Obama: religious freedom provisions in defense bill ‘unnecessary and ill-advised’
WASHINGTON, D.C.,January 13, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Provisions that protect the conscience rights of military chaplains that were included in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) are “unnecessary and ill-advised” said President Obama in a signing statement this week.
Section 533 of the defense bill was crafted in response to fears that the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy under the Obama administration would lead to reprisals against chaplains who have moral objections to the homosexual lifestyle, or who refuse to perform same-sex “weddings.”
That section says that no member of the armed forces may “require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain.”
It also says that they may not “discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain” for refusing to perform the ceremonies.
The language was introduced by former Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri.
While the president signed the bill with the conscience protections intact, he issued a signing statement criticizing them.
“The military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members,” Obama wrote, adding that his administration would make sure that implementing the provisions does not lead to any “discriminatory actions.”
“My administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that,” he said.
In May of last year, Obama endorsed gay “marriage” after years of claiming to be in support of traditional marriage.
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In a statement following the signing of the defense bill, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty called on President Obama and senior Department of Defense leaders to honor the religious liberty protections passed in the bill.
“Chaplains should be able to stand by their faith traditions and honor their commitment to God’s Word,” said Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, USAR retired, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “That’s a freedom that Congress sought to protect, and the president is not at liberty to disregard the law.”
Crews pointed out that several chaplains have already been approached about having same-sex services in military chapels.
“Every member of our armed forces should be able to serve without surrendering their beliefs,” he said.
Congress passed the conscience protection provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In May 2008, while campaigning for office, President Obama had promised that he would not issue “signing statements” when signing bills.
“I disagree with that [issuing signing statements],” he said. “I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States – we’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress.”
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