WASHINGTON — Archbishop Timothy Broglio has welcomed a coalition for religious freedom in the U.S. military as legislation aiming to protect religious belief and action among service members advances in Congress.
“The archdiocese looks forward to working closely as an ally as all seek to ensure the continued protection of the First Amendment rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion of the men and women of the United States military,” the U.S. archbishop for the Military Services Archdiocese said in a July 11 statement.
“No one who raises a right hand to defend the Constitution should sacrifice one of its fundamental principles.”
The Archdiocese for the Military Services oversees the spiritual support of Catholic chaplains and laymen serving in the armed services or stationed abroad on diplomatic missions.
On July 9, the Family Research Council announced the formation of a coalition that will advocate for religious freedom in the military and push for support of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act protecting religious action and speech.
The amendment was introduced by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., on July 8.
The legislation states that, ‘‘except in cases of military necessity, the armed forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions, and speech” of service members, rather than accommodating merely their religious beliefs.
The legislation would also require the secretary of defense to consult with religious organizations that oversee military chaplaincies.
Both the amendment and the National Defense Authorization Act as a whole passed the House Armed Services Committee and the House of Representatives.
A similar amendment, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has passed the Senate Armed Services Committee.
On July 11, the Obama administration stated it is “strongly opposed” to the religious-freedom amendment, saying that “this provision would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale and mission accomplishment,” by limiting commanders’ ability “to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units.”
The bill follows allegations raised in April that an internal Army presentation labeled a number of religious groups as “extremist,” including Catholics, Mormons and evangelicals, alongside terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda.