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Reform Jewish Leader Urges Removal of Proselytizing Provision in Defense Bill

Pelavin: This innocuous-sounding provision would open a Pandora’s Box of religious proselytizing in the military by giving chaplains free reign over where, when, and how to pray, regardless of the religious preferences of other military professionals, and regardless of the carefully thought-out existing policy.

Contact: Debra Eichenbaum or Rachel Slomovitz
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Washington DC | September 20, 2006 – In response to congressional consideration of legislative language in the National Defense Authorization Act that would permit proselytization among military chaplains, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

As Jews, and as Americans, we treasure our religious freedom, and we value and respect the religious beliefs and obligations of others. That is why we strongly oppose a provision (Sec. 590) of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5122) which would allow military chaplains to “pray according to the dictates of the chaplain's own conscience.”

This innocuous-sounding provision would open a Pandora’s Box of religious proselytizing in the military by giving chaplains free reign over where, when, and how to pray, regardless of the religious preferences of other military professionals, and regardless of the carefully thought-out existing policy. This harmful language would circumvent the religious protection guidelines instituted by the military and codify into law the acceptability of religious proselytizing. This is unacceptable and deeply hurtful to people of all faiths.

The Religious Action Center welcomes the suggestion of Senator Warner (R-VA) to send the National Defense Authorization Act to the floor without the proselytizing language and for this issue to be taken up by Congress at a later time. The National Defense Authorization Act is an extremely important piece of legislation, and one that needs to be voted on by Congress without the burden of this divisive and deeply troubling provision.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



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