The U.S. Senate approved on Thursday an amendment allowing military chaplains to exercise their faith convictions and decline to preside over same-sex ceremonies.
Senators passed the amendment as part of National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment, sponsored by Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, provides chaplains freedom of conscience following the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which banned open homosexuality in the armed service.
Congress passed the repeal bill last year, and Barack Obama certified the repeal in July.
Since the repeal, conservatives and military chaplain endorsers have expressed concern for chaplains’ religious liberties. Retired Army Chaplain and endorser Douglas Lee told The Christian Post, “There's going to be tensions somewhere along the road" after Congress passed the DADT repeal last December.
Tensions definitely ignited when the Navy issued a May memo authorizing chaplains to wed same-sex couples.
Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance said in a statement, "As we predicted, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would only further advance the radical homosexual lobby's intentions."
The Navy later suspended the directive. However, in September, the Department of Defense authorized military chaplains to participate in ceremonies on or off military bases in states the recognize same-sex marriage.
Sen. Wicker said of the amendment passed Thursday, “This amendment will allow the chaplains of our Armed Forces to maintain the freedom of conscience necessary to serve both their nation and their religion without conflict.”
The short amendment provides that any military chaplain “who, as a matter of conscience or moral principle, does not wish to perform a marriage may not be required to do so.”
Retired Army Chaplain Ron Crews responded, “We’re grateful to Sen. Wicker for his courage to make a statement once again to the Department of Defense that chaplains must be able to serve without losing their religious liberties.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a similar bill. The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) would prohibit chaplains from preforming same-sex marriage no matter what the state laws legislate.
Crews said he looks forward to the two bills being reconciled together in the conference committee.
He is also looking forward to the creation of a second bill that would give all soldiers the freedom of conscience to freely express their faith.
“We are hopeful that next year that Congress may deal with that subject,” Crews said.