Chaplain's Group Says Pelosi's Wrong About Need to Protect Conscience Rights of Chaplains

May 18, 2012 - 9:46 AM

military chplains

(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – A group representing more than 2,500 Evangelical Christian military chaplains says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was wrong on Thursday when she called a provision in the House defense authorization bill designed to protect military chaplains “a fraud.”

“I think she misses the point entirely,” said Dr. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.

“Right now this administration has created an environment in the Department of Defense that if you are in favor of same-sex relationships, you may speak. If you are not in favor, you cannot speak,” Crews said.

During her weekly press conference with reporters on Thursday, Pelosi told CNSNews.com that she agrees with the Obama administration – and opposes the provision, Section 536 of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Section 536 states that no member of the armed forces may “direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain, or contrary to the moral principles and religious beliefs of the endorsing faith group of the chaplain.”

The Democratic Leader said the idea that military chaplains would be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their will is “a manufactured crisis.”

“Nobody is ordering them to do that,” Pelosi said.  “I’ve never seen any suggestion that we’re ordering chaplains to perform same-sex—where is that?  I haven’t seen it and I’ve been around this issue for a long time.”

Crews, whose group represents over half of all chaplains serving on active duty, agreed that no chaplains have yet been ordered to perform same-sex ceremonies.

But the retired military chaplain told CNSNews.com that military chaplains have increasingly been facing negative repercussions since the military policy on homosexuality (“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”) was lifted.

“We already have some examples of a chaplain being pulled from an assignment simply because he forwarded an e-mail that was critical of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. He was told that ‘You need to be closely supervised.’ He was threatened that he would have to retire early,” Crews said.

“We have another chaplain who asked, “Can I speak about this issue? And the commander told him, ‘If you can’t get in line (with the military policy in support of homosexuality), resign your commission.’ So we have those kind of real life cases that the American public doesn’t realize is going on.”

Section 536 is simply designed to protect chaplains for refusing to act against their religious faith, he said.

“So all we are doing in adding to protections in the Defense Authorization Act, is to provide an umbrella covering for our chaplains and those they serve to be able to speak their objections concerning homosexuality based on what Scripture says about homosexuality.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said there is indeed a “crisis” brewing among chaplains who don’t support the idea of homosexual marriage.

“This is not a manufactured crisis, this is a crisis created by the policies of this administration,” Perkins told CNSNews.com.

Perkins decried the fact that on Wednesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memo which said that Section 536 “is potentially harmful to good order and discipline” of the military

“It’s quite shocking that the administration would say this would undermine good order and discipline, when in fact, it is the president’s policy that is leading to the undermining of good order and discipline,” Perkins said.

“This measure is a response to the concerns raised by chaplains already as this new experimentation on homosexuality has been thrust upon the military.

“You’ve have had chaplains whose messages in the wake of decisions by this administration that have been censored; they’ve been told what they can and cannot say from the pulpit,” Perkins said.

Perkins also blasted the OMB for condemning a second provision, Section 537, which would prohibit the use of military property from performing any “marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.”

Together the two provisions “adopt unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law,” according to the White House.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), the sponsor of the bill, never claimed that chaplains are being forced to perform homosexual weddings against their will, according to his spokesman.

“We don’t know what may or may not be ordered by the United States military regarding how these things are handled in the future, but this establishes that it is the sense of Congress that chaplains will not be ordered to do so. It’s a clarification – and a clarification that is being codified,” said Akin spokesman Steve Taylor.

“Given the change in the landscape regarding how the DOD is handling this, suggests that it is not superfluous for Congress to weigh in and say, this is our sense of it. But whatever rules and regs are promulgated they should accommodate and respect the beliefs of chaplains on bases. So I think the Minority Leader herself may be getting a little hyperbolic herself by suggesting that there isn’t a crisis.”

Bob Knight of the American Civil Rights Union, said if the threat is not a true threat, as Pelosi believes, then the provisions are harmless and provide “another layer of protection” for religious freedom.

“If it is a threat, then this is essential to preserving freedom of religion in our armed forces,” Knight said. “Given the administration’s heavy hand against Catholic hospitals  over the contraceptive, abortifacient, sterilization issue, why should anyone trust them not to go after the chaplains and do things against their conscience?”