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Senate moves to include women in military draft; Southern Baptist opposition long established


NASHVILLE (BP) – A renewed effort to include women in the military draft is making its way through the Senate with conservatives voicing their opposition.

When a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was introduced in June 2016 for women to become eligible for the draft, Southern Baptists responded at that year’s annual meeting in St. Louis by adopting a resolution opposing the step. Messengers again stated their opposition at the 2019 gathering with a resolution on expanding the Selective Service to include women.

The provision in the 2016 NDAA was eventually stripped out at the last moment in favor of a commission to study the future of the draft. It appeared the section would pass last year, but was once again dropped after closed-door negotiations.

The current version once again includes an amendment that requires the registration of women for Selective Service.

Each year the NDAA determines military policy as well as the manner in which the military’s budget will be spent. It is created by the Senate Armed Services Committee and House Armed Services Committee. Last month the Senate committee voted 20-6 to require women to register. A following version of the NDAA advanced by the House did not contain the provision.

Interim Ethics & Religious Liberty President Brent Leatherwood told Baptist Press today that the ERLC’s position on the subject hasn’t changed since issuing a white paper about it last year.

The document acknowledges that men and women are “equal in value” but “distinct [in] physical and psychological differences.”

“Women placed in combat would be a risk to themselves, to the men around them, and consequently, to our nation,” it said. “Men are psychologically prepared to protect, while women desire to nurture. Asking a woman to take the place of a man in protecting a nation is not only dangerous, but dishonors the role of men and women.”

All combat jobs were opened to women in 2015.

“Southern Baptists wish to express deepest gratitude to those courageous men and women who have served, as noted in the 2016 SBC resolution,” the ERLC stated. “We are grateful for all women who have chosen to serve their country in the military, but make the distinction that forced service is both dishonorable and unbiblical.”

Versions of military conscription have existed in America dating back to the Revolutionary War. Induction to fill military vacancies in both peacetime and conflict ended in 1973, but the Selective Service System remained in a “standby” role in case of national emergency.

Registration was suspended altogether from 1976-1980 in an era of “deep standby.” However, President Jimmy Carter issued Proclamation 4771 in July 1980 shortly after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, resulting in mass registrations that month as well as in January 1981.