Outmaneuvering Bachmann: Minn. Rep’s Military Strike Thwarted By AU Reconnaissance

May 27th, 2010
By Joseph L. Conn
Church Politicking

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s attempt to inject sectarian bias into the U.S. military has been shot down, at least for now.

Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and Religious Right favorite, wanted to add language to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act giving military chaplains the right to push their personal beliefs at events where personnel from many faiths (and none) are present. The amendment to H.R. 5136 would have allowed chaplains to conclude prayers at non-religious events “according to the dictates of the Chaplain’s conscience.”

Bachmann’s proposal may not sound all that nefarious, but it is. Military chaplains, of course, are already allowed to offer sectarian prayers at sectarian worship services. A Christian chaplain presiding at a Christian gathering is likely to close a prayer “in Jesus’ name.” A Muslim chaplain at a Muslim service is going to offer prayers that reflect the teachings of Islam.

But chaplains are employees of the government, and they serve a diverse constituency, not just members of their own tradition. They are sometimes asked to offer invocations at military events where personnel from many faiths are present. At those, nonsectarian prayers may be requested.

Religious Right forces are up in arms about this attempt at inclusivity, insisting that fundamentalist chaplains should have the right to slip a little not-so-subtle proselytizing into their invocations and benedictions. It’s one part of a deeply disturbing crusade to target service personnel for fundamentalist proselytizing and cast a conservative Christian mantle over our armed forces.

Fortunately, Bachmann’s maneuver was thwarted by Americans United reconnaissance.

AU Legislative Director Aaron Schuham learned of the scheme on Wednesday while scanning the defense bill’s hundreds of amendments to check for potential church-state problems. He and AU’s legislative team quickly swung into action, notifying our allies and organizing a lobbying effort aimed at U.S. House leaders.

The effort paid off. The House floor schedule announced today does not include the proposed Bachmann amendment. Apparently it has been ruled out of order.

Bachmann should be ruled “out of order” often.

Stay tuned! Friends of individual freedom won this skirmish, but you never know when or where the next battle will be.

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