects” to the religious freedom amendment in this year’s NDAA. He claims it would have a “significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale and mission accomplishment” if soldiers were to have the ability to express their beliefs.
Representatives from the Chaplain Alliance recently met with senior Air Force officials for a meeting to discuss Air Force policies on religious liberties. Lee said that the meeting was beneficial, but it now appears there is a disconnect between military leaders and the commander-in-chief over the issue.
“The Air Force and Obama are obviously not on the same page in regards to this issue,” Lee said. “On the one hand the Air Force says it wants to remain neutral even to the point of removing a poster that says ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’ On the other hand, Obama is much more open now about not supporting anything that has to do with freedom of conscience or religious views.”
Lee went on to say issues such as the Army soldier who was told not to read books by David Limbaugh and Mark Levin as well as the master sergeant disciplined for holding his promotion party at Chik-fil-A are the result of military leaders wanting to follow the desires of the commander-in-chief. However, doing so puts the commanders in a moral quandary.
“These things are all part of a disturbing atmosphere across America,” Lee lamented. “All services are simply responding to the commander-in-chief and his wishes for the tone in the military. While the military claims to be neutral, there are no similar cases of soldiers being disciplined for anti-Christian sentiments.”