House passes measure aimed at bringing military chaplains back to work
October 5th, 2013
02:22 PM ET
11 months ago

House passes measure aimed at bringing military chaplains back to work

(CNN) – The House of Representatives was nearly unanimous in a Saturday vote that mandated military installations around the country continue to provide religious services during the government shutdown.

The measure, which needed a two-thirds majority of support in the House, passed by a vote of 400-1. The only no vote came from Rep. William Enyart, D-Illinois.

The measure was not a spending measure and only expressed that Congress did not want the Department of Defense to suspend religious programs during the shutdown for fear that it "threatens the ability of members of the armed services and their families to exercise their First Amendment rights to worship and participate in religious activities.”

Despite the fact that certain service members were working during the shutdown, the Defense Department decided to furlough civilian and contract workers because the department lacked an appropriations bill. This move included some religious leaders.

"At a time when the military is considering alternative sources of funding for sporting events at the service academies, no one seems to be looking for funding to ensure the free exercise rights of Catholics in uniform," John Schlageter, general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, told CNN. "Why not?"

The Defense Department had allowed athletic teams from military service academies to play Saturday despite the shutdown because, they said, the game is paid for with non-appropriated funds.

This shortage of chaplains also appalled some lawmakers.

"There's no doubt the furloughing of people hired or contracted to perform the duties of military chaplains is having an effect," said Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina.

The resolution was sponsored by Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, who serves as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain.

While heading to the floor to vote, some Democratic lawmakers were surprised the bill was being brought to the floor.

"I did not know Speaker Boehner was going to put it on the floor," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York.

House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy said the bill should not have come as a surprise and was brought up today - along with a bill to pay all furloughed employees for their time away from the job - because tomorrow is Sunday.

"It was brought up because the attention just came up," McCarthy said as he raced to the floor. "They have a First Amendment right."

Shortly after the vote, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that most Department of Defense civilian employees "placed on emergency furlough during the government shutdown will be asked to return to work beginning next week.”

Hagel said his department, along with the Justice Department, concluded that the law does allow the Department of Defense to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.

– CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


Filed under: Government Shutdown • House
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. roro

    This piecemeal stuff is ridiculous. OPEN THE GOVERNMENT NOW, and DO YOUR DAMN JOBS!

    October 5, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  2. Winston Smith

    The military needs all the sky pilots it can get, there's no denying this. As long as our chief export is death and destruction, the need for religious hypocrisy will never diminish.

    October 5, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  3. Thomas

    And the staff at the VA drug rehabilitation center is not . They are working doing there job without pay .

    Thank you Ted Cruz and all the rest of you Teabags !

    October 5, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  4. RomneyWho

    Military Chaplains, really? The Republican Leadership, need I say more?

    October 5, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  5. JeseC

    Just fyi – the chaplains were told that, because of their contracts, they were not allowed to hold services for free, because that would put the military at risk of violating labor laws. Word is one was even threatened with arrest if he came onto the base without being paid to do a service.

    October 5, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  6. boungiorno

    do what is needed for our military who keeps us safe

    October 5, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  7. Evergreen

    Just more of those non-essential federal employees. Pentegon, FEMA and now Chaplains. The way the GOP are making exemptions everyone will be back to work in no time.

    October 5, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  8. Maripil

    There is no way to trust republicans. They say one thing and do something else. They are good at bait and switch. These tea party are jihadis tearing down the government!

    October 6, 2013 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  9. abdul

    all part of our master plan-infiltrate as hispanic illegals-you americans are too stupid to know the difference(jose padilla)-wait for the destruction of your multicultural society to destroy its self-

    October 6, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  10. Anonymous

    13 comments from 13 left wing, liberal, where's my next government hand-out idiots. Don't forget the military you detest so much dies to give you the right to detest it!

    October 6, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. Brent

    why the NO vote Rep. William Enyart, D-Illinois.

    October 6, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. Bill Fullerton

    It's amazing how the progressive left liberals hate anything that those that are center and right of center try to do to help people. There is an old saying in the military, "There no atheists in a foxhole.". Next thing you know they will want to have that saying changed to "There are only atheists in foxholes.". But of course we all know that will never happen. They would never have the feeling of duty serve and be in a foxhole.

    October 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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