House Armed Services Committee: Chaplains Cannot be Forced to Perform Same-Sex Marriages

By Pete Winn | May 10, 2012 | 6:36 PM EDT

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo) on left. (AP photo)

( – Just hours after President Obama came out Wednesday in favor of homosexual "marriage," members of the House Armed Services Committee voted 36 to 25 to adopt an amendment protecting the religious liberty of military service members,  especially chaplains, on the issue of same-sex marriage.

The amendment would effectively protect chaplains from being forced to perform same-sex marriages and from being disciplined for maintaining traditionalist moral views about human sexuality.

“Moral or religious concerns about same-sex marriage or the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell have become potentially career-ending,” said the amendment's sponsor, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.).

Akin, the chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, said the pressure in the military to conform to Obama’s view on homosexuality has become particularly acute since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell last year.

In fact, Akin said his amendment actually came in response to requests from military chaplain organizations “who have reported an uptick in censorship and recriminations for chaplains and servicemembers who have moral or religious concerns about same-sex marriage” since the military’s policy on homosexuality was lifted last year.

“Our service members are putting their life on the line for our country,” the Missouri Republican said. “We should not respond by limiting their religious freedom. These heroes are fighting to defend the Constitution and our freedom. We cannot allow their constitutional freedoms to be violated.”

Earlier in the day, Wednesday, Obama cited the inability of homosexual soldiers to marry as a reason why he was changing his mind to support homosexual marriage.

He told ABC News: “When I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Akin criticized the president for using the military “as a campaign prop to advance the liberal agenda.”

“Whatever Obama’s views may be, I find it appalling that he would so blatantly use the military for political cover on this controversial issue,” Akin said. “Our sons and daughters don’t volunteer for the military to be used to promote a political agenda.”

Now, with Obama coming out in favor of gay "marriage," the pressure to conform is bound to intensify, the Missouri Republican said.

“Obama’s use of the military to justify his new support for same-sex marriage will only add fuel to this fire, potentially forcing service members and chaplains to violate their own conscience or face recriminations,” the congressman added.

The Akin amendment creates a statutory conscience protection clause for members of the military in general and military chaplains in particular.

It 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. Nothing in this subsection precludes disciplinary action for conduct that is proscribed by chapter 47 of this title (the Uniform Code of Military Justice).

In addition, no member of the Armed Forces may— ‘‘(A) direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain.”

Akin said the amendment's language was developed in conjunction with a number of members of Congress, including Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) and Steve Palazzo (R-Miss).

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty and the Catholic Archbishop for Military Services have both explicitly endorsed the religious liberty amendment.

The Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) was reported out of the House Armed Services Committee and is expected to be considered on the House floor next week.

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