(CNSNews.com) - Conservative politicians and religious leaders are rallying to support Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace, who has come under fire after calling homosexual behavior "immoral."
Speaking about the military's ban on homosexuals serving openly, Pace told the Chicago Tribune on March 12 that "homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and ... we should not condone immoral acts." He compared homosexual behavior to adultery, which is also prohibited by the military.
Pace's comments were criticized by homosexual advocacy groups, including the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which issued a statement calling the statement "outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful."
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said Pace's comments "were irresponsible, offensive and a slap in the face to the gay men and women who are currently serving their country with honor and bravery."
HRC has launched a letter-writing campaign to demand an apology from Pace. It also wants the Department of Defense and the White House to repudiate his comments.
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) also criticized Pace's remarks, saying he disagrees with the assertion that homosexual behavior is immoral. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), frontrunners for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, have both quietly announced that they also disagree with Pace's view.
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, began circulating a letter on Wednesday among his colleagues expressing support for Pace and his comments.
Calling criticism of Pace "unfair and unfortunate," Brownback's letter said the general "is duty-bound to support the policies of the United States."
"The moral behavior of members of the Armed Forces is of the highest importance, particularly during this time of war," the letter stated. "The question is whether personal moral beliefs should disqualify an individual from positions of leadership in the U.S. military? We think not."
Representatives from Christian and Jewish organizations gathered in front of the White House Thursday, urging President Bush to support Pace.
"It seems to me that for this country and for this culture and civilization, honesty is the best policy," said Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council.
Schenck called the outcry "a deliberate overreaction to produce a fiction which is that statements like this demoralize and impede the military from doing its duty."
"Good soldiers are good soldiers," he said, "and a few remarks like this whether it's about the heterosexual members of the military members who engage in adultery ... or whether Gen. Pace would've said something about prostitution, I am sure those soldiers would still fight and fight well."
Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, accused homosexual advocacy groups who oppose the ban on homosexuals of trying to use the military to advance a social and political agenda.
"Let's especially in a time of war ensure that our military, the men and women who serve in the armed forces, are not subject to social experimentation, a political agenda," he said.
Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America expressed no sympathy for people offended by Pace's comment. "What Gen. Pace did is a billion percent more important to the community than the sensitivities of a few sinners," he said. "I don't regret what he said and if these people are demoralized, let them leave the military."
Not all religious groups support Pace's outspokenness.
Dr. C. Welton Gaddy on Thursday issued a statement calling it a "shame that the highest-ranking military official in the country would base his argument for the policy on religious doctrine rather than military policy."
Gaddy is a Baptist preacher and the president of the Interfaith Alliance, a group that promotes "the positive and healing role of religion in public life by encouraging civic participation, facilitating community activism, and challenging religious political extremism," according to its website.
"Until now, the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy has always been justified by troop morale, not morality," Gaddy said. "General Pace should apologize for substituting his irrelevant personal beliefs for strategic advice."
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