Obama Signs Defense Authorization Act Including Religious-Freedom Exemption

military_menLate Wednesday night, the White House announced President Obama had signed H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013, into law.

The bill, the subject of extensive scrutiny in 2012, include a measure protecting opposition to homosexuality as an expression of religious or moral values.

Section 533 of NDAA requires the Armed Forces to accommodate the religious principles of all members of the military. In the right hands, that would just mean allowing service members to practice the faith of their choosing—as they currently can.

In the wrong hands, though, it could be used as a weapon: The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy claims Section 533 is “unprecedented, sweeping, and could invite dangerous claims of a right to discriminate against not just lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, but also women, religious minorities, and in the provision of health care.”

We can thank Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin for 533, by the way: the House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to NDAA he pitched that specifically required beliefs  “concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality” to be accommodated.

How come we can never claim equality as a religious value and complain when homophobes want to discriminate?

Obama said he signed the bill—commenting that “the Constitution does not afford the President the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by one”—but was clear about his opposition to several parts, including 533.

“…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.”

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