WASHINGTON (EWTN News)—The U.S. Senate drew applause from religious-liberty advocates after it approved a measure allowing military chaplains to opt out of performing same-sex “marriage” ceremonies.
Military chaplains should be free to continue serving their country “without fear of reprisal” for their beliefs on sexuality and marriage, said Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
An amendment to the Senate’s version of the 2012 defense authorization bill was introduced in November by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Wicker said that the legislation would allow military chaplains to “maintain the freedom of conscience” needed to serve both their nation and their religion in light of “policy changes being implemented.”
Advocates for religious freedom have called for such legislation following the recent repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that had prohibited homosexual individuals from serving openly in the military.
Wicker’s amendment, which was approved by unanimous consent on Nov. 30, does not explicitly reference same-sex unions. Rather, it provides that a military chaplain who objects to performing a marriage ceremony “as a matter of conscience or moral principle” may not be forced to do so.
The chaplain alliance also asked Congress to hold hearings on the threats to religious liberty that military chaplains and service members are facing following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
According to the alliance, chaplains are reporting an increasing climate of fear because of uncertainty about what is permitted in addressing and speaking about homosexual behavior.
Although current Pentagon policy permits chaplains to decide if they want to perform a marriage, Crews said that, in some instances, chaplains have “suffered retaliation, including having their careers threatened, for being ‘politically incorrect.’”
He said that enlisted personnel have also seen a “chilling effect” on their rights to free speech and that this demonstrates an increasing need for clearly stated military conscience protections to be added to U.S. law.