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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ignoring the Constitution -- Editorial, The Washington Times

The president continues to chip away at the guarantee of freedoms

Mr. Obama has never been a particular fan of the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion, but he never attacked it in so direct a way as with his feud with Roman Catholic Church. He's threatening to punish "contract priests" hired to supplement the chaplain corps. There are only 234 active-duty commissioned military chaplains to care for 275,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who profess the Catholic faith. It's not nearly enough, so the military services employ priests on contract to perform Sunday services, weddings and baptisms on base. No federal funds are used, and these priests would gladly perform these duties voluntarily during the government shutdown, but they are prohibited from doing so. "During the shutdown," warns the top lawyer for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, "it is illegal for them to minister on base, and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so."

The House last week approved a resolution by a virtually unanimous vote of 400 to 1 urging the Pentagon to allow the chaplains to do their job. "Military personnel enjoy, like all Americans, the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion," said the Rev. Timothy P. Broglio, archbishop for military services, after the vote. "In the current political climate, however, nothing can be taken for granted." Senate passage of the measure and the president's signature aren't likely.

The Pentagon doesn't classify priests as essential, and the threat to arrest men of the cloth betrays Mr. Obama's intention to win the short-term political battle no matter the cost. "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun," he once told supporters.

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