After being bottled up in the Senate for weeks, House and Senate negotiators moved to plan B – a compromise measure that improves the bill’s chances of passing before the end of the year. By 350-69, members gave the proposal a thumbs-up, leaving the Senate to uphold its end of the bargain on the $625.1 billion legislation before adjourning this week. In the version passed by the House, service members would finally have the new religious liberty protections they need to combat the climate of religious oppression in the ranks. Senators of both parties have already signaled support for the protection of religious expression, which is a positive step forward in ensuring that military personnel have the same accommodations as the people they fight to protect.
One reason such statutory protections are necessary is because of the civilians President Obama has selected to run the military – individuals like Deborah Lee James, his pick for Air Force Secretary. Last night, during Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) confirmation-palooza, the Senate moved closer to confirming James in a 58-39 cloture vote that makes her appointment a certainty. While no one seems to know how James will handle the discrimination against service men and women of faith, Americans are painfully aware of how the President’s other nominee would respond: Chai Feldblum.
For the last few years, Feldblum has headed up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after a controversial recess appointment. A self-proclaimed homosexual activist, she not only wrote the deceptively named “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (ENDA), but vowed to implement it if Congress didn’t pass it! In one of her most outrageous statements, Feldblum insisted that when homosexual rights clash with religious liberty, she had “a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” Unfortunately, this time around, the President’s radical EEOC head will be a slam dunk in a “post-nuclear” Senate – and Thursday’s 54-41 cloture vote proved it.
In the flurry of business on the Hill, the House also managed to wrap up its part of the Ryan-Murray budget deal. After passing 332-94, the controversial agreement now ping-pongs to the Senate, where members are just as frustrated by the bill’s terms. If the nature of compromise is to disappoint everyone, then this bill succeeds. Republicans are fiercely divided over the two-year, two trillion-dollar plan, which promises modest deficit reduction in exchange for pushing spending above the sequester caps.
Finding Jesus at the Air Force
Today, the holy family is back in its rightful place – the victim of an Obama Pentagon overreach that Shaw officials say has since been corrected. According to the South Carolina base, commanders were never alerted to the problem by the Airmen themselves but by the Defense Department, which was acting on a missive from the anti-Christian crusaders at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Within hours, Pentagon officials ordered Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus to be put under wraps. Shaw officials had a better idea: moving the manger to the chapel. Until then, the scene had to be covered in a tarp – lest more Airmen be traumatized.
The Air Force responded with another statement, backtracking on the decision and encouraging other faith groups to put up a holiday display. “These are bullies,” Sen. Rick Santorum said on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox show. “The a knee-jerk reaction in this country that anyone who complains about anything religious is to back off, and that’s where it has to change. And the only way that’s going to change is for people who want to see religious liberty celebrated in this country to get more aggressive with these folks…” Van Susteren, who, like Santorum, is also an attorney, said it was stunning that the Pentagon could justify ousting the display. “If a lawyer for the Air Force reads [its own rules] then the lawyer for the Air Force would tell the Air Force say, ‘leave the nativity alone.’ No constitutional or Air Force regulation would justify removing it.”
With the manger scene back, Shaw officials are savoring the victory. In the meantime, it’s a sad commentary on our country when a demilitarized zone had to be created on a military base for Baby Jesus. Obviously, this is much more than a war on Christmas – it’s a war on the freedom of religious expression. Where we can find encouragement is in the growing number of Americans willing to take a stand in these controversies. The reason we’re hearing about so many of these attacks is not necessarily because they’ve increased, but because more people – both civilians and members of the military, are saying, “enough is enough!” And in the end, that’s the only way to win this war.
Cross Eyed in Veterans’ Case
Since 1989, liberals have gone out of their way to be offended by the Memorial, which has culminated in an explosive, quarter-century lawsuit. Last week, the case took another turn, as a federal judge had no choice but to order the famous cross to be removed from the memorial. As FRC’s Ken Klukowski explains in a new Breitbart column, Judge Larry Alan Burns seemed to choke up as he read the edict declaring the cross an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. He, like most of us, is no doubt saddened by the precedent of the Ninth Circuit, which binds his hands under its radical interpretation of the Establishment Clause.
Under the ruling, veterans have 90 days to remove the cross. Fortunately, the veterans’ attorneys don’t plan on giving up on the case any time soon. After 24 years, Liberty Institute is committed to taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court – if that’s what it takes to protect the rights of believers that these veterans fought to secure. “It’s the least we can do,” said Liberty’s Hiram Sasser, “for those who gave so much to us all.”
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.