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Lawmakers push legislation protecting religious freedom in military

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON — Arguing that religious freedom in the military is under attack, Republican lawmakers and Christian conservatives rallied Tuesday in support of legislation they say would protect service members’ right to openly practice their religion.

“There’s a growing list of cases and incidents that point to the fact that religious liberty in our nation’s military is under attack,” Tony Perkins, president Family Research Council, said Tuesday during a press conference outside the Capitol.

Leading the effort in the House of Representatives is Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, who inserted a military religious freedom amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act last month.

“We know the president is very uncomfortable with your religious liberty,” Fleming said Tuesday. “And so I ask today that you all join us in support, to make sure this final language gets into law and that the president signs it.”

A news release touting the amendment says the legislation “protects the right of service members to not only hold religious beliefs but to act on them and speak about them.”

The language states that the “Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions, and speech of a member of the armed forces” and “may not use such beliefs, actions, and speech as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.”

Lawmakers like Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, warned that recent examples in the media about religious freedom in the military could end up keeping people out of the armed forces.

“If this administration is going to continue to tolerate this kind of intolerance, we’re going to lose members of the military that cannot serve if their first amendment rights are not going to be protected with regard to religious,” he said.

On Tuesday, Perkins’ organization released a report titled, “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.”

Examples include: the halting of distributing Christian flyers at the Air Force Academy about a Christian movie; the disinviting of Christian leaders to military events; and the banning Bibles during visits to Walter Reed Medical Center.

“Increasingly, each one of us in our different organizations and capacities have been getting confidential calls and other reports and information from members of the military pointing to this growing hostility toward religious freedom,” Perkins said. “Unfortunately, members of the military cannot speak out about these things.”

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