Protection of chaplains introduced as amendment to defense authorization bill

The House Armed Services Committee will have a chance later this week to consider a measure that would protect freedom of conscience for military chaplains in the wake of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), Chairman of the HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, introduced an amendment to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that would protect military chaplains and all service members, he said, from “persecution based on their religious beliefs.”

Earlier this month, Human Events wrote about a bill introduced in January by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) that would explicitly allow military chaplains to preach and practice their faith without fear of professional reprisal, following the repeal of a longstanding ban on gay troops serving openly, and reports that chaplains with moral opposition to homosexuality were experiencing pressure to stay silent about their beliefs.

The bill, which would also prohibit base chapels from being used for same-sex marriage services, has picked up four sponsors since the article was published April 30 and now stands at 49, but has languished in committee since January.

Akin’s amendment does not include a prohibition on same-sex services on bases, but otherwise reads like Huelskamp’s bill.

“The Armed Forces shall accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality and may not use such conscience, principles, or beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment,” it says.

According to information from Akin’s office, the amendment was developed with help from Huelskamp, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) and chaplains’ advocacy groups.

“My amendment is about protecting the religious liberty of military chaplains and the service members under their care,” Akin said in a statement. “Liberals may have successfully ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but they should not be allowed to force members of our military to give up their religious beliefs. That is simply unacceptable and unconstitutional.”

The House Armed Services Committee is expected to consider the amendment in the latter half of its all-day mark-up Wednesday. It’s unclear how the vote will go.