Conservative military chaplains have opposed repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so frequently and vociferously this year that I’ve devoted an entire tag to explaining why their warnings of a mass exodus of Christian chaplains and soliders is overblown. But their frequent outings (pun intended) didn’t stop the Associated Press from running a story detailing their latest stunt. Titled, “Retired chaplains warn against ‘don’t ask’ repeal” the article breathlessly reports on a letter the chaplains sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, regurgitating the very same claims the chaplains have been making all year — only now, they’re standing on the AP’s soap box rather than in the event room of Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council. From the AP story:
Dozens of retired military chaplains say that serving both God and the U.S. armed forces will become impossible for chaplains whose faiths consider homosexuality a sin if the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is thrown out.
If a chaplain preaches against homosexuality, he could conceivably be disciplined as a bigot under the military’s nondiscrimination policy, the retired chaplains say. The Pentagon, however, says chaplains’ religious beliefs and their need to express them will be respected.
Clergy would be ineligible to serve as chaplains if their churches withdraw their endorsements, as some have threatened to do if “don’t ask, don’t tell” ends. Critics of allowing openly gay troops fear that clergy will leave the service or be forced to find other jobs in the military that don’t involve their faiths.
“The bottom line is religious freedom,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. Douglas Lee, one of 65 former chaplains who signed a letter urging President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to keep “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
In a recent Letter to the Editor published in USA Today, Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson — the first openly gay priest elected bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion — writes that this argument “raises needless fears based on a flawed understanding of the policies that govern the military chaplaincy.“
“These policies are designed to preserve and protect the free exercise of religion in the military and would remain in effect after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT),” he notes. “No Roman Catholic, fundamentalist Christian or Orthodox Jewish chaplain would have to change her or his beliefs about homosexuality. If any gay or lesbian servicemembers went to one of these chaplains, they would still receive the counseling against homosexuality they have always received. What they wouldn’t receive is a discharge from their military service for being gay and speaking about it.” “Within each chaplain’s congregation, he or she will continue to be free to preach according to the tenets of his or her own faith. That will not change,” he says.
Fortunately, many military chaplains support repealing the ban. “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,” said Captain John F. Gundlach, a retired Chaplain of the U.S. Navy. HRC has more on the broad coalition of faith leaders who support repeal here.