Former Bishop Deconstructs Some Chaplains’ Complaints About Repealing DADT

Conservative groups argue that repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy would silence military chaplains and undermine their constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of religion. “If chaplains are forced to council same sex couples or are limited in the moral teachings that they can present, you can look for Orthodox Christian chaplains to exit the military, leaving an insurmountable void in the fostering of an environment that ensures that the man and women who wear the uniform are in their best mental, emotional and spiritual condition necessary to defend the nation and the ideals that they represent,” the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins explained back in April.

But 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 — argues 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).

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.

Presumably, these same chaplains have counseled soldiers against getting an abortion, even though it is perfectly legal to do so. Speaking against homosexuality is what gay and lesbian soldiers have come to expect from these brands of religious leaders. 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.

In other words, file this claim under “still can’t come up with an explanation of how same-sex marriage negatively affects straight people.” During the Prop 8 trial, “proponents in their trial brief promised to ‘demonstrate that redefining marriage to encompass same-sex relationships’ would effect some twenty-three specific harmful consequences,” but provided “no credible evidence to support any of the claimed adverse effects proponents promised to demonstrate.” When asked to identify the evidence at trial that supported this contention during closing arguments, “proponents’ counsel replied, ‘”you don’t have to have evidence of this point.’”


The lack of evidence about harm prompted Judge Walker to conclude, “Because the evidence shows same-sex marriage has and will have no adverse effects on society or the institution of marriage, California has no interest in waiting and no practical need to wait to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Proposition 8 is thus not rationally related to proponents’ purported interests in proceeding with caution when implementing social change.”

Robinson took one other swipe at the Chaplains who are complaining about ending DADT, “If chaplains can operate effectively in a war zone, surely they can withstand some subtle pressure to accept all soldiers as the children of God they were created to be,” he wrote.