This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published June 12, 2013 on Breitbart.com.
Breitbart News reported last week that Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) passed an amendment in the House Armed Services Committee protecting religious speech of service members in the military. President Barack Obama has now threatened to veto the bill if it passes the full House and Senate.
The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on H.R. 1960, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. Among other items, the SAP includes as an objection to the bill:
Expansion and Implementation of Protection of Rights of Conscience of Members of the Armed Forces and Chaplains of Such Members: The Administration strongly objects to section 530, which would require the Armed Forces to accommodate, except in cases of military necessity, “actions and speech” reflecting the “conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member.” 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.
The SAP includes a veto threat: “…if the bill is presented to the President for approval in its current form, the President’s senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill.”
In other words, Obama says he will veto any bill that forbids his appointees or officers from telling a soldier that he cannot mention Jesus during prayer or have a Bible on his desk, or that keeps those appointees from telling a chaplain (who is an ordained clergyman) what religious teachings he is allowed to give in worship services, or what spiritual counseling he can give to another soldier.
Ambassador Ken Blackwell, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, tells Breitbart News:
President Obama is waging a war on religion. He and Chuck Hagel are denying the most basic rights to those who put their lives on the line to protect all of our rights. It is shameful and appalling. I am confident that congressional leadership will show courage to stand up for our troops against this radical assault on religious liberty in the military.
This is the most compelling expression yet of the aggressive approach of the Obama-Hagel Defense Department to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are observant Christians or devout members of other peaceful faiths, as seen in Breitbart News‘ previous reports regarding the unconstitutional infringements of one of America’s most treasured, fundamental rights.
All eyes are on House and Senate leadership to see if they stand firm on the bill for those in the military who are facing this new form of pressure.