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53 U. Louisville L. Rev. 327 (2015)
Accommodating Religious Liberties of Military Personnel: The Religious Liberty Amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014
Emily DeVuono*
The extent to which members of the military are afforded First Amendment rights, particularly the right to free exercise of religion, has long been debated. Difficulties arise when trying to strike a balance between managing an effective military that ensures national security and allowing adequate religious expression of military personnel. Concerned with stories of disciplinary action taken against military personnel openly expressing religious beliefs, Congress adopted the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (2013 NDAA) providing, in part, protections for religious expression in the military. Congress further directed the Secretary of Defense to develop regulations to enforce these protections. In response to continued reports of disciplinary action against military personnel expressing religious beliefs and the failure of the Department of Defense to write regulations, new amendments were proposed and enacted in part by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (2014 NDAA). This Note addresses two amendments approved in the 2014 NDAA and one rejected amendment, which would have expanded the chaplaincy program to provide chaplains for non-theistic military personnel. Part II of this Note provides a brief overview of the history of the chaplaincy program, discusses religious accommodations in the military, and examines two cases relating to religious accommodations and the military chaplaincy program. Part III describes the legislative history of the 2014 NDAA. Part III also refers to various discussions of amendments introduced before the House Committee on Armed Services and analyzes the effectiveness of these amendments. Finally, in Part IV, this Note addresses the failure of Congress to expand the military chaplaincy program to non-theists and the implications of that failure with respect to the historical purposes of the chaplaincy program, as well as the purposes explicated in Katcoff v. Marsh.
* J.D. Candidate, May 2015, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville.