On Thursday evening the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. This annual legislation authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and its military activities, personnel, health care, training, equipment, and construction.
The bill included a key provision of Congressman Tim Huelskamp's Military Religious Freedom Protection Act (HR3828). This language (found in Section 533 of the NDAA) provides protections for chaplains to ensure they are not required to participate in or perform any services, rites, or rituals that conflict with their religious views, and ensures service members will not be denied promotion or any other opportunities for speaking their sincerely-held religious views. Congressman Huelskamp introduced the legislation in response to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the repeal training instructions that limit the religious liberties of service members and chaplains.
Congressman Huelskamp voted against the FY13 NDAA because it expands the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions. In addition, the bill fails to adequately protect constitutional rights by allowing individuals to be detained on suspicion alone, and it does not prohibit the indefinite detention of American citizens apprehended overseas.
"The inclusion of my conscience protection language is a significant victory for all men and women in uniform," Congressman Huelskamp said. "It tells our soldiers, our commanding officers, and our chaplains that the freedoms of speech and religion, which they are risking their lives for, do not have to be left at the door when they agree to serve. I am grateful for the work of Chairman McKeon, Congressman Palazzo, Congressman Akin, and others on the Armed Services Committee who worked so hard to defend the rights of those who lay their lives on the line to defend us. Despite this significant victory for religious freedom, I was unable to support the bill due to some serious deficiencies. First, I am deeply saddened by the Senate's insistence on the inclusion of language further expanding the mandate that our nation's taxpayers should fund abortion. Second, I am troubled by the failure to protect constitutional rights in the NDAA. Terrorism poses a very real threat to our nation, but efforts to strengthen national security should not trample on our right to liberty."