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Chaplains Offered Exit Plan as Gay Training Starts

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Army has started training chaplains on the repeal of the ban on openly gay military members, saying those who are unable to follow the forthcoming policy can seek a voluntary departure.

“The Chaplains Corps’ First Amendment freedoms and its duty to care for all will not change,” reads a slide in the PowerPoint presentation, released to Religion News Service Thursday (March 24). “Soldiers will continue to respect and serve with others who may hold different views and beliefs.”

Critics familiar with the Army presentation, however, say the military is essentially telling chaplains who are theologically conservative that they are not welcome.

“U.S. Army now warning chaplains: If you don’t like the homosexual agenda, get out!” reads a headline on the website of Mass Resistance, an anti-gay group based in Waltham, Mass.


President Obama signed a law repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell last December, but the new policy will not take effect until 60 days after Obama and military leaders are assured that it will not harm military readiness.

Lt. Col. Carleton Birch, a spokesman for the Army chief of chaplains, said about half of the military service’s 2,900 chaplains have received the training, which started in February and is likely to conclude in April.

“Our training is an opportunity for our senior chaplains to have an honest and open conversation about the repeal policy, its effects on them and their ministry,” Birch said. “And it’s going very well. … In no way are we giving the message, shape up or ship out.”


Birch said only one Army chaplain has left the service over the pending repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent group that strongly opposes gays serving openly in the military, predicts more departures when the policy is lifted.

“The training is engaging in a form of strategic deception,” she said. “I think active-duty people are being reassured nothing will change. That is an unrealistic expectation.”

Donnelly, whose center received the presentation from a source and has distributed it among supporters, hopes an upcoming House subcommittee hearing will address questions about the effects of the policy change on chaplains.


“Many may be saying that now they will not leave voluntarily,” she said, “but that doesn’t account for those who would be forced out involuntarily when all of these conflicts become more apparent.”

The Army slides include various vignettes, including a soldier who complains after a chaplain calls homosexuality a sin during a chapel service. Notes that accompany the presentation specify that sermons cannot be restricted “even with regard to socially controversial topics.”

Birch said the vignette does not represent any change in policy.

“In my 23 years as a soldier in the Army, I’ve never heard a sermon specifically on homosexuality,” he said. “So even though they have the right to do that, that doesn’t mean that it’s going on every Sunday in our chapels.”


The other military services also have begun training of chaplains, with the Navy starting in February and planning to complete it by June. The Air Force started its training in March and hopes to finish by May.

Maj. Joel Harper, a spokesman for the Air Force, said none of that military service’s 520 active-duty chaplains has asked to leave over the expected repeal. He called the training “informative in nature” about how the policy changes will affect them.

“It is not an attempt to change anyone’s opinion about the subject,” he said.

– ADELLE M. BANKS, Religion News Service

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mordred08

    Somebody on the Internet: “U.S. Army now warning chaplains: If you don’t like the homosexual agenda, get out!”

    I prefer “It’s time to decide if you love your country more than you hate the Pink Menace.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    It’s good that they are being instructed to preach whatever they want to preach, after all that’s our right in America. You cannot change a persons opinion, they have to do that. I’m satisfied that our country is at last treating our Gay troops with the same dignity afforded the Americans they are.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    will open homosexuality have an negative affect on our military? Most actual battle experts think yes it is an added dimension to a already strained occupation. I cannot imagine any chaplain from any faith saying anything noble about homosexuality I think most will just avoid the fact that both the bible and Koran have nothing positive to say about the activity.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    cknuck, you still here? The Bible and the Koran have nothing positive to say about using computers either. But there you are.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Two other points:

    If those chaplains who are so full of hate leave the military the military will be improved.

