Outraged Conservatives: Barring Critic of Obama’s Gays-in-Military Policy from Air Force Prayer Meeting Is Attack on Free Speech

February 26, 2010 - 6:22 PM
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins was blacklisted from speaking at a national prayer luncheon held at Andrews Air Force Base because of was critical of President Obama's position on homosexuality in the military. 

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (FRC photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Conservative leaders and members of Congress largely expressed outrage Friday that the Air Force had blacklisted Family Research Council President Tony Perkins from speaking at Andrews Air Force Base because of his position on the military policy on homosexuality.
 
As CNSNews.com reported Friday,  the Air Force has admitted that the chaplain's office at Andrews retracted an invitation to Perkins to speak at the prayer luncheon held there on Feb. 25 because of the views Perkins had expressed.

Andrews is the home base for Air Force One, the designation for the airplane that  carries the president when he travels.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNSNews.com that he’s “disappointed” the Air Force would “un-invite” Perkins because of his positions.
 
“These actions are out of line with the caution that the heads of the military branches have expressed with regards to this policy,” Inhofe said.
 
“Each one of them has indicated that it would be best for the Pentagon to finish its review before addressing 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' in a manner that disrupts readiness and recruitment. I wonder if Tony Perkins would have received the same treatment if his views on repealing 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' had matched those of President Obama.”
 
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, was outraged.
 
I think many members (of Congress) are outraged,” Kingston told CNSNews.com. “The mainstream media hasn’t given this as much coverage as they would if they agreed with Perkins. This is something that I think that people will be asking a lot of questions [about]--a harbinger of what may be out there to come, you know, if on a high-profile captain like Tony Perkins, they reject him. They may (start) doing it to everybody else."
 
Kingston said he thought the Air Force was "using" the incident to send a message to its own chaplains about what thhey could and could not say from the pulpit.

“(W)hat they were doing is using him to drive a message--that your brand of sermon is no longer welcome in the U.S. military,” he said.
 
He added: “I think it probably does go beyond the Air Force. They knew there would be a backlash to this, and I think they had a design about that: ‘OK, you know, we want other (chaplains) to understand and pipe down on your personal views on this biblical view, and you believe it, just keep it mellow; we want watered-down messages.’”
  

 
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Conference, said he would be looking into the incident more deeply.
 
“I hold Tony Perkins in the highest regard, as do pro-family Americans across this country,” Pence said. “And I would hope that the change in the speaking roster had nothing to do with his stated positions on 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.' But we’ll be making appropriate inquiries,” Pence said.
 
Conservative leaders like Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center (the parent organization of CNSNews.com), said it was “truly frightening” that Perkins, a former Marine officer and minister, had been “thrown off a military base, in effect, for expressing his Christian views.”
 
“This is beyond political correctness,” Bozell told CNSNews.com. “This is flat-out political censorship taking place. And I would wish that the White House would not only condemn it, but flat-out reverse this policy.”
 
Bozell said Rep. Kingston was correct that Perkins won’t be the only conservative to be censored for his views.
 
“Today, it’s Tony Perkins. Tomorrow, who is it? Is there someone who says something offensive to the Obama administration and the will of Congress and is told he can’t speak there? Is there somebody who says something that is unacceptable to the Obama administration so he can’t speak at the university?
 
“My God, this is fascism. This is not America. This is not the country that I grew up in.  This is not the kind of ‘change we can believe in.’"
 
Bozell said it is no surprise that the story was not being covered by the mainstream news media.
 
This is the kind of story the national news media will love to ignore because it speaks to the ugly underbelly of the Obama machine, of the Chicago mafia,” Bozell said. “This is the Chicago mafia at play. And the national news media will do everything in its power not to report this story. But it will get out through the new media. The American people will learn about it."
 
Other conservative leaders expressed similar concerns.

Ron Robinson, president of Young Americans for Freedom, told CNSNews.com the exclusion of a major conservative figure like Perkins on the basis of his views was a "sad reflection on the political correctness in today’s military.” 

