Religion Clause: Congress Passes National Defense Authorization Bill with Various Provisions Impacting Religion

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

A press release from the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee reports that on Thursday the U.S. Senate passed the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 by a vote of 83-11. The 4408-page bill (full text) now goes to President Biden for his signature. Among the provisions that impact religious concerns are the following:

Religion Clause: Congress Passes National Defense Authorization Bill with Various Provisions Impacting Religion

 SEC. 509D. STUDY OF CHAPLAINS. 

(a) STUDY REQUIRED.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretaries of the military departments, shall submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives a study of the roles and responsibilities of chaplains. 

(b) ELEMENTS.—The study under subsection (a) shall include the following: (1) The resources (including funding, administrative support, and personnel) available to support religious programs. (2) Inclusion of chaplains in resiliency, suicide prevention, wellness, and other related programs. (3) The role of chaplains in embedded units, headquarters activities. and military treatment facilities. (4) Recruitment and retention of chaplains. (5) An analysis of the number of hours chaplains spend in roles including pastoral care, religious services, counseling, and administration. (6) The results of any surveys that have assessed the roles, responsibilities and satisfaction of chaplains. (7) A review of the personnel requirements for chaplains during fiscal years 2013 through 2022. (8) Challenges to the abilities of chaplains to offer ministry services.

SEC. 525. RESCISSION OF COVID-19 VACCINATION MANDATE

Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall rescind the mandate that members of the Armed Forces be vaccinated against COVID-19 pursuant to the memorandum dated August 24, 2021, regarding ‘‘Mandatory Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination of Department of Defense Service Members’’.

SEC. 529. RECURRING REPORT REGARDING COVID-19 MANDATE. 

(a) REPORT REQUIRED.—The Secretary of Defense shall submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives a recurring report regarding the requirement that a member of the Armed Forces shall receive a vaccination against COVID-19. 

Each such report may not contain any personally identifiable information, and shall contain the following:  (1) With regard to religious exemptions to such requirement— (A) the number of such exemptions for which members applied; (B) the number of such religious exemptions denied; (C) the reasons for such denials; (D) the number of members denied such a religious exemption who complied with the requirement; and (E) the number of members denied such a religious exemption who did not comply with the requirement who were separated, and with what characterization….

Section 533 requires the Armed Forces to submit to Congress a report on recruiting efforts. Among other things, the Report is to include:  “A comparison of the race, religion, sex, education levels, military occupational specialties, and waivers for enlistment granted to enlistees by geographic region and recruiting battalion, recruiting district, or recruiting region of responsibility.”

Title XXIX contains various provisions relating to access, preservation and protection of Native American cultural and religious sites within land used for bombing ranges and training areas.

Section 5576 limits foreign aid funds allocated for Burma, providing that funds may not be made available to “to any individual or organization that has committed a gross violation of human rights or advocates violence against ethnic or religious groups or individuals in Burma.”

Section 6416 provides for creation of an Office of Wellness and Workforce Support for CIA personnel. Among other things, the Office is to make available: “A list of chaplains and religious counselors who have experience with the needs of the Agency workforce….”

Leave a Reply