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The provision exempts chaplains from ceremonies like same-sex weddings that they oppose based on their faith.The Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty responds:
It also says the military cannot punish chaplains or other service members for their religious beliefs and must accommodate them unless the individual's speech or actions threaten good order and discipline.
In a signing statement, Obama called the conscience provision "unnecessary and ill-advised" and said his administration remains committed "to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members." (Reaction from retired chaplain and from member of Congress)
Here is the president's full statement:
"Section 533 is an unnecessary and ill-advised provision, as the military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members. The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct. My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that."
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, an organization of chaplain endorsers, is calling on President Obama and senior Department of Defense leaders to honor religious liberty protections for chaplains passed by Congress despite an Obama statement that calls the protections “ill-advised.”“Chaplains should be able to stand by their faith traditions and honor their commitment to God’s Word. That’s a freedom that Congress sought to protect, and the president is not at liberty to disregard the law,” said Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, USAR retired, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “The purpose of these provisions is simply to protect the religious liberties of military chaplains who hold to Biblical views concerning sexuality. Several chaplains have already been faced with requests from same-sex couples to have ceremonies in military chapels. Every member of our armed forces should be able to serve without surrendering their beliefs.”Congress passed the provisions, contained in section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act, with overwhelming bipartisan support.Section 533 provides legal protections for military chaplains, barring the Department of Defense from forcing them to perform services that violate their moral or religious beliefs.The section reads, “No member of the Armed Forces may — (1) require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or (2) discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a requirement prohibited by paragraph.”Contrary to comments the president made in May 2008 that he would never include “signing statements” when signing bills, Obama issued a signing statement with the NDAA saying that section 533 is “an unnecessary and ill-advised provision….” He added, “The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions” against homosexuals.