White House “Strongly Objects” to Religious Liberty Provisions

President Obama’s administration has registered its objections to several portions of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act passed by the US House (which also includes another attempt to ban NASCAR sponsorships).

The Obama administration “strongly objects” to provisions in [the bill] that would prohibit the use of military property for same-sex “marriage or marriage-like” ceremonies, and protect military chaplains from negative repercussions for refusing to act against their consciences, as, for example, in being ordered to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.

The White House Office of Management and Budget made an interesting observation on the seriousness of banning the use of military facilities for same-sex ceremonies.  The OMB said the ban [emphasis added]

would make it obligatory for the department to “deny…access to facilities for religious ceremonies on the basis of sexual orientation, a troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty.”

The OMB fails to say what religion includes the exercise of homosexuality as one of its tenets.

Faced with accusations of a “war on religious belief” — as characterized by Rep Todd Akin (R-MO) — the DoD reiterated its stance that

DADT Repeal is not about changing attitudes but rather about reinforcing behavior that treats everyone with dignity and respect…

That statement has previously seemed to be in conflict with the training programs and leadership statements.

Others have said the legislation is unnecessary, though that line of logic falters slightly in the face of DOMA.  Some DADT repeal concerns were dismissed as “unnecessary” because DOMA made them moot.  Once DADT was repealed, the Obama administration stopped defending DOMA in court, and is now actively working to repeal it.  Even now, activist groups are trying to paint DOMA as the next big discrimination fight.  Thus, the “don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine” line of thinking carries little weight.

Ironically, while some opponents claim the amendments were unnecessary because current policies already allow what the legislation protects, others claim those same amendments actually codify illegal conduct.  Jason Torpy, resident atheist critic, said

These amendments are intended to give chaplains the additional power to force their beliefs on others by belittling and ridiculing fellow service members.

Contrary to Torpy’s drama, nothing in the amendments to the NDAA gave anyone power to force their beliefs on anyone.  And if current policies already allow members to express their religious beliefs, there is no change in anyone’s ability to ‘belittle or ridicule’ anyone.  As usual, Torpy sees persecution where none exists.

President Obama has reportedly threatened to veto the Defense Act over a multitude of concerns.


  • Regarding the issue of religious liberty and the use of military facilities for same-sex-union religious rites, you said, “The OMB fails to say what religion includes the exercise of homosexuality as one of its tenets.” I don’t understand this line of text or the argument that you think you are making about religious liberty.

    Are you not aware that within Christianity alone there are individual Christians, Christian groups and congregations, and even whole denominations that practice religious rites associated with same-sex unions? Outside of Christianity, there are several other groups which would consider the blessing of same-sex unions to be a sacred rite.

    I would like to understand more about how, in your thinking, the availability of chapels or other government facilities is not a matter of religious liberty for service members and their dependents that fall into this category?

  • Military regulations are clear. Chaplains must follow the guidelines of their endorsing agents. They cannot be forced to participate in any rite or ceremony contrary to their beliefs. I wish the politicians would just back off and let us alone and let us follow the principles of our different faiths. We don’t need their help on this one.

  • How is banning something “religious liberty”? If you say to a liberal Rabbi who has no moral qualms with homosexuals getting married, that he is banned from performing the ceremony for two of his constituents in the military on their base, exactly WHOSE liberty has been enhanced?

  • And as for which religions support gay marriage, there is a VERY easy way to find out such things: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_on_same-sex_marriage#Religious_support

  • @Old Man




    Don’t go looking for deep meaning in the religious liberty’s issue. You need look no rurther than the current Conservative Christian standing bigotry against GLBT citizens and it’s widespread application throughout civilian and military venues.

    Just as Christians sponsored slavery and later Jim Crow and Segregation, Dominionist Christians have targeted yet another helpless minority of American citizen in the name of their savage God. Look for more oppresive legislation and military regulation further diminishing Gay Americans and continuing what has become one of the most intense campaigns of institutionalized discrimination in the history of the United States.

