Pelosi: No to Provision Protecting Chaplains From Being Ordered to Act Against Faith: 'It's A Fraud'

Elizabeth Harrington | May 17, 2012 | 1:19pm EDT
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( – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she stands with the White House in opposing a provision in the House defense authorization bill that would prohibit anyone in the military from ordering a chaplain to act against his or her "conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs" or against the religious beliefs of the denomination to which he or she belongs.

Pelosi described the conscience-protection provision as a “fraud."

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The provision is broadly written to deny anyone in the armed forces the authority to "direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, or function" that is contrary to his or her conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs or the principles or beliefs of his or her religious denomination.

Among other things, the provision would protect a chaplain from deleterious career repercussions if he or she refused to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony because it violated their religious beliefs.

During her weekly press conference with reporters on Thursday, asked Pelosi: “The White House issued a statement this week saying it strongly objects to Section 536 of the Defense authorization bill, which protects military chaplains from being ordered to act against their conscience or religious beliefs. Do you support that provision that prohibits the military from ordering chaplains to act against their faith?”

Pelosi said, “I do not support that provision in the bill, that part of the bill.  I agree with the administration.

“And there’s nothing that says that chaplains act against their faith,” she said. “I don’t agree to that stipulation, fact, unless I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ( Starr) followed up, “But by ordering the chaplains that don’t believe in performing same-sex marriages, by ordering them to do that, do you think that is—”

“Nobody is ordering them to do that,” Pelosi said. “I’ve never seen any suggestion that we’re ordering chaplains to perform same-sex--where is that?  I haven’t seen it and I’ve been around this issue for a long time.

“I think that they can rest assured that if they don’t believe in that, they don’t have to perform those,” Pelosi said. then asked, “So why would you not support the provision that protects them?”

“Because it’s a fraud,” Pelosi said.  “It’s a--Welcome to the world of manufactured crises. Here’s one.”

“Nobody’s suggesting that, so why would you have a provision in the bill that says such a thing?” Pelosi said.  “Manufactured crisis, let’s go to the bigger issue of our statement of values with the budget.  Let’s just get together, sit down, and come to a balanced approach on how we do this, rather than manufacturing a crisis on the full faith and credit of our country.”

(AP Photo)

“So I think that this bill, it’s a very serious bill, the Defense Authorization bill. It’s about the protection of our country,” she said. “And to sprinkle it with almost scare tactics that somebody is proposing something that we have to prevent is really a frivolous exploitation of a very serious piece of legislation.”

On Tuesday, the White House issued a statement saying that the administration "strongly opposes" the provision in the defense authorization protecting the conscience of chaplains--Section 536--as well as another provision in the bill--Section 537--that says military facilities cannot be used to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

"The Administration strongly objects to sections 536 and 537 because those provisions adopt unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law," said the White House statement.

"Section 536 would prohibit all personnel-related actions based on certain religious and moral beliefs, which, in its overbroad terms, is potentially harmful to good order and discipline," said the White House.

"Section 537 would obligate DOD to deny Service members, retirees, and their family members access to facilities for religious ceremonies on the basis of sexual orientation, a troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty," the White House.

Section 536 of the bill, introduced by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), states in part that no member of the armed forces may “direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain, or contrary to the moral principles and religious beliefs of the endorsing faith group of the chaplain.”

Section 537 prohibits the use of military property for the performing of any “marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.”

The House Armed Services Committee passed H.R. 4310 on May 9 by a 56-5 bipartisan vote.  Amendments 536 and 537 passed in committee earlier that day by a margin of 36-25 and 37-24, respectively.

On May 9, 2011, the Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains advised that same-sex couples in the Navy would be able to get married in Navy chapels, and that Navy chaplains would be allowed to perform the ceremonies. The Chaplain Corps revised their Tier I training manuals, which had previously indicated that same-sex marriages were not authorized on federal property.

That change gave chaplains permission to marry homosexual couples, but did not force them to perform ceremonies.

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