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JSC Chairman Says Homosexual Acts Immoral

Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Chicago Tribune that the ban on gays on the military must be kept because homosexual acts are immoral.

Responding to a question about a Clinton-era policy that is coming under renewed scrutiny amid fears of future U.S. troop shortages, Pace said the Pentagon should not “condone” immoral behavior by allowing gay soldiers to serve openly. He said his views were based on his personal “upbringing,” in which he was taught that certain types of conduct are immoral. “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior,” Pace said.

While quite impolitic a thing to say in our current political climate, it’s hardly surprising that Pace finds homosexual acts immoral. He’s a deeply religious man and his views are almost surely shared by not only most of the senior brass but most of the rank-and-file. From a purely rational point of view, though, I’m not quite sure how consensual homosexual acts are akin to adultery, which harms an unwilling third party. Or why they’re any less moral than heterosexual fornication from a Biblical standpoint.

(I also find the use of quotation marks around single words like “condone” and “upbringing” funny. It’s as if the reporter disputes his claim that he had an upbringing.)

Taylor Marsh, noting that the military is now willing to grant waivers for minor crimes in order to meet recruiting quotas, observes, “It says something about our nation that we’d rather recruit thugs than an honorable gay person who wants to serve his or her country.” She has video of Pace’s remarks.

John Aravosis thinks Pace’s morality meter needs some readjusting:

No, I’d say “immoral” is letting our own injured and maimed soldiers sleep in their own urine when you all knew about it and didn’t give a damn. Immoral is lying to the American people in order to get us into a war. Immoral is sending hundreds of thousands of US soldiers into battle without the proper armor. Immoral is risking the lives of our soldiers by still not having a plan for victory or exit.

In fairness, I don’t think Pace is guilty of any of those things. But, certainly, you’d think he’d have bigger things on his mind. Then again, he was simply answering a question; there’s no evidence of which I’m aware that he’s stepping up enforcement.

Pam Spaulding is organizing a letter campaign to force Pace to resign.

Which may be playing into Pace’s hand, according to Jim Henley‘s “Corporal Klinger” theory.

I bet Pace is hoping that the liberal media drive him into retirement. He slips the chain of Iraq dragging him down to the muddy bottom of Posterity Ocean, escapes from having to lead a foolish war against Iran, he can play the victim-of-PC card and have a nice second career as a right wing poster boy, maybe run for Senate on a “Traditional Values and They Wouldn’t Let Me Win the War” platform.

My guess, though, was that he was giving an honest answer to a question. His response is one that wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow ten years ago.

It should be noted, too, that Pace didn’t say “I hate gays” or even “gays are immoral” but rather that homosexual conduct is immoral. Like it or not, that’s probably where most religious Americans–which is to say most Americans–are. That’s rapidly changing, owing to positive portrayal of gays in the popular culture and more “out” gays in society, but Pace’s remarks hardly make him a leftover bigot from a bygone era.

Now, more than ever, the military is a traditional society. It’s all-volunteer, so its membership is self-selected. It’s also disproportionately Southern and rural. Institutionally, morality, honor, and traditional values are highly touted, taught during the earliest training and selection phases, and reinforced throughout one’s career. (Although situational deviations are permissible. Use of prostitutes when assigned to hardship tours in Korea, for example, is not frowned upon.) That’s not going to change any time soon.

At the same time, soldiers live in and are drawn from the society at large. As homosexuality becomes more normalized in the general culture, young recruits and young officers will come in with those attitudes. (Although, again, there will be a lag because of the traditional orientation of those drawn to military service.) It won’t happen overnight, though.

UPDATE: Pace has issued a statement expressing regret for expressing his personal views but not apologizing for them.

In a statement Tuesday, he said he should have focused more in the interview on the Defense Department policy about gays — and “less on my personal moral views.” He did not offer an apology, something that had been demanded by gay rights groups.