    Beliefnet now would be a good time to remove reference to those bloggers who used to be here but have left. They are not here. Let them, and references to them, go.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment ce6

    If any chaplain is so homophobic as to quit due to the repeal of DADT, rather than serve their duty to protect ALL Americans, I say let them with a full DIShonorable discharge.
    No sense letting them keep retired service member benefits when they willingly walk away from the job just because they got scared someone might think they were cute.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment alexanderthegreatwasqueer

    Nah, nah, nah,
    Nah, nah, nah,
    hey, hey,

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Gwyddion9

    My honest, my thought in this matter is simply if a chaplain is in conflict with their personal beliefs, they should find other employment. Chaplains are there to serve the military men and women, regardless of their sexual orientation. If becoming a chaplain was done with ulterior motives, such as joining so they can proselytize, they don’t need to be a chaplain. Besides, if a gay man or woman wants to serve their country and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation, the least that should be done is allow them to openly serve and maintain their honor and personal dignity and integrity!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    There’s an article in Salon written by a minister who saw the light on homosexuality. Perhaps it would be of valuable for some other religious workers here.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    nnmns why shouldn’t I still be here, lol because of you? lol
    the bible and the Koran does speak of homosexuality and not once is it positive about the practice.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    yeah ce6 that makes sense penalize the faithful for standing up for their beliefs and make it law everyone should have religious views that are pro-homosexual. that’s the ticket.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mordred08

    cknuck: “yeah ce6 that makes sense penalize the faithful for standing up for their beliefs”

    Is that really all that different from when the military penalized homosexuals for their beliefs? The only difference I see is that you guys need to feel like you’re suffering for your beliefs, or you think maybe you’re doing something wrong. I can’t speak for all LGBTs, but being attacked for my orientation doesn’t improve my self esteem.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment ce6

    (if this is a double-post, my apologies, I’m having a bit of trouble with the comments section today)

    cknuck: Way to go deliberately twisting the meaning of my comment to fit your narrow-minded wannabe martyrdom bias.
    I did not call for a witch-hunt (something Christians know how to do all too well), nor did I dictate a compulsory belief system that MUST be followed uniformly (something ELSE Christians seem to enjoy).

    What I stated was, SHOULD a religious individual find that their personal bigotry prevented them from fulfilling their commitments to the COUNTRY, they should receive the SAME treatment as any other individual who abdicates their responsibility to our nation’s armed forces. Trying to use their belief system as a shield to protect their personal bias and avoid having to grow as a human should not merit them SPECIAL protections under the law or rules of proper behavior.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Grumpy Old Person

    No more SPECIAL rights for homophobic religionisti.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rob the Rev

    I hope all the fundi extremest chaplains do leave so that there can be freedom of religion and separation of church and state once again in our military.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jeff

    MasRisistance is a SPLC recognized hate group. Why Beliefnet is even mentioning a known hate group is beyond me.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    grump no special rights for homosexuals no same sex marriage.
    Mordred I am so happy you admit it is a belief because there is no better proven explanation.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Grumpy Old Person

    You may well think that being treated equally before the law is a “special right” reserved only for you betterosexuals, (and yes, equality IS “special”), but you are wrong. The Constitution says so.

    Delusional as usual, I see.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mordred08

    cknuck, I’m trying a strategy that’s worked so well for Christians. You guys don’t want to trust the medical and psychiatric communities when it comes to us. So I figure if we call homosexuality a belief, you guys have to stop discriminating against us because it’s a violation of our freedom of religion if you don’t.

    Also, remember back during the Proposition Straight campaign in California when Christians were insisting that the queer mafia would force schools to “teach gay marriage”? I think we should do that, as soon as we figure out what the hell “teaching gay marriage” means. We can call it “teaching the controversy”. How does that sound?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    the constitution says nothing about homosexuality grump and not everything is equal. Although people are equal habits are not

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Grumpy Old Person

    You’re correct, ck, but it says a LOT about EQUALITY. And you just seem to hate that it does.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    If a chaplain can’t cut it when it comes to helping ALL service members regardless of sexual orientation, then they really should leave. A person doesn’t join the military to be shot at for their country after some thought ( I hope it is never done on a whim), and if that person happens to be gay–so what? Don’t they breath, and bleed and feel and have emotions just like heterosexuals? Yes.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    no grump but I do hate it when people like you try to pervert it, there is nothing equal about same sex couple and heterosexual couples, there are some big differences

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