Friday, June 06, 2014

House-Passed Version of Defense Authorization Bill Impacts Chaplains, Religious Expression

The text of HR 4435, the "Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015" as it passed the House of Representatives on May 22 is finally available online. The bill contains three provisions impacting military chaplains and religious expression by service members:
  • Section 507 allows the Secretary of Defense to defer the retirement of a chaplain beyond age 68 if necessary for the needs of the military.
  • Section 525 authorizes chaplains "called upon to lead a prayer outside of a religious service ... to close the prayer according to the traditions, expressions, and religious exercises of the endorsing faith group."
  • Section 528 requires the Department of Defense to revise  Instruction 1300.17 (DOD's January 2014 policy on accommodation of religious practices-- see prior posting) "to ensure that verbal and written expressions of an individual’s religious beliefs are protected by the Department of Defense as an essential part of a the free exercise of religion by a member of the Armed Forces."  Section 528 also requires a similar revision in Air Force Instruction 1-1 (the Air Force's Aug. 2012 policy on free exercise and government neutrality-- see prior posting).