President Barack Obama has signed the $633 billion defense bill into law, but has criticized one of its provisions protecting conscience rights.
The provision exempts chaplains from ceremonies like same-sex weddings that they oppose based on their faith.
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 Libertyresponded that “the president is not at liberty to disregard the law” he signed. “Chaplains should be able to stand by their faith traditions and honor their commitments to God’s Word,” said Alliance executive director Ron Crews.