Good. I’m getting tired of insincere apologies from politicians, sports stars, and other high profile figures. The man said what he meant and he should stick by it.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. March 2006 February 2006 [IMG Outside The Beltway | OTB] Al-Qaeda Propaganda Production at New High Conservatives, Progressives, and Perception Death of News Reporting? U.S. Attorney Firing Scandal JSC Chairman Says Homosexual Acts Immoral Is Content King Online? Caption Contest Winners Congress, Bush Mum on Earmarks The Return of EconoPundit Beltway Traffic Jam [IMG OTB Sports] Not Even Jesus Can Save the Lakers Let the Madness Commence

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  2. because they were honest. Once we get those honest personal beliefs out there we can honestly address them. For example, Pace says there’s a moral equivalence between adultery and homosexual acts (thankfully, James Joyner is among those who disagree). Does he then want to disqualify adulterers for military service? Let’s have that debate. Here’s video of Pace’s remarks.

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  3. Gen. Pace calls homosexuality immoral

    The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday he considers homosexuality to be immoral and t…

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  4. It should be noted, too, that Pace didn’t say “I hate gays” or even “gays are immoral” but rather that homosexual conduct is immoral.

    The problem with people like Pace is that they cannot distinguish the person from the act. Now, while I cannot know his mind, there’s little doubt in my mind that he thinks gay people are immoral.

    If he had said Jews or Muslims are immoral – or rather, that what they practice freely is immoral – he’d be out on his ass so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

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  5. legion says:

    My guess, though, was that he was giving an honest answer to a question. His response is one that wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow ten years ago.

    I agree – I’m sure he was simply being honest. But I double-dog dare someone to bring it up the next time he and Cheney are standing at the podium together.

    And before I get flamed, let me just point out that it’s one thing to toe the party line that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service”; it’s another thing altogether to state that homosexual conduct is flatly immoral. In fact, it’s quite bigoted, and also hypocritical.

    “As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior,” Pace said.

    Really, General Pace? Does that also apply to 2-star generals, or do they just get to resign?

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  6. Boyd says:

    In the military culture, being forced to give up two paygrades and retire, especially for a flag/general officer, is a lot of punishment. Sorry if that doesn’t meet your personal standard, legion.

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  7. Andy says:

    It’s just wonderful that our military leadership is more afraid of gays than terrorists.

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  8. Bandit says:

    It’s just wonderful that our military leadership is more afraid of gays than terrorists.

    What a well thought out ans sensible response. Tell me when the GWOG starts.

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  9. Triumph says:

    It should be noted, too, that Pace didn’t say “I hate gays” or even “gays are immoral” but rather that homosexual conduct is immoral. Like it or not, that’s probably where most religious Americans—which is to say most Americans—are.

    James, first of all the issue here is that Peter Pace isn’t just some random religious nut–he has a high-ranking management position in the country’s largest bureaucracy.

    Pace wasn’t simply responding to a question about his personal view on homosexuality, but rather rationalizing a PUBLIC policy.

    Whether individuals “condone” homosexual “acts” is not the issue–the issue is using weird religious beliefs as the basis for public discrimination.

    I am not sure where you are getting these myths that “most Americans are against homosexual conduct.”

    On the issue of public discrimination, the public is OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Gallup’s poll last May showed 89% supporting equal rights in the workplace.

    Furthermore, the same poll indicated that 54% support the contention that homosexuality is “an acceptable lifestyle.”

    http://www.galluppoll.com/content/default.aspx?ci=1651

    Pace is an extremist and an idiot. We live in a secular society–if he can’t separate his weird irrational beliefs with his ability to run a bureaucracy he should be sacked.

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  10. legion says:

    Sorry if that doesn’t meet your personal standard, legion.

    You’re goddamn right it doesn’t. Did you check the link?

    The punishment comes just months after an anonymous complaint against Fiscus prompted an investigation that unearthed 13 “unprofessional relationships” over 10 years. The Air Force inspector general found that Fiscus was involved in relationships with — or had made inappropriate sexual advances toward — female subordinates both at the officer and enlisted level, as well as civilians.

    According to an Air Force news release, the incidents involved six active-duty judge advocates, two paralegals, one civilian Defense Department employee and four other civilians.

