UPDATED: House of Representatives Votes 400-1 to Allow Contract Priests to Celebrate Mass

Just as I was finishing up my last post, I got word of a very positive development: House Members will vote today to allow GS or contract priests to celebrate Mass on military bases this weekend.



From the Daily Caller:

One Republican lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee told The Daily Caller on Friday that this “crosses a constitutional line.”

“The constitutional rights of those who put their lives on the line for this nation do not end with a government slowdown,” Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, a graduate of West Point and an Army veteran, said in a Friday statement. ”It is completely irresponsible for the president to turn his back on every American’s First Amendment rights by furloughing military contract clergy.”

Added Pompeo: “The President’s strategy during the slowdown, just as during the sequestration, is to create as much pain as possible. However, this action crosses a constitutional line of obstructing every U.S. service member’s ability to practice his or her religion.”

Senator Ted Cruz tweeted his own thoughts:



This is fantastic news. I am certain it will get bipartisan support in the House. Assuming it has to go to the Senate next, I can only hope that the Democrats’ position of “we will not negotiate” can find an exception here.

I honestly don’t believe this would be possible if all of the CatholicVote.org readers had not shared this story. Over 160K pageviews on the story and over 60K shares on Facebook is no small thing. You got the word out, and your representatives are listening. Thank you for proving the power of the voice of the American people and standing up for your religious liberty.

UPDATE: 10/5/2013 @5:15PM

The House of Representatives voted 400 to 1 today to reinstate furloughed chaplains on a volunteer basis. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia (R) who serves as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain. No word yet on when this hits the Senate for a vote.


Categories:Breaking News Church News Religious Liberty

  • James Roth

    Steve–To quote someone who viciously attacked me in response to me reply, ” GROW UP!! ” If your going to be an opinion blogger grow a thicker skin.
    I merely pointed out the fallacy of the omitting critical facts. I was responding to the comment about the AMS General Counsel having made this issue up.
    My agenda is nothing more than to address misrepresentation and false logic, which is all to prevalent today. Your email to my son explains a lot and I abhor the tactics you have chosen in this particular case. The ends do not justify the means. The unfortunate result of your tactic in this case is that you have lost great credibility with me, so I would be far less inclined to even read anything you post in the future. I think your approach here is not in keeping with Catholic Social teaching.

    • Steve Skojec

      You were “viciously” attacked, eh? And so you chose to employ the same tactic in response to me? Still not impressing me on the persuasion front.

      I didn’t omit a single critical fact. It is of absolutely no interest to me that nobody has ever been prosecuted for violating the ADA. That they *can* be and that this administration is acting in an unprecedented manner during this shutdown indicates to me that everything is on the table. My goal has not been to deal with arrests after the fact, but rather to prevent them from happening in the first place. I’d like that record for non-prosecution to continue, unbroken.

      If you are going to address misrepresentations (I did not make any) and “false logic,” it is reasonable to conclude that you would then supplement these refutations with your own interpretation of events based on factual representations and ironclad logic. I have seen no such effort from you. You’re taking pot shots from the comment boxes, nothing more.

      To be clear for those unaware of the context, the email I wrote to your son was a response to his complaints about the “asshattery” going on in the comment boxes directed at you, despite the fact that none of it came from me.

      I do not hide the fact that I engage in polemics to reach a desired outcome. My anger at this story, however, was not insincere. It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s an indication that common sense still struggles to prevail. And I do not doubt that any inaction on the part of the administration or senate Democrats in granting an exemption to GS or contract priests is indicative of the contempt they have for the Catholic Church, the military, and American Citizens in general.

      I’m sorry that I’ve lost credibility with you. I can’t win them all. Just trying to fight the good fight here. You’re free to come to your own conclusions.

  • Stan j

    Who was the lone no vote?

    • Joshua Mercer

      Congressman Bill Enyart (D-IL).

  • james roth

    This is an inaccurate blog. This was a meaningless resolution, which leaves the ultimate decision up to the DoD. Why are we not instead celebrating because of the legal opinion that DOJ and DoD released, which is allowing the end of furlough for a number of civilians, including the non-military religious personnel?

    • Joshua Mercer

      A Concurrent Resolution is not meaningless. When passed by 2/3rds vote of both Houses, it expresses the intent of Congress who passed the legislation in the first place. While it does not have the same force as a join resolution (law), it is not meaningless, as the Courts and the President will only defer to Congress when they express their intent in this manner.

