The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual congressional bill which establishes the budget for the department of defense as well as for each branch of the military. Consequently its expeditious passage each year is critical to our national defense a fact evidenced by the fact that the bill has been signed into law for 53 consecutive years according to the Military Times. Yet for the second year in a row it the White House is threatening to veto the bill with the president publishing his objections as well as his intention to veto it in it’s current form. Among the objections highlighted by the president one he neglected to explicitly name is what is being called the Russel amendment. This amendment, written by congressman Steve Russell of Oklahoma and attached to the current NDAA, essentially consists of language taken directly from Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as well as from the Americans with Disabilities Act which specifically protects religious individuals and organizations from discrimination when applying for federal grants and contracts .
While inserting language from civil rights, and disabilities legislation into a bill that’s appropriating money for the military may seem like some form political maneuvering, it is in fact done with very good reason. In 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, which required that, without exemption for religious belief, all federal contractors and subcontractors hiring decisions must be made without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. In plain terms what this means is that any potential government contractor whose underlying religious beliefs precludes them from hiring homosexual or transsexual employees is automatically ineligible to do any work for the government.
The online news magazine The Hill recently detailed one example of how this executive action is playing out and why the Russel amendment is so necessary.
[The Russel amendment] provides important protection for an often-overlooked contingent in our armed forces: military chaplains…Typically, commanders delegate the day-to-day operations of support programs to their military chaplains. And generally speaking, our chaplains have substantial discretion to supplement religious support programs via Department of Defense contractors and vendors. Chaplains use diverse and varied contractors to help facilitate their ministerial services. For example, a chaplain may seek a vendor to provide ecclesiastical supplies such as communion wine or religious music for worship, and virtually everything in between. Historically, chaplains have been free to use vendors who meet their denomination’s religious standards with little or no government interference.
The president’s veto now returns the NDAA back to The House of Representatives where they will hopefully not relent on restoring the religious protections lost through the president’s executive action. The current administration’s steps to further the rights of the LGBT community have largely come at the expense of the convictions of the religious communities upon which this nation was founded. As watchful Christians we must realize when governments reserves the right to discriminate against one community while simultaneously redefining discrimination to only apply to those who disagree with it, we are on a path that lead to persecution. In the words of Jesus in John 9:4
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.