    If any captain or NCO had done that, they wouldn’t be retiring at any grade. They’d be in prison. period. But senior officers have long had the misguided impression that if they actually admit that generals commit crimes, and treat them like criminals when they do, that that would be somehow worse for the service that this sort of hollow mockery of justice.

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  11. James Joyner says:

    Furthermore, the same poll indicated that 54% support the contention that homosexuality is “an acceptable lifestyle.”

    Uh, only 56% in that same poll thought homosexual conduct should even be legal. 40% thought it should actually be against the law!

    I’m actually surprised how little the numbers have moved over the 30 years of the poll. I’d have guessed there would have been a tremendous pro-gay surge, to be honest.

    We live in a secular society—if he can’t separate his weird irrational beliefs with his ability to run a bureaucracy he should be sacked.

    His “weird irrational beliefs” correspond exactly to the long-extant policy.

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  12. Director Mitch says:

    Every monotheistic religion calls homosexual acts immoral, as well as adultery. We also as a society call incest and polygamy immoral, but I don’t see calls for allowing these things in the military either.

    The reaction of Triumph and others is typical. Those who lay down their morals are attacked for their views, but that isn’t new to those who call out right from wrong.

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  13. LJD says:

    The Armed Services are not 9 to 5 jobs, and they don’t follow the same rules as Corporate America- rightfully so.

    Sex of any sort has no place in the military. Troops are punished for it all the time. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell works. It is not discriminatory because as long as their personal life is kept private- as with all the other heterosexual troops- they cannot be denied “employment”.

    You ask someone their opinion- they’re bound to give it to you. Is it really a surprise that the Joint Chiefs would support a standing policy?

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  14. James Joyner says:

    If he had said Jews or Muslims are immoral – or rather, that what they practice freely is immoral – he’d be out on his ass so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

    But those aren’t the same thing, are they? Jews and Muslim are defined by a belief system and/or ethnicity; gays are defined exclusively in terms of sexual preference.

    If a religion believed in, say, bestiality, few would object to expressing the opinion that that facet of said religion was immoral.

    Many high officials have condemned various Muslim-motivated acts, too. We currently have a “war” against Islamist inspired terrorism.

    Obviously, I’m not saying homosexual sodomy are tantamount to bestiality or murder. But many religious folks don’t distinguish within the continuum of sin: It’s either moral or it isn’t.

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  15. Andy says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

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  16. anselm says:

    If you are really going to look more closely at the moral continuum (as JJ suggests) then look too at Pace’s reasoning that allowing soldiers known to be gay would condone immoral behavior.

    Why would it be insufficient to ban hmosexual acts within the scope of military service and leave it at that? AFAIK sex under many (any?) circumstances is banned within the scopoe of service already. It is the attack on those identified as gay that goes further than the ban on adultery etc. It takes it beyond behavior to the level of identity, and THAT is where it is just plain irrational to hamstring the military this way (and mire them in moral politics).

    Does the military also discharge a soldier who let sit slip that he is attracted to a woman other than his wife? Of course not. Adultery (as defined by the MCJ) is behavior, and parity would suggest that any ban on homosexuality tshould be limited to behavior as well, not status.

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  17. Triumph says:

    The reaction of Triumph and others is typical. Those who lay down their morals are attacked for their views, but that isn’t new to those who call out right from wrong.

    Mitch, the problem with his “morals” is that they are directly contradictory to the secular and individualist philosophy that underlies our democratic system.

    Uh, only 56% in that same poll thought homosexual conduct should even be legal. 40% thought it should actually be against the law!

    James, I linked to that poll to question your statement that “most Americans” share the view of Pace that homosexual actions are “immoral.”

    Im not a statistician, but I am confident that 56% supporting legality, 54% saying that it is “acceptable” and 89% against employment discrimination is clearly NOT consonant with your contention.

    Of course–the main issue here is Pace’s support of employment discrimination, which puts him WAAAY out of the mainstream. I dont care if he believes that there are elephants on Mars or homosexual conduct is immoral–it’s when policymakers use their crazy beliefs to guide action in the public sphere where it is a problem.

