Sunday, December 14, 2014

Congress Gives Final Passage To Defense Authorization Act Including Provisions On Mt. Soledad Transfer

On Friday, the Senate gave final approval and sent to the President for his signature H.R. 3979, the  National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (full text). The Act includes a provision (Sec. 2852) calling for the sale of the Mt. Soledad Veteran's Memorial to the privately incorporated Mount Soledad Memorial Association.  The provision, sponsored by Sen. Diane Feinstein, is intended to end the long-running litigation challenging the Memorial's cross as a violation of the Establishment Clause. (See prior posting.) Politico reports on the Act's passage.

The Act also contains provisions regarding the National Park System, including (Sec. 3051) a requirement that the Secretary of the Interior conduct studies to determine whether various sites should be designated as national parks.  Among these sites are properties in Flushing, New York relating to the history of religious freedom during the era of the signing of the Flushing Remonstrance; and Atlanta's West Hunter Street Baptist Church (background).

The Act as passed does not include provisions in an earlier House version relating to military chaplains and religious expression. (See prior posting.)