WASHINGTON — The Obama administration released a statement this week that outlines its opposition to various sections of the proposed 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, including an amendment that seeks to protect the religious liberty of members of the military.
Louisiana Congressman John Fleming, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, had introduced the amendment last week. It required that “[e]xcept in cases of military necessity, the Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions and speech” of religious soldiers and chaplains.
“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,” he wrote in a news release announcing the introduction of the amendment. “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.”
However, the Obama administration outlined in its statement on Tuesday that the amendment could hinder the military from maintaining “good order.”
“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,” it explained.
Fleming said that he views the administration’s opposition as an attack on religious freedom itself.
“With its statement, the White House is now endorsing military reprimands of members who keep a Bible on their desk or express a religious belief,” he told reporter Todd Starnes. “This administration is aggressively hostile towards religious beliefs that it deems to be politically incorrect.”
Tony Perkins of Family Research Council likewise expressed concern over the administration’s statement and justification.
“The Obama administration has joined forces with those who are attacking the religious freedoms of those who serve in our Armed Services,” he wrote in a news release Wednesday. “The administration’s opposition to Rep. Fleming’s religious freedom amendment reveals that this administration has gone beyond accommodating the anti-Christian activists who want to remove any vestige of Christianity from the military, to aiding them by blocking this bipartisan measure.”
“The Fleming amendment protects the right of service members to not only hold religious beliefs but to act on them and freely practice those beliefs as long as they pose no threat to U.S. Constitutional liberties,” he continued. “This chilling suppression of religious freedom is driving faith underground in our military and will eventually drive it out. This not only deprives those who serve of the benefits that flow from religious participation, but it undermines the moral foundation of the world’s most powerful military and the country they serve.”
“This should concern everyone,” Perkins said.
Perkins had created a petition in April following word that Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation urged Pentagon officials to punish superiors who attempt to proselytize their subordinates. Some believe that hostility toward Christianity is on the rise in the nation’s Armed Forces, especially in light of the numerous reports surrounding the infringement of religious freedom in recent months.