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Military Chaplains on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

posted by Dillon Burroughs

images.jpgIn the buzz surrounding last week’s reports regarding the latest in the ongoing saga of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in the US military, one under-reported story are the views expressed by military chaplains.

To begin, we would expect chaplains to be more informed and likely more vocal regarding moral issues. This has certainly been the case on DADT. The recent Pentagon report stated, “Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell exists among the chaplains.”

Why? While the morality of homosexual service members is one issue, there is more to tell. According to retired Army Chaplain Brigadier Gen. Douglas Lee:

 “I fear and many others fear that down the road, knowing the other
agenda items that are on the plate of those promoting a homosexual
lifestyle, (there) would be a concern that chaplains would be restricted
from proclaiming their faith tenets.”

In talking with two military chaplains on this issue, this appears to be one of the major concerns. Their comments on DADT are not an issue of bigotry toward gays but rather a safeguarding of religious freedom.

Regardless of where the future of DADT is headed, one issue that must be addressed appropriately is the ability of military chaplains and people of faith to communicate their beliefs and practices freely within the military.

A Catholic chaplain must be able to retain the freedom to refuse communion to someone based on religious beliefs. A Protestant chaplain must have the freedom to speak from Romans 1 on sexuality without reprimand. A Muslim chaplain must have the ability to speak against promiscuity without reproof. Until then, any discussion of DADT is incomplete.

ACTION POINT: To encourage a military chaplain today, consider volunteering through a letter, gift, or other donation to the Military Chaplain Support Team.

+++
DILLON
BURROUGHS is an author, activist, and co-founder of Activist Faith.
Dillon served in Haiti following the epic 2010 earthquake and has
investigated modern slavery in the US and internationally. His books
include “Undefending Christianity,” “Not in My Town” (with Charles J.
Powell), and “Thirst No More” (October 2011). Discover more at
DillonBurroughs.org.



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nnmns

posted December 7, 2010 at 2:06 pm


“To begin, we would expect chaplains to be more informed and likely more vocal regarding moral issues.”
Vocal, maybe. But why more informed? And if they are doing their job, which is serving the troops, why would they even be talking about homosexuality?? Their job is not to divide our troops or our nation, or to sell their religion. It’s to counsel the troops about personal fears and problems and provide a non-divisive sunday (or whatever) service.
Some of these guys get big heads and think it’s about them. It’s not about them it’s about the troops, straight and gay, black and white and red and yellow, who put their lives on the line for us.
Get your head on straight Dillon.



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DB

posted December 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm


Thanks nnmns for your comment. To be clear, this not only about the troops involved, but also an issue of religious freedom. It is important to consider both aspects as this decision would impact the area of military chaplains and people of faith.



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nnmns

posted December 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm


Religious freedom is a good thing but when it tramples on the rights of other people to serve their country, if that particular religious freedom is so important to a chaplain he ought to find a different place to practice it. And I’d think the military would be better off without him.



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kenneth

posted December 7, 2010 at 4:40 pm


Chaplaincy is about service and putting others needs ahead of one’s own. It is not intended as a bully pulpit for one’s own views. There are plenty of people who hold racist views as part of their religious beliefs. In fact some white supremecist groups are incorporated as churches and their leaders hold credentials as “reverend.” Would the military have to accomodate their religious freedom to call minority soldiers members of a “lower race” and preach against mixing of the races? If not, why should we make that bend for those who have a problem with gays? If a member of Westboro Baptist somehow enters the chaplain corps, do we have to allow them to preside at military funerals so they can tell the fallen’s family their kid deserved to die because of their country’s wickedness?
If a chaplain concludes they can’t minister to gay soldiers, they should remove themselves from the service and find a more appropriate venue. Reasonable regulations could be worked out, but chaplains are not the bottom-line consideration in this, or they shouldn’t be. The focus should be on what’s best for our national defense and what is honorable. DADT is sleazy and dishonorable, and it very clearly undermines our readiness. There is no rational basis to believe that openly gay soldiers would harm our national defense, based on the long experience of the vast majority of our allies who have permitted it for years.



