Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) has proposed an amendment concerning religious rights in the military to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA). His amendment, section 530, passed through the House Armed Services Committee as well as the House on June 14. Alongside Congressman Fleming’s amendment is a Senate amendment sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that is awaiting a Senate vote.
Section 530 wants changed “The Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs” to “Except in cases of military necessity, the Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions, and speech” and change restrictions to religious freedom in the military from “that threaten” to “that actually harm.” This comes after a report by the Family Research Council that states religious freedom is being threatened, citing incidents where veterans were disinvited to speak at national events due to their beliefs in Christianity, Islam, Catholicism and Judaism.
In addition, the report mentions instances where the promotion of religious material was banned and Evangelical Christians and Catholics were labeled extremists. The White House issued a statement that the Administration “strongly objects” this amendment because “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.” Other groups such as the ACLU believe religious freedom is already protected in first amendment rights and this study by the Family Research Council is exaggerated.
Is religious freedom in the military being threatened? What would happen if this amendment passes? Is military order more important than religious freedom?
Congressman John Fleming, M.D., Louisiana 4th Congressional District U.S. Representative (R-LA), Congressman Fleming proposed amendment section 530.
Cedric Leighton, founder and president of Cedric Leighton Associates, a risk and leadership management consultancy. He is also a retired colonel in the US Air Force, former Director for Training of the National Security Agency and a former Commander of 316th training squadron.