ICYMI: Opening Statement of Chairman Wilson - Hearing on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services

Jan 29, 2014
Press Release

Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the following opening statement as prepared for delivery at a hearing on Religious Accommodations in the Armed ServicesWitness testimony can be found linked below and on the Committee Repository as prepared for delivery; the committee is no longer providing paper copies of witness testimony. Additionally, a live video feed of the hearing can be seen on the Committee website .   

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the hearing will come to order.  Welcome to a meeting of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel.  Today, the subcommittee will examine religious accommodations in the Armed Services including the military services' interpretation, enactment and enforcement of religious accommodation statutory and regulatory guidance.  

"Historically the Armed Forces have supported religious freedom and when possible, accommodated service member’s religious beliefs and practice.  I believe we can maintain a proper balance between religious accommodations which will promote military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline.  This should not present challenges for the military services.  Chaplains have always been vital to our military.  One of the strengths of our military is its diversity with mutual respect and as such  it has been important for Congress to work with the Department of Defense to ensure that  appropriate statutory and regulatory guidance is in place in order for the services to the meet important spiritual and religious needs of their troops. 

"Recognizing that there have been challenges in accommodating religious practices and beliefs we have engaged in various efforts to clarify the role of religion in the military, prevent religious discrimination, and provide appropriate religious accommodations for those service members who seek it.   

"Our goal today is to better understand how the Department of Defense has balanced the implementation of the religious accommodations policy with maintaining military readiness, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.

"I would like to welcome our distinguished witnesses:


Brigadier General Charles R. Bailey  Deputy Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Army

•  Witness Statement PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Wstate-BaileyC-20140129.pdf

•  Witness Biography PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Bio-BaileyC-20140129.pdf

Mr. Douglas L. Carver  Executive Director, North American Mission Board

•  Witness Statement PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Wstate-CarverD-20140129.pdf

•  Witness Biography PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Bio-CarverD-20140129.pdf

Rev. James B. Magness  Bishop Suffragan of the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries, Washington National Cathedral

•  Witness Statement PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Wstate-MagnessJ-20140129.pdf

•  Financial Disclosure PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Wstate-MagnessJ-20140129.pdf

•  Witness Biography PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Bio-MagnessJ-20140129.pdf

Brigadier General Bobby Page  Deputy Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Air Force

•  Witness Statement PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Wstate-PageB-20140129.pdf

•  Witness Biography PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Bio-PageB-20140129.pdf

Ms. Virginia Penrod  Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, Department of Defense

•  Witness Statement PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Wstate-PenrodV-20140129.pdf

•  Witness Biography PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Bio-PenrodV-20140129.pdf

Rear Admiral Upper Half Mark L. Tidd  Chief of Navy Chaplains, U.S. Navy

•  Witness Statement PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Wstate-TiddM-20140129.pdf

•  Witness Biography PDF: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS02/20140129/101681/HHRG-113-AS02-Bio-TiddM-20140129.pdf

"And our last witness, who could not be with us today, due to the unusual winter weather in the southeast United States this week was Mr Douglas Carver, Chaplain, Maj Gen (ret.), U.S. Army, Executive Director, North American Mission Board.  We will enter his testimony into the record."