Secular Coalition Opposes "Religious Liberty" Amendments to National Defense Authorization Act

Washington, DC—The Secular Coalition for America today announced its opposition to two separate amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act that will allow religious discrimination in our nation’s military.

The amendments to the bill will allow chaplains and members of the Armed Forces to discriminate against LGBT service members without repercussion and ban the use of military bases to perform marriage or commitment ceremonies for gay and lesbian members of the Armed Forces.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), including the amendments, is expected to be voted on tomorrow (Wednesday, May 16, 2012), by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“All American service men and woman deserve to be treated with respect regardless of their personal religious beliefs or sexual orientation,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “It’s unacceptable that anyone who has chosen to sacrifice for our country would be discriminated against while doing so.”

Chaplains in our nation's military already have the ability to refuse to perform ceremonies or rites that conflict with their religious faith. These amendments, however, allow military personnel to speak out against religiously defined "inappropriate expression(s) of human sexuality" without fear of reprisal. Such harassment of LGBT servicemen and women has no place in our military.

The two amendments—made during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on May 8, 2012—were offered by U.S. Representatives Todd Akin (R-MO) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS).

The language of Palazzo’s amendment requires that no military property may be used to “officiate, solemnize, or perform a marriage or marriage-like ceremony, involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.” Akin’s amendment prevents chaplains who would wish to perform commitment ceremonies or marriages for same-sex couples from doing so—a direct infringement on their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Akin and Palazzo claim that the amendments were added to the NDAA as a "necessary protection of religious liberty." In a statement released by his office, Akin said that the amendments would protect service members who "are facing recrimination for their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs." Opponents of this exception have called it a "license to bully" because it allows service members to express anti-gay and homophobic views regardless of their impact on the members of their unit as long as they use a religious justification.

The Secular Coalition for America calls for both amendments to be removed from the NDAA before final passage.


CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA communications manager …….. 202-299-1091 ext. 205 or [email protected]

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