    In the process of exercising this hateful discrimination, Military and Civilian bigots have again demonstrated the power of organiuzed dominionist religon. History will not be kind to today’s Dominionist discriminators just as it was not kind to the Christian initiators of the Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms, Decimations, genocide of half million indigenous North and South Ameircan natives by Christian Spanish Conquistadors, and rape and enslavement of Caribean natives by Columbus and his Spanish Masters. .

  • @Old Man

    whole denominations that practice religious rites associated with same-sex unions


    a liberal Rabbi who has no moral qualms with homosexuals getting married…

    You’re both equating support or acceptance of something with a religious tenet. To speak to your examples, no Christian or Jewish faith obligates, directs, or even explicitly allows their adherents to sanctify homosexual unions. Thus, it does not restrict their religious liberty to prevent them from doing so.

    On the other hand, by your logic, Mormons who believe in polygamy should be able to marry as many wives as they want. In fact, by your logic, anyone should be able to marry any number of any-gender persons (or anything else) they want. The law does not allow that, nor is society prepared to accept that, because society still has some feeling that those things are wrong.

    The Congressmen are reacting to the calls of some constituents who have indicated that not fully supporting homosexuals in the military, to include a homosexual version of marriage in the states where it is permitted, has servicemembers in fear of sanction.

    For example, when the policy came out Admiral Mullen indicated those who disagreed could leave the service. In other words, from the top of the chain of command there is an underlying assumption that opposition to homosexuality is wrong. These NDAA amendments would protect those who hold those faith tenets, even if their leadership shares now-retired Mullen’s views.

  • A gay woman is serving in the military.
    They are in a state that allows gay marriage.
    They get married.
    They want to have that marriage blessed by the chaplain who is their usual source of religious support in the chapel where they usually worship their god.
    Their chaplain likes the idea.
    Their chaplain’s sponsoring organisation has no problems with it.
    They are banned from doing that.

    WHOSE religious freedom is defended?

  • @Donalbain
    A Muslim is serving in the military.
    He wants to marry a second wife, but the law says he can’t.

    WHOSE religious freedom is defended?

  • Nobodies religious liberty is defended in the scenario you gave. But then, nobody is claiming it is. You however did refer to a BAN on some religious services as being “religious liberty provisions”. So the question remains, whose religious liberty is defended by BANNING a religious service?

  • @Donalbain

    You however did refer to a BAN on some religious services as being “religious liberty provisions…”

    Actually, only the title used the words “religious liberty,” and your topic of concern was less than a quarter of this article. Your offense is caused by nothing more than brevity and summation.

    Incidentally, you’re being inaccurate. No one has attempted to ban religious services. A homosexual “marriage” ceremony is “religious” in the same sense a pig roast is vegetarian.

  • Now wait a minute. I’ve been to some really fun vegetaian pig roasts. The pig is just cut up and given to the pets while the rest eat water cress sandwiches.

  • Oh. I see.. you don’t write the title to your own blog pieces. I am sorry.

  • And yes, a homosexual marriage is religious if the people involved in it believe it to be. You do not get to decide what is religious for other people. YOu can look at the link I gave you to show example of religious groups that bless or otherwise solemnise same sex marriages and marriage like ceremonies. Just because YOU disagree, does not mean that they are not religious.

  • It must be nice to be able to look at all religious beliefs that are held by all people and determine which are REALLY religious and which are not. Well, either nice, or staggeringly arrogant and rude.

  • @Donalbain
    If you ever have some time on your hands take a look at the US Supreme Court’s history of interpreting religious beliefs and the application of the First Amendment. The Mormon polygamy thing comes up again, but more relevant is the decision on the yarmulke.

    The fact that religious people do/allow/support “X” does not make X an issue of religious liberty. It is an issue of religious liberty when X is a part of their faith. Many faiths have either positive or neutral stances toward homosexuality, but no religion holds homosexuality as a tenet of its faith.

  • When a rabbi is BANNED from performing a deeply important religious ceremony for her deeply religious constituents, WHOSE religious liberty is defended? Can you answer that question or not? Or are you just going to deny that his religious ceremony is actually religious?

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  • prohibit the use of military property for same-sex “marriage or marriage-like” ceremonies

    This must be some strange new meaning of the phrase religious liberty