PRESS RELEASE: Defense Authorization Act Would Allow Discrimination Based on Religion
WASHINGTON, DC-The Secular Coalition for America today expressed opposition to the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the conference report on the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would allow service members to discriminate against other service members based on religion.
Section 533 of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310), will allow chaplains and other members of the Armed Forces to discriminate against LGBT service members free from disciplinary action.
"All Americans-especially people who makes such enormous sacrifices for our country-deserve to be treated with respect regardless of their personal religious beliefs or sexual orientation," said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. "It's unacceptable that anyone who has chosen to sacrifice for our country would be discriminated against while doing so."
In a statement released by his office during consideration of the original House bill, Akin said that the amendments would protect service members who "are facing recrimination for their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs." Opponents of this exception have called it a "license to bully" because it allows service members to express anti-gay and homophobic views regardless of their impact on the members of their unit as long as they use a religious justification.
Regulations aimed at protecting bullying behavior based on religion have become a common tactic among lawmakers at both the state and federal level. Last year lawmakers in Michigan proposed anti-bullying legislation that included special protections for religiously-motivated bullying. Earlier this year in Virginia, lawmakers passed a bill that allowed adoption agencies to discriminate against potential adoptive parents based on the adoption agencies' religious policies. And in Kansas, state legislators pushed for the "Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act" which would have legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians based on religion.
"This amendment and other bills like it are presented under the guise of ‘protecting religious liberty', but in reality they protect bullies," Rogers said. "True religious freedom does not include the ‘right' to impose religious beliefs or standards on others, or to discriminate based on those beliefs."
The Defense Authorization Bill will be sent back to both chambers for consideration and is expected to be voted on prior to the holiday recess.
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