So now Republicans Jim Inhofe and Roger Wicker have introduced the Military Religious Freedom Act in the Senate. A version has already passed the house. Some people have pointed out the irony in the bill’s name. I think they’re wrong. The bill careens right past irony and crashes in a crater of Orwellian dishonesty: The law would accomplish nothing except restrict the freedom of the military personnel.
It has two main provisions. One states that: “The armed forces shall accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the armed forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality,” and that chaplains won’t be required to perform any service (for example, a same-sex wedding) that is contrary to their beliefs.
Of course, that’s already military policy, so this accomplishes nothing. The second provision is the one that destroys freedom:
A military installation or other property owned or rented by, or otherwise under the jurisdiction or control of, the Department of Defense may not be used to officiate, solemnize, or perform a marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.
In other words:
You know all the stuff we said earlier about accommodating your conscience and sincerely held moral principles? Screw that.
Here’s what they really mean:
- A chaplain want to perform same-sex wedding in her military chapel? We won’t accommodate that.
- A chaplain wants to perform a civil union ceremony in his office? We won’t accommodate that.
- A chaplain wants to offer a ritual blessing of a relationship between two wounded soldiers in a military hospital? We won’t accommodate that.
The bill contradicts itself so thoroughly it becomes unenforceable. Any chaplains facing disciplinary action for violating “military installation or other property” clause could defend themselves by pointing to the accommodation of conscience clause.
I’m sure Inhofe and Wicker don’t see it that way. They pretend religions oppose same-sex marriage without exception. They can’t imagine a chaplain’s conscience might demand that he marry or unite or bless two soldiers in need. They think they’re holding up a light but they’re stumbling in darkness. They can’t see that no matter how much they toss around “freedom” and “conscience,” those words do not mean what they think they mean.