Sunday, June 21, 2015

Senate Version of Defense Authorization Act Passes--Several Provisions On Religion In the Military

As reported by U.S. News, last Thursday the U.S. Senate by a vote of 71-25 passed its version of H.R.1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (full text).  The bill now goes to conference with the House that passed its own version last month.  The Senate bill includes several provisions relating to religion in the armed forces:
  • Section 505: (a) AUTHORITY.—Section 1253 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
     ‘‘(c) EXCEPTION FOR CHIEFS OF CHAPLAINS AND DEPUTY CHIEFS OF CHAPLAINS.—The Secretary of the military department concerned may defer the retirement under subsection (a) of an officer serving in a general or flag officer grade who is the Chief of Chaplains or Deputy Chief of Chaplains of that officer’s armed force. Such a deferment may not extend beyond the first day of the month following the month in which the officer becomes 68 years of age.’’.
  •  Section 524: (a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds the following:
    (1) The United States military includes individuals with a variety of national, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds that have roots all over the world.
    (2) In addition to diverse backgrounds, members of the Armed Forces come from numerous religious traditions, including Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, non-denominational, nonpracticing, and many more.
    (3) Members of the Armed Forces from diverse backgrounds and religious traditions have lost their lives or been injured defending the national security of the United States.
    (4) Diversity contributes to the strength of the Armed Forces, and service members from different backgrounds and religious traditions share the same goal of defending the United States.
    (5) The unity of the Armed Forces reflects the strength in diversity that makes the United States a great Nation.
(b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that the United States should—
(1) continue to recognize and promote diversity in the Armed Forces; and
(2) honor those from all diverse backgrounds and religious traditions who have made sacrifices in serving the United States through the Armed Forces.
  •  Section 829: The Department of Defense may not preclude a non-profit organization from competing for a contract for religious related services on a United States military installation.