(EWTN) In the wake of President Barack Obama's recent endorsement of “gay marriage,” the U.S. House Armed Services Committee adopted legislation to protect the religious liberty of members of the military, including chaplains.
A new amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 defense authorization bill says that the Armed Forces “shall accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs” of its members regarding “the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality.”
These beliefs or principles of conscience may not be used “as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment” against any chaplain or servicemember.
The legislation, introduced by Congressman Todd Akin (R-Mo.), also specifies that chaplains may not be ordered or required to carry out any duty, rite, ceremony or function that violates their “conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs.”
Akin said in a May 10 statement that the legislation is necessary because “servicemembers and chaplains are facing recrimination for their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs.”
On May 9, President Obama announced his unprecedented support for “gay marriage.” In justifying his decision, he pointed to his previous efforts to advance the gay cause, including “rolling back Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the policy that had prohibited homosexuals from serving openly in the military.
Rep. Akin argued that the president’s announcement “used the military as a campaign prop to advance the liberal agenda.”
“Whatever Obama’s views may be, I find it appalling that the he would so blatantly use the military for political cover on this controversial issue,” he said. “Our sons and daughters don’t volunteer for the military to be used to promote a political agenda.”
Marriage proponents have warned that forcing a redefinition of marriage upon America will pose a serious threat to freedom of conscience for individuals and organizations across the country.
Voters in some 30 states have enacted constitutional amendments to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and several other states have legislation defending marriage.
In states that have legalized “gay marriage,” individuals and groups with moral objections to homosexual behavior have been targeted by lawsuits and discrimination for refusing to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Congressman Akin explained that the religious freedom amendment had been requested by military chaplain organizations that had voiced concerns over an increase in censorship and punishment of those defending marriage.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty has recorded numerous accounts of military chaplains being punished and threatened for expressing their views on marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Holding concerns over same-sex marriage or the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell can be “potentially career-ending,” Akin warned.
He cautioned that Obama’s promotion of redefining marriage “will only add fuel to this fire” and could force chaplains and servicemembers “to violate their own conscience or face recriminations.”
“Our servicemembers are putting their life on the line for our country,” he said. “We should not respond by limiting their religious freedom.”
Akin’s conscience protection amendment was adopted by a 36-25 vote. The full bill has been approved by the committee and is expected to be considered by the House in coming days.