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  18. cian says:

    gays are defined exclusively in terms of sexual preference.

    By who exactly, James. Most intelligent, mature adults now accept that we have little choice over our sexual orientation, how we live that sexual reality is what matters- open and honestly or, like Ted Haggart, with lies and hypocrisy.

    As someone who actively supports and works on behalf of an administration that condones and practices torture, General Pace would be wise to look a little closer at his own morals.

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  19. legion says:

    By who exactly, James. Most intelligent, mature adults now accept that we have little choice over our sexual orientation, how we live that sexual reality is what matters- open and honestly or, like Ted Haggart, with lies and hypocrisy.

    Indeed, cian, you raise an interesting point. I know some will argue, but let’s assume for the moment that everyone agrees sexual preference is driven by genetics – it’s something you’re born with & not subject to outside influence.

    If he had said Jews or Muslims are immoral – or rather, that what they practice freely is immoral – he’d be out on his ass so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

    But those aren’t the same thing, are they? Jews and Muslim are defined by a belief system and/or ethnicity; gays are defined exclusively in terms of sexual preference.

    To take the redictio ad absurdum path, bear in mind that religion is _not_ genetic. It’s entirely selected by choice and/or upbringing. This would make it far more sensible to bar people of certain religions (Islam, say?) than homosexuals, since religion (and behavior in accord with one’s religion) is entirely by choice.

    As Anselm and LJD (with whom I largely agree, tho I’m not sure I’d say DADT “works”, or this wouldn’t be such a hot-button issue) point out – inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior – regardless of the genders involved. Inappropriate thoughts, on the other hand, are nobody’s damn business.

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  20. Director Mitch says:

    I find it funny people who want to overturn the no gays policy (liberals) are the last ones wanting to serve in the military, are the ones driving the military off campus, attacking recruiters, wanting to defund the troops in the field, etc.

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  21. James Joyner says:

    Pace’s support of employment discrimination, which puts him WAAAY out of the mainstream.

    The poll doesn’t ask about homosexual discrimination by the military. I suspect people would oppose discrimination against paraplegics even more than against gays but would still support it in the case of the military.

    By who exactly, James. Most intelligent, mature adults now accept that we have little choice over our sexual orientation

    Poisoning the well aside, I don’t disagree. I’m using “preference” and “orientation” interchangeably here.

    This would make it far more sensible to bar people of certain religions (Islam, say?) than homosexuals, since religion (and behavior in accord with one’s religion) is entirely by choice.

    Aside from the fact that one (religion) is protected by the 1st Amendment while the other (sexual orientation) is not, I’m not sure I follow. Whether it’s innate makes a difference in judging its morality, I suppose, but all manner of undesirable behavior is likely hard wired chemically or genetically and still punished.

    And, again, Pace is talking about conduct not orientation. (Although the current policy bars open admission of homosexual orientation.)

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  22. Andy says:

    Ah, I see, it’s only within site policy to compare homosexuality with bestiality.

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  23. James Joyner says:

    Ah, I see, it’s only within site policy to compare homosexuality with bestiality.

    Site policies allow refutation of arguments, not attacks on commenters.

    And there was no equation of homosexuality and bestiality, merely argument by analogy.

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  24. LaurenceB says:

    Believing that homosexuality is morally wrong… No Problem.

    Wanting to establish public policy based on that belief… Problem.

    Many religions still teach that masturbation is morally wrong. Perhaps Gen. Pace agrees. How many soldiers would meet that moral standard? Think about it.

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  25. Andy says:

    That’s incredibly weak, James.

    You are obviously comparing homosexuality and bestiality, just by mentioning them together.

    Why not compare homosexuality to eating shrimp, or any number of other Old Testament sins? Geez, maybe because you’re trying to lump homosexuality in with bestiality. It’s as simple as that. What makes it worse is that you follow your smear against gays by saying, “but I really don’t mean to compare them to dog-molesters, even though I just did.”

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  26. anselm says:

    And, again, Pace is talking about conduct not orientation.

