Representative Valerie Hodges' legislation aimed at protecting the freedom of religion for service members has been passed by the La. House and Senate.

“These are rights and freedoms set by our founders in Constitution and defended by our military and founding fathers,” Hodges said.

So what led Rep. Hodges (R) of Denham Springs to put forward this legislation? Comments she said were made by military consultant Michael Weinstein recently that declared all fundamentalist, evangelical Christian groups to be “monsters of human degradation, marginalization, humiliation, and tyranny…with putrid theology,” along with other insults. It was a fight, Hodges said, Weinstein fought against peaceable and non-combative religious speech, especially to stop members of the military from sharing their faith with others or proselytizing.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Christensen issued a statement after Weinstein's comments.  Christensen said, “Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts, or punishment, to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs.”

But Hodges bill takes that a step further, placing into Department of Defense policy a standard that “ensures that all members of the armed forces may engage in peaceable and non-combative religious speech, including non-coercive proselytizing, and that such speech is not in derogation of the good order and discipline of the armed forces.”

The bill now awaits Governor Bobby Jindal's signature.

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