In the wake of President Obama’s statement announcing his position favoring same-sex marriage, there has been some concern that military chaplains would be required to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in violation of their religious beliefs.
In response, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee has adopted Congressman Todd Akin’s (R-Missouri) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which creates a statutory conscience protection clause for members of the military in general and military chaplains in particular.
The Akin amendment states:
“The Armed Forces shall accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality and may not use such conscience, principles, or beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.”
There is some debate as to whether this statutory amendment is necessary. Under current regulations, military chaplains have significant liberty of conscience protections.
For example, Army Regulation 165-1 states that, “Chaplains will perform their professional military religious leader ministrations in accordance with the tenets or faith requirements of the religious organization that certifies and endorses them. … Chaplains will not be required to perform a religious role (such as offering a prayer, reading, dedication, or blessing) in worship services, command ceremonies, or other events, if doing so would be in variance with the tenets or practices of their faith. Chaplains will make every effort to provide for required ministrations which they cannot personally perform.”
The matter will next be considered by the Senate Armed Services Committee when it reviews the NDAA. Whether President Obama will sign the legislation is unclear. The White House Office of Management and Budget has described this provision, and another which would prohibit same-sex marriage ceremonies from being held on military property, as being “potentially harmful to good order and discipline.”
Read the Akins Amendment online at http://akin.house.gov/images/stories/pdf/AKIN_062_chaplain_xml.pdf