Congress Considering Military Religious Freedom Act of 2012

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Congress is discussing an act that would protect the religious freedom of members of the military, including chaplains who decide not to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Introduced in the Senate on Sept. 11, 2012, the Military Religious Freedom Act (MRFA) would also prohibit same-sex marriage ceremonies, or anything similar, at military installations.

The House has already passed its version. Military experts are urging people to call their state’s two senators to ask them to co-sponsor the Senate version.

“Every American, especially those who wear the uniform, have God-given and constitutionally protected religious liberties, and they should be able to exercise those religious liberties,” Col. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said much has changed since the 2011 repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, allowing homosexual service members to serve openly.

“This is very important because chaplains are under pressure to silence themselves, to self-censor their own opinions outside of worship services,” Donnelly told CitizenLink.

The issue is forcing chaplains to make very tough decisions.

“A recent example is the so-called same-sex marriage that occurred at West Point Chapel,” Crews explained.

On Dec. 1, a West Point graduate exchanged vows with her partner in the Cadet Chapel on campus.

“The chaplains who are assigned at West Point were asked to officiate at this ceremony — they said, ‘No,’” Crews said, “because they came from faith traditions that say that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

Another chaplain, not assigned to West Point, was brought in to officiate.

“The question becomes: ‘Will those chaplains who courageously said, ‘No,’ receive any sort of recrimination for their stand?” Crews asked.

The language before Congress would ensure that chaplains who take a stand will not be punished.

Religious freedom is under attack, but there are ways to help protect it.

“(People) can pray for our service members,” Crews said. “They can also call their congressmen and senators and encourage them to support the language that was passed in the House under the Religious Freedom Protection Act.”