You recall the $513 billion defense authorization bill that was passed by the House back on May 11th? Turns out some of the Congresscritters involved with it managed to tack on a provision to undermine the rules regarding prayer established by the armed forces:
Before the bill reached the House floor, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee added the provision on military chaplains. It says each chaplain “shall have the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience, except as must be limited by military necessity, with any such limitation being imposed in the least restrictive manner feasible.”
Air Force and Navy rules issued in recent months allow chaplains to pray as they wish in voluntary worship services. But the rules call for nonsectarian prayers, or a moment of silence, at public meetings or ceremonies, especially when attendance is mandatory for service members of all faiths.
Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition and other evangelical Christian groups have lobbied vigorously against the Air Force and Navy rules, urging President Bush to issue an executive order guaranteeing the right of chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus under any circumstances. Because the White House has not acted, sympathetic members of Congress stepped in.
“We felt there needed to be a clarification” of the rules “because there is political correctness creeping into the chaplains corps,” said Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.). “I don’t understand anyone being opposed to a chaplain having the freedom to pray to God in the way his conscience calls him to pray.”
In other words Rep. Jones wants Chaplains to be able to invoke Jesus’ name even when dealing with a captive audience so they can show how much better than everyone else they are. Interestingly enough, this is a provision the Chaplains themselves don’t want:
Among the provision’s opponents is the chief of Navy chaplains, Rear Adm. Louis V. Iasiello, a Roman Catholic priest.
“The language ignores and negates the primary duties of the chaplain to support the religious needs of the entire crew” and “will, in the end, marginalize chaplains and degrade their use and effectiveness,” Iasiello wrote in a letter to a committee member.
The National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, a private association of religious groups that provide more than 70 percent of U.S. chaplains, also objected to the language. “Chaplains represent their faith communities and we endorse them to represent that faith community with integrity and loyalty to that tradition, not to the dictates of their individual conscience,” the association’s executive committee wrote.
Hear that? That chipping sound? That’s the Religious Right working away on the Wall of Separation. Bit by bit, chip by chip, sooner or later they’re going to succeed in bringing it down unless the rest of us make a point of putting a stop to it.