Obama signs defense bill with expanded religious protection

Thursday - 12/26/2013, 9:10pm EST

HONOLULU (AP) -- The defense bill that President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday includes expanded protection for service members' religious expression.

Section 532 of the new law replaces language requiring the armed forces to "accommodate the beliefs" of service members with instruction that the military "shall accommodate individual expressions of belief."

Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says he believes that should allow troops with a religious belief that marriage is only the union of a man and woman to say so instead of being subject to what he calls "a reverse don't ask don't tell policy."

But the law says expressions of belief needn't be accommodated if they hurt "military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline."

The law also calls for a survey to determine if restrictions placed on the prayers of military chaplains outside of religious services are hindering their ministry.

Crews says some chaplains have been told not to pray in Jesus' name at military ceremonies. Chaplains are required to serve troops of all faiths.

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