The Obama Administration has released a statement saying that it “strongly objects” to an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would protect the religious freedoms of men and women in the armed forces. The amendment (Section 530), offered by U.S. Representative John Fleming (R-La.), would specifically expand the “protection of rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces and chaplains,” according to language in the amendment.

In its statement of objection the Obama Administration noted that the amendment “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.’” The White House complained that 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.”

Fleming insisted that the amendment is necessary to counter the increasing animosity toward religious freedom among military personnel. “The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms should not have their own religious freedom jeopardized during their military service,” the congressman said in a statement when he introduced the measure June 5. He emphasized that the amendment would help “ensure that men and women of faith will not be discriminated against in the Armed Forces and will be free to exercise their religious beliefs.”

He noted that some armed forces personnel, “particularly chaplains, feel like their ability to execute their duties is being greatly limited by some of the policies and actions in the Pentagon.” While “steps to protect the religious liberties of our Armed Forces were taken in last year’s NDAA,” Fleming recalled, “troubling reports indicate that the military may be focused only on protecting beliefs of service members, and not the exercise or expression of those beliefs.”

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