Collins sent the letter to Secretary Hagel after CNN and other media outlets reported that contract military chaplains were turned away from their posts as a result of the federal government shutdown.
Collins was the author of H. Con. Res. 58, which expressed the sense of the Congress that chaplains should be permitted to offer the access to religious expression that they normally provide. It passed the House by a 400-1 vote. A slightly amended measure passed the Senate unanimously.
You might think this will quickly become a moot point since it appears that the government shutdown will end by Thursday.
But the Georgia Congressman said he was looking for clarification “directly from the Pentagon” which make clear the status of chaplains, and by extension the First Amendment, during this “and any potential future lapse in appropriations.”
“The First Amendment must never be deemed nonessential. When Secretary Hagel furloughed defense employees, what he thought was a personnel decision was, in fact, a decision with a direct impact on religious liberty and First Amendment rights. I want to offer the secretary the opportunity to clarify himself for not just our military faithful, but every American who cares about the Bill of Rights.”
You can read Rep. Collins’ letter to Secretary Hagel here.
Joshua Mercer is a co-founder of CatholicVote.org, where he serves as Political Director. Mercer previously served as Washington Correspondent for the National Catholic Register and Chairman for Students for Life of America. He lives in Michigan with his wife and six children.