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No Rights of Conscience for Military Chaplains?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When President Obama prepared to repeal the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in July 2011, defenders of marriage and religious freedom warned that the repeal would open Pandora’s Box. Military chaplains even sought congressional action to protect their rights of conscience.

The predominant concern was that the President’s actions would usher in attempts to redefine marriage on military installations, which would, in turn, force chaplains to perform the ceremonies for same-sex couples in uniform.

As one might expect, the people who voiced these concerns were mocked the way Orville and Wilbur Wright were mocked for believing men could fly. Yet in the months since the repeal, it turns out the concerns were well-founded.

This recently came to light when members of the U.S. House of Representatives added protections for chaplains to the National Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 4310), and President Obama balked. According to reports, his administration “strongly objects” to aspects of the legislation that “prohibit the use of military property for same-sex ‘marriage or marriage-like’ ceremonies” and which also protects “military chaplains from negative repercussions for refusing to perform ceremonies that conflict with their belief.”

Perhaps no one wants to think this way about their president, but a refusal to protect chaplains from facing repercussions for following the dictates of their consciences is just a simple way to strong-arm them into performing the ceremonies in the first place.

It’s a simple case of “do this or else.”

So far, the administration is defending its opposition to the language in H.R. 4310 by saying the legislation contains “unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law.”

And this brings us back to the start, where defenders of marriage warned that marriage and religious freedom would pay a heavy price if acceptance of homosexual behavior was imposed upon the military. Now, before our very eyes, members of President Obama’s administration are saying we cannot protect the consciences’ of chaplains because that “would inhibit the ability of some same-sex couples to marry or enter into a recognized relationship under State law.”

Yet it’s clear the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has everything to do with same-sex “marriage” and trampling the consciences of anyone who stands in the way: chaplains included.

The Wright Brothers were proven correct, and were happy for it. Defenders of marriage and religious freedom have been proven correct as well, but it’s nothing to be happy about.

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