Last week I posted about how the government shutdown banned contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases to facilitate mass or any religious sacraments. As of Thursday, October 3, military priests were facing arrest if they attempted to celebrate any religious services with members of the armed forces.
Lawmakers were being urged to pass a resolution that would allow them on bases despite the shutdown. The House of Representatives passed the legislation in a 400-1 vote on Saturday, October 6.
As the government shutdown enters its third week, many government agencies previously deemed “unnecessary” have reopened thanks to legislation passed by Congress as well as many private donors and state governments.
Military chaplains have been given the okay to offer worship services on military bases once again. The Senate approved the measure late Thursday.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin edited the bill, stating that “the availability of religious services and clergy were important to the morale and well-being of many members of the armed forces and their families.”
Levin also included a provision stating that he hoped Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would provide the necessary support to see that military clergy would be covered under the same law that pays troops despite the government shutdown.
The question of military chaplain pay as well as death benefits for the families of fallen soldiers was debated during the shutdown. Republicans said that the law passed outlining the shutdown included these payments, but the Pentagon said the legal interpretation of the bill barred them from paying them.
While President Obama has since signed legislation ensuring the death benefit payments, military chaplain pay is still in question. This is just one of the many arguments between both Republicans and Democrats concerning the reopening of the government.
While both parties agree that the shutdown should have no effect on the religious rights of armed forces members, military chaplains will have to volunteer their time until this matter can be straightened out.
Along with chaplains returning to military bases, other agencies previously closed by the government shutdown have reopened.
Across America, individual states have been finding creative ways to reopen national parks to prohibit further damage to their local economies. The Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, all national parks in the state of Utah and the Statue of Liberty reopened over the weekend, and Mount Rushmore started accepting tourists again Monday. These national landmarks have reopened thanks to the generous private donations, readjustments of state tourism budgets as well as business and non-profit donations.
As the shutdown continues, Americans across all tax brackets are being affected but are finding creative ways to around the shutdown rules.