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DB

posted December 8, 2010 at 9:08 am


Kenneth, thanks for your comment. Interesting that a chaplain can express concern with particular aspects of serving gay soldiers, yet you can suggest chaplains resign if they have concerns. This seems like the same type of discrimination toward chaplains that you claim DADT provides to gay military personnel. I would think you would prefer more freedom for a variety of views, not exclusion of those who disagree with yours.



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jpChris

posted December 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm


Dear Jay,
I’m not always able to listen to your show, but I would like feedback in some form to my question:
“Would the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy have any kind of morality clause?”
The reason I ask is because the term “openly gay” conjures up images in my mind of the type of people I’ve seen in Gay Pride Parades — not exactly poster children for their cause to be seen as “just regular people.”
If I was of age to serve in the military and the guy next to me was openly “ogling” me in the shower, I’d feel mighty uncomfortable. And it would be even worse, in my mind, if I was in a combat situation with a “NAMBLA” soldier.
Also, would a soldier be able to quit the military on moral grounds (not conscientious objector)? In other words, if I was getting “hit on” by members of my squad, could I quit?



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Emily

posted December 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm


This strikes me as incredibly ironic. So, these military chaplains are concerned that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” would impune their rights to practice homophobia on a religious basis. I wonder how the men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day feel about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in regard to their first amendment rights.



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Frank

posted December 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm


Dillon,
You’re an ignorant bigoted little fool. Have you ever bothered to consider how your practice of your religion affects the lives of gays who live by your rules and don’t even have sex?
If you’re gay and non-practicing. The last person you can trust is some chaplain because a chaplains make their living by lying about you and inciting hatred against you. Their holy book calls you “cursed.” For two thousand years they’ve called you a child molester and used that lie to incite others to persecute you or even murder you.
Yet chaplains are the only ones who can speak confidentially to members of the service without being forced to violate that confidence.
Perhaps, you should rename your column “Terrorist Faith.”



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Aimee

posted December 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm


I agree with you Emily. While I think that the chaplains should be able to practice their religion without having to compromise, it seems to me that if they are so concerned about their own first amendment rights, they should be concerned with the first amendment rights of everyone. It seems a little bit disingenuous to say that the first amendment rights only are important for the military chaplains, but not for the homosexual men and women in uniform.
I wonder if the chaplains disapprove of DADT altogether, or if they would support the repeal of DADT so long as their religious freedoms are protected?



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Frank

posted December 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm


As an action point, if you are in the military and are gay or oppose DADT, give a chaplain who supports it his ration of shit.



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Frank

posted December 12, 2010 at 2:50 pm


There’s not much point in discussing it with Dillon. He’s best buds with Tim LaHaye, a Dominionist author who thinks gays with raise the Antichrist as their son.
Really. Everyone knows that Benedict XVI is the Antichrist.



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Aimee

posted December 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm


What Dillon believes is his own business. However, on important national issues such as DADT, it is important that people who disagree be able to engage in civil discourse about the issue at hand. Dillon seems to be more capable of that than several of the commenters on this blog. Much of the reason that progress is at a stalemate is because the opposing sides of the government are unwilling to listen to each other. Let’s all show a little respect.



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Frank

posted December 12, 2010 at 8:08 pm


Aimee,
Let’s discuss what Dillon has written about support for DADT.
Notice it takes no account of what the cost of DADT may be to gay or lesbian soldiers or marines.
Take a look at things from their point of view for a moment.
Let’s say you are in the military and you receive news that your husband is dead. What would it be like for you to have to keep your mourning a secret from all those around you? Say you want to discuss it with your chaplain. He turns you in for discharge because of his religious beliefs and those processing your discharge reveal details of your life you thought were confidential.
Here’s one that’s a little less hypothetical. Suppose a service member is drugged and raped, as happened in San Diego this year. The hospital treating the service member calls the Navy and discusses the medical case with representatives from the Navy. Navy officials leak the information to the sailors entire ship so that he can no longer work there. He gets raped a second time by the navy, and no one is ever punished for that.
Or how about the case of a young marine I know that was sexually blackmailed for being gay by a “straight” married officer. After being repeatedly raped by that married officer (coerced sex), that officer had him discharged. That marine was in 5 deployments including a nerve gas barrage during the invasion of Iraq. He’s suffering from severe PTSD and rapidly on his way to homelessness.
As for the Chaplain’s corps, they’re causing more than their share of misery to people actually fighting wars in multiple deployments. They and their supporters deserve a ration of sh$t.



