Michele Bachmann's military chaplain prayer bill skunked out

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The theocrats never quit. One pet project: Turning the U.S. military into God's army. God's on our side, you see. And Rep. Michele Bachmann has just been skunked out in an attempt to further that project.

The CD6 congresswoman tried to insert language -- without debate -- into a military spending bill for the, "Protection of the religious freedom of military chaplains."

If called upon to lead a prayer outside of a religious service, a chaplain shall have the prerogative to close the prayer according to the dictates of the chaplain's own conscience.

Bad move, say the watchdogs at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. They weeded out Bachmann's insert on Wednesday, alerted House leaders, and the amendment never made it into the final bill. God bless 'em:

Chaplains are employees of the government, and they serve a diverse constituency, not just members of their own tradition. They are sometimes asked to offer invocations at military events where personnel from many faiths are present. At those, nonsectarian prayers may be requested.

Religious Right forces are up in arms about this attempt at inclusivity, insisting that fundamentalist chaplains should have the right to slip a little not-so-subtle proselytizing into their invocations and benedictions.

This battle over evangelizing the military has gained traction since the Vietnam war, historian Ann Loveland told the New York Times in 2005, during the height of the Iraq war and Musllim criticism that President George W. Bush had launched a Crusade.

"Evangelical denominations were very supportive of the [Vietnam] war, and mainline liberal denominations were very much against it," Loveland told the paper. "That cemented this growing relationship between the military and the evangelicals."

A report by the Military Chaplains Association in 2006 found that inflammatory rhetoric about a non-existent "sinister, systematic oppression" of chaplains' individual rights was the product of Christian organizations with a lot of money and media access.

Former military chaplain Rabbi Israel Drazin told BeliefNet that chaplains are "addressing everybody. They are there for everybody. They should not give a prayer that addresses a particular group.''

Here's the opening page of Bachmann's failed amendment. The full text can be downloaded from the House Rules Committee website here.

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Full text at House Rules Committee


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