Because of the way Congress and the President are conducting business these days, there is a lot of piece-meal legislation being done. This is true of everything from budget resolutions to debt ceiling decisions. What Congress has done every year, for the last several years, is to wait until the very last minute to pass many of these bills in order to try and gain political advantage. By waiting until the last minute, people are forced to choose between accepting things they don’t like and creating havoc by shutting down the government.
One of the bills that is getting this treatment is the National Defense Authorization Act. This is the budget item that has to be passed every year in order to fund the military. As with most of these last minute bills, things are attached to it by members of congress in order to use the emergency to get things for their constituents. Most congressmen go ahead and vote for these bills because of the need to fund defense, even though they contain many things they don’t like.
In this most recent National Defense Authorization Act, there was a actually a good clause added which was designed to protect military chaplains. The clause was made necessary because of the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy related to gays in the military.
Section 533 in the National Defense Authorization Act reads: No member of the Armed Forces may 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 discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain.
Now, who in their right mind could object to that, right? After all, how in the world can any American, especially military chaplains, be compelled by the government to violate their consciences in the performance of their work. The really sad thing is that this clause was made necessary because there truly are those who want to force military chaplains to perform gay marriages. What is even more troubling is that President Obama, while signing the legislation, specifically objected to the clause. He wrote, “Section 533 is an unnecessary and ill-advised provision.”
Of course, the current attempt by the federal government to infringe conscience rights is not limited to chaplains in the military. There have been numerous attempts (which continue to this day) to force people to conduct business in a ways which go against their sincerely held religious beliefs. We have seen attempts to force Christian pharmacists to dispense abortion inducing drugs, Christian nurses to assist in performing abortions and, of course the latest offense, forcing Christian employers to offer insurance coverage which includes abortion and contraception coverage, against their religious beliefs.
So, what is a Christian to do? In a word, push back. We should not, of course, resort to violence, but we should be vigorous. We should let our representative know our feelings. We should support politicians who also respect conscious rights. We should make ourselves heard in the public arena. But most of all, we need to share Christ. The change that is most needed is a change of heart by those who would force anti-Christian policies on our nation. Until the change of heart happens, nothing will change. And until Christians become faithful in bringing people to Christ, the beliefs of non-believers will dominate.