  • Dagmar C. Murphy

    I completely agree with previous responder Catherine. It is outrageous for you to imply that the government has forbidden Contract priests to say Mass. Government installations have been closed because of the shutdown. Catholic priests have not been forbidden to say Mass. Consequences of the shut down have to do with furloughing and non payment of salaries, not with any abuse of freedom of religion. You are irresponsible to write otherwise!

    • eric

      Dagmar, I agree. This post and the previous posts regarding this subject were false. Steve made up the “issue” and then claimed responsibility for fixing the “issue.” This resulted in a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

      • Joshua Mercer

        Did the general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services make up the issue?

        • eric

          Check the data.

        • James Roth

          It was irresponsible to have raised an issue, expressing an opinion, in part based on misleading information, and omitting other relevant information such as the fact that no one have ever been prosecuted for violating the anti-deficiency act since its enactment. They have all achieved the purpose for which they set out when tossing this hand grenade out. The vast majority of non-thinking, non-independent, and incapable of critical analysis masses were whipped into a frenzy by these postings into action. Of course the irony for me here is that this is what people often accuse those on the other side of the aisle of doing all the time.

          • Steve Skojec

            James, I’m not sure what your agenda is here. I’m in the opinion business, and I’ve expressed mine here. That nobody has ever been prosecuted for violating the ADA is not a reason to be unconcerned now. Did you see the man arrested in Baltimore county merely for speaking out at a school board meeting on Common Core standards? He was charged with assault on a police officer, when the video showed that no such assault happened. Public pressure because of conservative media outlets and social media campaigns got them to drop the charges, but not to admit wrongdoing on the part of the arresting officer.

            Across the country, we’re hearing about abuses of power related to the shutdown, from the memorial closings in DC (including Vietnam vets being physically forced to leave the Vietnam Memorial by park police) to private businesses and homes on federal land being barricaded. The government has ratcheted up its program of intimidation toward American Citizens, and only our awareness and willingness to push back is keeping this in check. As long as this is still the semblance of a democratic republic, the voice of the people still holds sway.

            I hope people got mad. I’m glad they shared this story. I heard from several military service members who had Masses canceled on base and in one instance, a retired military officer I heard from couldn’t get to Mass at all because his car broke down. Whether or not the particular application of the Antideficiency Act in this instance includes priests in the general furlough proscriptions against volunteer service or not, the failure to provide a waiver or some provision for Catholics on bases that depend on contract or GS priests so that they can continue to receive the sacraments IS a religious liberty issue. This is not what the Antideficiency act exists to prevent, its application has changed over the years, and I’ve heard (though I cannot confirm) that in previous shutdowns these priests were not affected.

            The only reason these priests have to be contracted at all is because the government forces them to. I guarantee most would volunteer their time gladly without the obligation and restrictions of contract.

            That the House took up this vote shows that they know it’s an issue significant to their constituents. Whether or not this action alone changes things, it matters to people. If you’d care to write about this according to your legal opinion and advise faithful Catholics on what action they should take, what issues you think are red herrings, and where their efforts should be focused, I’m sure there’s a market for it. Get a blog. Find a publication willing to take your writing. Participate.

            But sitting in the comment boxes here tearing apart the efforts I’m trying to make without acknowledging in any way that you understand the impulse, that you agree that the issue is a cause for concern even if you think where I am placing the blame is inaccurate, or any show of solidarity whatsoever with Catholics who don’t want to see service men and women deprived unjustly of the sacraments is doing you no favors.

            If you are a retired JAG, I have no doubt you know the law better than I. But you could do with a good deal more tact.

  • james roth

    More significantly, the legal opinions that DOJ and DoD (yes, this administration), gave to recent legislation and announced late yesterday, will allow a large number of DoD civilians, including priests and other religious support personnel to be recalled to work this week.

  • james roth

    H.Con.Res.58 expresses the sense of Congress that there is a need for the continued availability of religious services for members of the Armed Forces and their families during a lapse in appropriations. Specifically, H.Con.Res.58 1) recognizes that the performance of religious services are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution; 2) urges the Secretary of Defense to permit the performance of religious services on DoD property during a lapse in appropriations as it would otherwise; and 3) urges the Secretary of Defense to permit military chaplains and others hired to perform chaplain duties, including contract personnel, to continue operating during a lapse in appropriations as they would otherwise.



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