“Perkins’ position is the one that historically was true through almost the 200 years of American military history. It’s said that the Obama administration is trying to censor people that disagree with them," Robinson said.
 
“We see this administration give lip service to some support of military personnel, but, in fact, it just seems to want to push a radical left-wing agenda, and I think that seeps down through the ranks,” he added.
 
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, called it a “chilling indication of how military brass are already operating--pressuring those who agree with the current law on homosexuals in the military to be silent.”
 
Wright added: “Navy Admiral Mullins told reporters that not a single member of the military has raised the issue since he told Congress that homosexuals should serve openly. This letter provides insight into why the troops may be silent. We are a country directed by the rule of law, not a monarchy. Obama's views do not trump the law. When there is a conflict, the military should follow the law, not Obama's opinion."
 
Precursor to Zero Tolerance
 
For conservative publisher Alfred Regnery  the incident is evidence that the military is being politicized.

"Tony Perkins is a national leader of considerable stature who rightfully takes positions on such things as ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,’" Regnery told CNSNews.com. "Since when are people in the military so sensitive that they cannot listen to things they may disagree with? And I'd be surprised if most of them don't agree with Tony anyway."

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, called the incident a “cautionary tale”--a taste of what will happen if the law is changed to remove the military ban on homosexuality in the armed services.
 
“What strikes me about this story, is how clearly it demonstrates how the culture of the military can be used by the LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) left to accomplish its goals,” Donnelly told CNSNews.com.
 
“In this case, the Air Force chaplain who meant well in sending the letter that he sent to Tony Perkins, was carrying out what he thought was the expectation of the administration--that from here on in we would have sexual minorities accepted in the military," said Donnelly. "The letter seems to suggest that the law--the LGBT law--has already been passed, legislation to repeal current law regarding homosexuals in the military. For (the chaplain) to send a letter like this, though, which is so far ahead of any expectation, is useful to us in the current debate because it shows how the concept of zero tolerance would work."
 
Donnelly said that any time the military implements a policy “in the name of civil rights,” it also implements a “Zero Tolerance” policy.
 
“That means that anyone who disagrees would be subject to career penalties, and would thereby be dismissed from the military,” she said. “In this case, when the Air Force chaplain said, ‘Well, we can’t have Tony Perkins come and speak because he does not support the issue of gays in the military,’ that was a demonstration of how it would work if the new law is passed and there are number of chaplains and people of faith who have the same view that Tony Perkins does.
 
"This kind of deliberate, organized discrimination, and silencing of disagreement is exactly what would happen on a large scale if the LGBT law (eliminating the military ban on homosexuality) is written,” Donnelly added.
 
Meanwhile, former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer--a previous president of the Family Research Council--said he, too, is outraged, although he is not  surprised at the incident.

“I would have been surprised if I heard that Tony had been invited and actually got to speak,” Bauer, currently president of American Values, told CNSNews.com.

What happened to Perkins sparks feelings of déjà vu for Bauer.
 
“Back in the ‘90s, when I was heading FRC, I was ‘disinvited’ to a Coast Guard prayer luncheon, for similar reasons,” Bauer said. "I got this invitation, was surprised to get it, accepted and everything was going fine, and then a number, as I recall, of gay rights groups and separation of church and state groups spoke up and--I think--a member of Congress that was on the committee that dealt with Coast Guard appropriations also got involved.
 
"The theme was the same: that I held ‘unacceptable views.’ ”
 
At that time, Bauer said, another liberal Democrat was in the White House--Bill Clinton.

“When Washington is in the hands of people who most aggressively accuse others of intolerance, they almost always attempt to limit the free speech of those that disagree with them, on the right,” Bauer said.
 
The term "political correctness," Bauer said, doesn’t do it justice.
 
“Even the term is politically correct,” Bauer said. “What it is, is a concerted effort to either force people to observe the unwritten liberal rules on what you can and can't believe or to face the prospect of being silenced if you won’t do that.”