An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA, pictured) was accepted by the House Armed Services Committee last night. Read it here. The amendment expands "conscience protections" in the NDAA, offering a 'license to bully' based on religious beliefs.
If enacted, the Fleming amendment would protect inappropriate, defamatory, and discriminatory speech and actions – a significant expansion of current protections for beliefs – and would leave commanders with no recourse against such prejudicial conduct when it occurs in their units.
The group says the bill would also "compromise religious liberties of service members, erode the ability of military commanders to protect good order and discipline, and undermine the successful implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal."
“Basically, you can believe what you believe and not be punished for it, but if your actions based on those beliefs are counter to the Uniform Code of Military Justice or counter to what’s necessary, that can be held against you,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) explained last year, when the conscience protections were first added to the defense spending bill.
But Fleming’s amendment would require the Pentagon to accommodate religious “speech and actions” — not just beliefs.
Said Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, an ordained Baptist minister:
"Religious liberty is a core American value, and we support the accommodation of all beliefs. What we can never support is legislation that sanctions one belief at the expense of others and places unit cohesion, the safety of our troops, and their ability to accomplish the mission in jeopardy, and that’s exactly what this bill would do…The military already has in place policies that adequately protect a service member’s personal beliefs while also protecting unit cohesion and good order and discipline. This amendment is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to sabotage the climate of inclusion and respect for all that our Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense have called for in our military, and would create a license to bully, harass, and discriminate against service members based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any number of other characteristics."