Daily Dispatches
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., left, with Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, on Capitol Hill
Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., left, with Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, on Capitol Hill

Congress strengthens religious freedom for the military

Military

The Senate passed a defense bill with strong bipartisan support last week that includes important language to strengthen and protect the religious freedom of military members and chaplains.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes the standard provisions for funding the military as well as amendments that expand the protection of military members’ religious freedoms, including their personal beliefs, actions, and speech. Specific language in the NDAA protects the freedom of military chaplains to “close a prayer outside of a religious service according to the traditions, expressions, and religious exercises of the endorsing faith group.”

“I commend the overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress for protecting the right of service members to freely practice and express their faith,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “Congress acted appropriately after investigating numerous incidents involving service members who have had their careers threatened and harassed simply for practicing their faith in a real and tangible way.”

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

Here are some recent examples of threats to service members’ religious freedom: A superior told an Air Force major to remove from his desk the bible he had kept there for 23 years; an Army master sergeant with 25 years of service faces punishment for serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at his promotion party; and an Army Reserve training brief on hate groups declared that evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics are extremists as dangerous as al-Qaeda.

Religious liberty advocates have been concerned that unfettered access to the Pentagon’s most senior leadership, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, by anti-Christian individuals such as Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, unduly influenced military policies and threatened the freedom of religious expression.

To address that concern, the NDAA included a provision requiring the Department of Defense to notify Congress when its employees meet with civilians to change military policy about religious liberty.

The office of Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement saying, “Sen. Inhofe supported the inclusion of language in this year’s NDAA which would enhance the protection of rights of conscience of the members of the armed forces and chaplains by making it explicit in law that not only beliefs must be protected but expressions of beliefs as well.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael Cochrane
Michael Cochrane

Michael is a retired Defense Department engineer and former Army officer who is an adjunct professor of engineering management at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Michael on Twitter @MFCochrane.

Comments

You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading

    Advertisement