The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has had plenty of run-ins with Christian nationalist GOP members of Congress over the years. There was MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein’s 2014 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel that was crashed by members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus who weren’t members of the subcommittee to berate Mikey. (Watch video here.) And there have been a slew of letters written by GOP, and more recently MAGA, House members and senators to the Secretary of Defense or VA Secretary decrying this or that MRFF victory and demanding that these victories be reversed. (See here, here, here, here for a few examples.) Mainly consisting of ineffectual letter-writing and some bitching on Fox News and occasionally on the House floor, the GOP’s attacks on MRFF have been easily taken in stride — UNTIL NOW.
In an almost inconceivable action, a Christian nationalist GOP congressman, Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, has introduced actual legislation to shut MRFF down — to make it ILLEGAL for Department of Defense personnel to even communicate with MRFF!
Yes, this is how scared the Christian nationalists are of MRFF’s success in fighting for the religious freedom of our service members and against the spread of Christian nationalism in our military. They now see the only way to try to stop us is to make us illegal for military personnel!
Turner’s legislation comes in the form of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2024 — an amendment that was PASSED last week in the GOP-led House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the NDAA.
This is the text of Turner’s unbelievable amendment:
LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS RELATED TO MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION.
None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available for fiscal year 2024 for the Department of Defense may be used—
(1) to communicate with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, its leadership, or its founder; or
(2) to take any action or make any decision as a result of any claim, objection, or protest made by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation without the authority of the Secretary of Defense.
If this amendment remains in the final bill, it will become LAW, specifically it will become part of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which includes the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This means that if a military commander even responds to an email from MRFF, or makes any decision as a result of being contacted by MRFF, that commander will be breaking the law and could potentially face a court-martial!
In addition to obstructing MRFF’s crucial ability to communicate with commanders to advocate for the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of our service members, this amendment would also obliterate MRFF’s ability to get responses to or FOIA requests since it would be illegal for any FOIA officer to respond to our requests.
In other words, THE GOAL OF TURNER’S AMENDMENT IS TO SHUT MRFF DOWN!!!
This is nothing short of a completely unconstitutional bill of attainder, defined as “legislation that imposes punishment on a specific person or group of people without a judicial trial,” and explicitly prohibited by Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 of the Constitution, which states: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”
This amendment was passed by the House Armed Services Committee as part of an en bloc package, meaning the committee members were voting on a list of numbers that was rattled off as a package. There was no reading of or debate on each individual amendment, allowing Turner to easily sneak in his reprehensible shut-MRFF-down amendment and get it passed. Turner even seems to be trying to hide this amendment from his constituents, omitting it from the list of NDAA amendments that he’s boasting on his website about getting passed.
We can’t let this horrifying and flagrantly unconstitutional amendment end up in the final NDAA!