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National Defense Authorization Act – Russell Amendment

Christians, please call your Congressman and Senators about the National Defense Authorization Act, and urge them to keep the Russell Amendment and stop implementation of new regulations that allow people who identify as transgender to serve in the military. A few months ago, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017 (“NDAA”) passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Since then, conferees from both chambers of Congress have been negotiating to resolve which provisions should be included in the final bill that is sent to the president’s desk. These negotiations are expected to conclude this week, and Congress will then vote on the NDAA Conference Report. With final negotiations being completed as we write, it is imperative that you act now to ask your Congressman and Senators to ensure the NDAA includes the Russell Amendment and stops implementation of regulations allowing people who identify as transgender to serve in the military.

The House-passed version of the NDAA includes a provision the Senate version does not have, referred to as the Russell Amendment. The Russell Amendment protects the freedom of religious organizations receiving federal contracts to hire employees who support the core faith and mission of the organization, in accordance with federal employment protections like Title VII. A few weeks ago, liberal activists started a tweet storm attacking the Russell provision. Around the same time, forty-two liberal senators sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, asking them to strip the Russell Amendment from the NDAA Conference Report. However, failing to maintain this protection for religious organizations forces them out of the contracting sphere and hurts those they serve, like refugees, veterans, and children. This House-passed language should be preserved in the Conference Report.

In addition, while neither the House nor Senate-passed versions of the NDAA address the Department of Defense Instruction (“regulation”) that permits people who identify as transgender to serve in the military, it should be addressed in the Conference Report. Allowing individuals with a diagnosable psychological condition to serve while attempting to transition from one gender to another, undermines military readiness, as these individuals are not medically deployable. Not only that, but the regulation also provides for tax-payer funded hormone replacement and sex-reassignment surgery, which has not been proven to be medically or psychologically beneficial for patients. In addition, the regulation will force service members into sleeping and bathing facilities with people of the opposite biological and anatomical sex, causing privacy and safety concerns. In all of its changes to policy, the regulation is glaringly inadequate with regard to religious freedom. In fact, the regulation is silent on the religious exercise of chaplains, psychotherapists, doctors, and other people of faith who have religious objections to treating people who identify as transgender with hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery. The implementation of the regulation must be stopped.

Each of these provisions deeply affect military life and should be addressed in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017. Call your Congressman and Senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or email them at the link below and ask them to voice their concerns about this critical legislation with the House and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairmen today.

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