Thursday, November 19, 2015

Defense Authorization Act Encourages Religious Diversity In The Armed Forces

After an initial veto by President Obama of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress passed a revised version last week and on Monday sent it to the President for his signature.  It is expected the President will sign the bill. (Defense One.) The 1278-page bill (full text) contains at least 3 provision relating to religion or religious services in the military.

Section 504 permits extension of the mandatory retirement age of a chief chaplain or deputy chief of chaplains to 68. Section 898  provides that the Department of Defense may not preclude non-profit organizations from competing for contracts for religious related services at military installations.

The most important religion-related provision, however, is Section 528 which is a "sense of Congress" resolution encouraging diversity in the military. It reads:
(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, non-practicing, 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.