The House Armed Services Committee is considering a religious liberty amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday over fears the military is punishing soldiers for expressing their religious faith.
“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,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), who authored the amendment.
Fleming said steps taken in last year’s NDAA only focused on protecting beliefs of service members – and not the exercise or expression of those beliefs.
“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,” he said. “Military service members, particularly chaplains, feel like their ability to execute their duties are being greatly limited by some of the policies and actions in the Pentagon.”
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to questions about the congressman’s amendment.
Fleming told Fox News it appears that in some cases members of the U.S. military have been punished because of their religious faith.
“There have been reports,” he said. “We don’t know how widespread it is.”
Among the incidents:
- A service member received a “severe and possibly career-ending reprimand” for expressing his faith’s religious position about homosexuality in a personal religious blog.
- An enlisted service member received a career-ending punishment for sending personal invitations to his promotion party which mentioned that he would be providing Chick-fil-A sandwiches due to his respect for the Defense of Marriage Act.
- A senior military official at Fort Campbell sent out a lengthy email officially instructing officers to recognize “the religious right in America” as a “domestic hate group” akin to the KKK and Neo-Nazis because of its opposition to homosexual behavior.
- An Air Force officer was told to remove a Bible from his desk because it might offend someone. The officer had kept the Bible on the desk for 18 years;
- A chaplain was relieved of his command over a military chapel because, consistent with DOMA’s definition of marriage, he could not allow same-sex weddings to take place in the chapel.
- An enlisted service member was threatened and denied promotion by a senior NCO for expressing – during a personal conversation – his religious belief in support of traditional marriage.
- Last month Rear Admiral William Lee told a National Day of Prayer audience that religious liberty was being threatened by Pentagon lawyers and service members are being told to hide their faith in Christ.“Leaders like myself are feeling the constraints of rules and regulations and guidance issued by lawyers that put us in a tighter and tighter box regarding our constitutional right to express our religious faith,” he said.
Fleming said the purpose of his amendment is to clarify ambiguities in the Pentagon’s policies.
“The bottom line is the military is bending over backwards to remove – even in the case of chaplains – expressions of faith and conscience,” Fleming said.
And there have been other incidents involving attacks on religious liberty:
Among the incidents:
- A War Games scenario at Fort Leavenworth that identified Christian groups and Evangelical groups as being potential threats;
- A 2009 Dept. of Homeland Security memorandum that identified future threats to national security coming from Evangelicals and pro-life groups;
- A West Point study released by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center that linked pro-lifers to terrorism;
- Evangelical leader Franklin Graham was uninvited from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service because of his comments about Islam;
- Christian prayers were banned at the funeral services for veterans at Houston’s National Cemetery;
- Bibles were banned at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – a decision that was later rescinded;
- Christian crosses and a steeple were removed from a chapel in Afghanistan because the military said the icons disrespected other religions;
- Catholic chaplains were told not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop related to Obamcare mandates. The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.
Fleming said some chaplains are fearful of losing their jobs.
“They are afraid to do anything that could lead to the end of their careers,” he said. “They want to be able to do their duties as chaplains – without fearing that someone will come along and reprimand them.”