A group of anti-gay military chaplains are concerned that they will be “marginalized” by the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, because same-sex relationships will become normative. In a letter to the chiefs of chaplain, they express their dire concerns that marriages might take place in base chapels and that they will face a “hostile” environment for preaching against homosexuality. They even suggest they will be forced to “abandon their religious beliefs,” even though they acknowledge the military has made it clear their ability to practice their faith will not be jeopardy:
Of equally grave concern is the fact that chaplains are instructors of conscience. Chaplains have a tremendous moral responsibility to insure that when they preach, teach or counsel, they do so in accordance with their conscience and in harmony with the faith group by which they are endorsed. When guidance, however, is forthcoming from senior leadership that implies protected status for those who engage in homosexual behavior and normalizes same-sex unions in base chapels, any outside observe would conclude that both homosexuality and homosexual unions officiated as marriages in base chapels are normative. This creates an environment that is increasingly hostile to the many chaplains—and the service members they serve—whose faith groups and personal consciences recognize homosexual behavior as immoral and unsafe and do not permit same-sex unions.
For this reason, and particularly in light of the growing confusion regarding how DADT repeal will play out—indeed, we were told that issues like same-sex weddings were not a concern because of DOMA just months ago—we strongly encourage the adoption of broad, clear, and strong protections for conscience. No American, especially those serving in the armed forces, should be forced to abandon their religious beliefs or be marginalized for holding to those beliefs. It is not sufficient to posit, as the CRWG report did, that chaplains and service members remain free to exercise their faith in chapel services. Service members should know that chaplains’ ministry and their own rights of conscience remain protected everywhere military necessity has placed them. We hope that you will join us in urging DoD and Congress to adopt such specific and intentional conscience protections.
If the situation were a school where the principal said, “Students who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual will no longer have to hide their identities and we will all learn to treat them with respect,” a coalition of bullies might express a similar self-victimizing sentiment. They’re a part of the school, too, so why should they have to change their actions to accommodate this group they disapprove of?
The claims in the letter are absurd and completely ignore the actually hostile environment that LGB troops will surely face for years to come. And while military chaplains certainly should have freedom of conscience (a question that is not of concern), what good are they serving the military by actively promoting distrust and condemnation of LGB troops? That is essentially what they are pleading for in this letter: permission to continue reinforcing a hostile environment according to their own sense of “morality.”
If unit cohesion in any way resembles the productivity of an office or classroom, it’s safe to assume that special “conscience protections” for anti-gay chaplains will only serve to disrupt unit cohesion. Hostile environments in schools, universities, and offices lead to low productivity, performance, and recruitment/retention levels. Why would the military be any different?
The chaplains conclude their letter praying for the “health and prosperity of the entire chaplain body” with a call to work together in the spirit of “cooperation without compromise.” Basically, they want what they want and they feel their needs should come before those of the troops. Hopefully, that’s exactly how the the chiefs of chaplains read it.