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Aimee

posted December 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm


Frank, I agree with you that DADT should be repealed. I think it is a terrible, tragic policy. There is no question in my mind that DADT should be repealed…there is no need to try to convince me how terrible it is.
That said, it is important to be civil. Imagine how much could get done in congress if people were a little bit more civil and tolerant of each other’s differences. Imagine the progress that could be made if any suggestion presented by one party or the other weren’t deemed something “Hitler would do” by the other side. We are no better than the bigots if we call people names, tell others not to even try to discuss important issues with those who disagree with our point of view, and say that their spiritual leaders are the “Antichrist.” All it does is make them want to defeat us more. Instead of being divisive and judgmental of each other, we should try to find the littlest bit of common ground and compromise.



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Frank

posted December 12, 2010 at 11:18 pm


Aimee,
As for being nice, I started this battle at 13. I was very nice, and got very much abused for it. After 36 years of such abuse, I’m burnt out.
When a Catholic Supreme Court Justice (Antonin Scalia) says that because I’m gay I’m not entitled to the protections of the Fourteenth amendment including protection against extra-judicial execution (deprivation of life without due process), I stop being nice.



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Aimee

posted December 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm


I don’t blame you for being angry and I understand why you are burnt out. I just don’t think we need to stoop to their level. We are better than that. Maybe you don’t have to be nice…but be civil?



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sdgdsh

posted December 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm


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Your Name

posted February 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm


That a supposedly intelligent military chaplain actually believes there’s such a thing as the “homosexual lifestyle” bedazzles the mind – with B.S.
He (and YOU) should DO BETTER!



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Your Name

posted February 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm


DB,
“To be clear, this not only about the troops involved, but also an issue of religious freedom. It is important to consider both aspects as this decision would impact the area of military chaplains and people of faith.”
You don’t even address the religious freedom of the gay troops. In fact, it comes across as if you don’t believe gay troops are people of faith. Or can be.
Counselling is supposed to be impartial. As kenneth says above: “It is not intended as a bully pulpit for one’s own views.”
You said, “Interesting that a chaplain can express concern with particular aspects of serving gay soldiers, yet you can suggest chaplains resign if they have concerns.”
Yes. They’re supposed to offer unbiased counselling. If they can’t they SHOULD resign.
Also, “This seems like the same type of discrimination toward chaplains that you claim DADT provides to gay military personnel.”
CLAIM??? The discrimination against gay personnel is observable. There’ve been more than 13,000 well-trained, well-qualified personnel dismissed. And you have the gall to say we only “CLAIM” discrimination??? Open your eyes. And your heart.



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Your Name

posted February 11, 2011 at 1:36 pm


@jpChris:
“the term “openly gay” conjures up images in my mind of the type of people I’ve seen in Gay Pride Parades — not exactly poster children for their cause to be seen as “just regular people.”
Well, I am a “regular person”, and I have marched in many a Pride parade – under the banner of the Church I belong to, along with dozens of other faith groups, along with union members, family organizations, etc. Maybe you should take your (questionable) gaze elsewhere.
“If I was of age to serve in the military and the guy next to me was openly “ogling” me in the shower, I’d feel mighty uncomfortable.””And it would be even worse, in my mind, if I was in a combat situation with a “NAMBLA” soldier.”
You imply that gay people are the equivalent of child-molesters. Get. A. Clue. And stop the hateful lies.
“Also, would a soldier be able to quit the military on moral grounds (not conscientious objector)? In other words, if I was getting “hit on” by members of my squad, could I quit?”
Ask any female service member about getting “hit on” and you’d have your answer. The mmilitary needs brave and courageous people, not insecure cowards.



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