Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Chaplains v. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The Defense Department’s superb report
on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell includes an interesting contrast between the
racial integration of the U.S. military in the late 1940s and early
1950s and the current homosexual integration. Then, when the military
was out in front of the rest of the country, the chaplaincy corps was
strongly supportive of integration. Now, many military chaplains
“express opposition in religious terms to
allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.”
What’s changed? Back then, most military chaplains were mainline
Protestants and Catholic clergy whose racial views were at the liberal
end of the spectrum. Today, the chaplaincy is dominated by white
evangelicals–the only religious grouping in America opposed
to gays serving in the military. Of course, it would be
unacceptable–indeed, a violation of the Establishment Clause–for the
government to allow DADT to continue on religious grounds.


Unsurprisingly, DADT supporters in the military would like to wrap
themselves in the Free Exercise Clause–as in the following statement
quoted in the report:

“If the state favors the demands of the homosexual
activists over the First Amendment, it is only a matter of time before
the military censors the religious expression of its chaplains and
marginalizes denominations that teach what the Bible says about
homosexual behavior.”

But chaplains are not obliged to serve in the military, and
their religious rights are not the same as they would be if they were
civilians. They are hired by the government to serve the free exercise
needs of those in uniform.


Those chaplains who told the drafters of the report that they “would
refuse to in any way support, comfort, or assist someone they knew to be
homosexual” should seek another place of employment. As the report
properly declares, if DADT is repealed, the DOD must “direct the
Services to reiterate the principle that chaplains, in the context of
their religious ministry, are not required to take actions inconsistent
with their religious beliefs, but must still care for all Service
members. Evaluation, promotion, and assignment of chaplains must
continue to be consistent with these long-standing Service policies.”
Tension between evangelical chaplains and the military is longstanding,
as historian Anne Loveland has demonstrated in her book, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 1942-1993.
The persistent impulse to proselytize has always been at odds with the
requirement that chaplains respect the spiritual needs of those whose
beliefs differ from their own. The idea that some would refuse to help a
known homosexual is no less unacceptable.


What’s disturbing is not that there should be a significant number of
chaplains who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. It’s that they
should fail to grasp that their desire to promote an anti-homosexual
viewpoint is an inappropriate basis for keeping gays in the military
closet. In a country where anti-sodomy laws have been declared
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, where many states and
municipalities prohibit discrimination against gays, where civil unions
and same-sex marriages are increasingly the law of the land, and where
Americans by a more than 2-1 majority support the right of homosexuals
to serve openly in the military, the readiness of chaplains to impose
their minority morality betrays a strange, sectarian view of the
country’s armed forces.

Comments read comments(2)
post a comment
Grumpy Old Person

posted December 2, 2010 at 11:49 am

“If the state favors the demands of the homosexual activists” could be turned around to say, “If the state favors the demands of the white evangelical activists”.
Why do religious supremacists feel they must force their tenets on ALL others who may well NOT be members of their particular (peculiar?) denominations?
Get you religion off OUR laws, say I. Or, do they hate freedom of religion THAT much?

report abuse

Robert Hagedorn

posted December 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Do a search: The First Scandal.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

Another Blog To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Religion and Public Life. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Latest News Story on Beliefnet Happy Reading!   ...

posted 3:10:11pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

The Ayn Rand Republicans
I confess to feeling a little bit queasy about the American Values Network's new video hoisting Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Rand Paul, Rush Limbaugh, and other GOP luminaries on the petard of Ayn Rand and her atheistic philosophy of objectivism. Take a ...

posted 7:13:30pm May. 24, 2011 | read full post »

Whither evangelicals?
I'm fully prepared to believe that Mitch Daniels' family proved to be the unleapable hurdle in his abortive run-up to the GOP presidential race. Imagine yourself as wife Cheri, having split for the coast to marry on old flame, your husband and ...

posted 9:19:56am May. 23, 2011 | read full post »

No more "social conservatives"
With the presidential election cycle getting up to speed, it's time for reporters and yakkers like me to stop writing about "social conservatives" as if they were an identifiable segment of the voting population. I say this as someone who has ...

posted 8:25:11am May. 20, 2011 | read full post »

So clerical celibacy was not the problem?
Those on the Catholic left are not very happy that the Jay Report declines in no uncertain terms to blame clerical celibacy for the sexual abuse crisis. As the report puts it: Factors that remained consistent over this time period, such as ...

posted 9:50:34am May. 19, 2011 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.