Military Is Muzzling Chaplains and Others Who Support ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy on Homosexuality, Former Chaplains Say
April 28, 2010 - 11:30 PMRetired military chaplains and lawyers gathered at the conservative Family Research Council on Wednesday to speak out against repealing the military policy on homosexuality, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT).
Arthur Schultz, a former Army chaplain who now is legal counsel to the National Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, told reporters that servicemen overseas have been told not to speak in support of DADT.
“One of the chaplains . . . spoke to me, who recently came back from overseas from a major command, and he said that the word is out to chaplains: don’t speak about this and particularly, don’t raise issues about why you can’t support it,” Shultz told reporters. “And so that’s the unofficial, ‘official’ language to say, ‘Keep your mouth shut, or else.’
“(The chaplain) implied or he told me that it was made clear that it would be damaging to anybody who raised his head above the parapet, so to speak.”
Under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which was created by the Clinton administration, the military will not ask directly about a service member’s sexual orientation. But if that orientation is made public, it is grounds for dismassal from the service.
President Obama pledged to repeal the policy, in a speech last year before a homosexual activist group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
"We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country," Obama said. "We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage ... especially when we are fighting two wars."
But Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told reporters he has already experienced personally the kind of political correctness that chaplains now face, when he was “disinvited” in late February to speak at a national prayer luncheon at Andrews Air Force Base, because his position on the repeal of of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” differed from the president’s position.
“While we may not see -- at least not immediately -- restrictions on what chaplains can or cannot say, rest assured: the approved gospel will be a politically correct (PC) gospel,” Perkins said. “And while failure to preach this PC gospel may not lead to being drummed out of the military, there is no question that it will be an obstacle to promotion into the military careers of chaplains.”
Another former Army chaplain, Col. Rich Young, a veteran of both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, agreed.
“Compelling chaplains to replace biblical truth with political correctness not only steals from the chaplain their religious freedom, it also directly harms our military,” Young said.
“One of the reasons I feel it is important to make a statement is because those chaplains who are still serving on active duty are not able to do so. Chaplains’ religious freedom is at risk,” said Young
That position, however, is not unanimous among retired chaplains. The Human Rights Campaign countered the same day with a statement from another military retiree, former Navy chaplain Captain John F. Gundlach.
“As military chaplains, we routinely work with service members whose faith traditions and belief systems are different from ours. The idea that repeal of DADT will infringe on our religious liberty is insulting to all the serving chaplains who professionally minister to and with people of diverse beliefs every day,” Gundlach said.
“It is time to realize that bigotry -- not one’s sexual orientation -- is incompatible with military service. It’s time for gay Americans to be able to serve our country proudly and openly, with continued courage, honor, and commitment,” he added.
But Perkins, a former Marine, told reporters in no uncertain terms that there are many chaplains and service members on active duty who oppose the removal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“Those who serve in uniform are not free to speak on this issue. Do not misinterpret the silence of the rank and file as approval of this policy,” Perkins said. “That is why you will repeatedly see those who are retired and who are free to speak, speaking out for those who are not.”
Perkins added: “It appears that this administration is willing to sacrifice the religious freedoms of chaplains, along with causing the military to compromise its mission in order to advance a radical social agenda designed to appease its political base.”
Attorney Jordan Lorence, a senior counsel with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, said that over 40 former military chaplains have sent letters to Defense Secretary Gates and to the president, telling them that the repeal of the military ban on homosexuality would not only mean a crisis of conscience for many of the military’s chaplains – it would create a situation never before encountered in American history.
“The chaplains of many of the world’s religions believe that marriage is defined only as one man and one woman and that certain types of sexual behavior are immoral,” Lorence told reporters. “It is hard to think in the past in American history where formal U.S military policy has been at odds with the major tenets of the major religions represented in the armed services.”
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009 would amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice by replacing DADT with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, “whether the orientation is real or perceived,” to quote from the proposed statute. It would allow homosexuals and bisexuals to serve openly in the armed forces and the Coast Guard. It would also allow for those previously removed from service on the basis of sexual orientation to be considered for readmission.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), and has 192 cosponsors. It must be referred out of the House Armed Services Committee before it could come to a vote.