    Actually no. He defends the exclusion of gays based on their status, with the explanation that the conduct is immoral. There is a some slippage of reason (and consequently justice) in that sleight of hand reasoning.

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  27. cian says:

    I find it funny people who want to overturn the no gays policy (liberals) are the last ones wanting to serve in the military,

    Perhaps DM. But I imagine there are many liberals serving in the military in Iraq today. What is certain however is that most of the present administration and its supporters refused to fight for their country when their country called- Cheney, Rove, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, Guiliani, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner,Romney, Gingrich, Limbaugh, O Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, Goldberg and on and on and…

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  28. Tlaloc says:

    Pace is certainly entitled to his opinion, but such a statement from a ranking officer on the record to a major newspaper gives a sense of official position to the sentiment and that is troubling. If the government objection to gays in the military is actually based upon “morality” rather than practicality it should be dropped. Immediately. Morality, particularly religious based morality is not the domain of the government.

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  29. James Joyner says:

    Believing that homosexuality is morally wrong… No Problem. Wanting to establish public policy based on that belief… Problem.

    Morality, particularly religious based morality is not the domain of the government.

    Much, if not most, public policy is based on judgments of morality.

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  30. But those aren’t the same thing, are they? Jews and Muslim are defined by a belief system and/or ethnicity; gays are defined exclusively in terms of sexual preference.

    Actually, in terms of how Pace might characterize them, it is the same thing. Religion is freely chosen. In Pace’s mind, gay sex is an act that is freely chosen. Both religious practice and gay sex are freely chosen behaviors. In order for him to be a good Christian, he has to believe that Jewish and Islamic rejection of Christ as messiah is immoral and unacceptable.

    Obviously, he hasn’t spoken out against Jews and Muslims in the military. In fact, I would suggest there are probably more soldiers wary of their Muslim commrades, and Muslims wary of their fellow Jewish servicemembers that any of them are about gay people.

    What would having openly gay soldiers do to unit cohesion that having a Muslim fighting alongside you in Iraq wouldn’t?

    Personally, I would say one is as irrational as the other. But so far, I haven’t seen any gay soldiers throwing grenades into tents.

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  31. cian says:

    It strikes me that in today’s America, particularly on the right, gay men and women have come to occupy the same place jews occupy in the middle east, everyone’s hate figures, out to destroy the healthy heart of a functioning society. Edwards looks gay so he’s suspect, his motives ulterior and yes, at the end of the day, perhaps evil (jews want to drink our children’s blood and gays to corrupt and groom them).

    While most of us shake our heads in bewilderment when we hear the likes of Dobson, Perkins, Savage, Coulter, Limbaugh, and others spout their hate, they all have large followings as well as significant influence in the halls of power. They may not be there yet, but we have a fair idea of where they would like to take America, and its not good.

    First they came for the gays…

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  32. James Joyner says:

    It strikes me that in today’s America, particularly on the right, gay men and women have come to occupy the same place jews occupy in the middle east, everyone’s hate figures, out to destroy the healthy heart of a functioning society.

    Huh? Really?

    Is there a Middle Eastern “Will and Grace” with Jews?

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  33. Bandit says:

    First they came for the gays…

    Other than in your paranoid fantasies, who’s coming for gays?

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  34. cian says:

    As I said James, we’re not there yet but you can be certain in the America Dobson envisions there will be no ‘Will and Grace’. My point is that every totalitarian state needs a scapegoat- pre-2nd world war Germany and today’s Saudi Arabia.

    The Christian Right’s fixation with gay people and their lifestyle echos this to such an extent that we would be foolish to dismiss it out of hand. Millions of jews stayed on in Germany believing their fellow country men would come to their senses. Anything else was unimaginable. Lets imagine.

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  35. cian says:

    Bandit,

    I’m glad to know you are not a fan of Michael Savage, a radio host with a listenership of over 6 million. His hatred for gay people is quite something, and his popularity is growing all the time.

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  36. floyd says:

    Here we go again, the left preaching tolerance, while DEMANDING the blood of anyone who disagrees with them!
    Coercion and domination prove once again to be the engines of social change.Conformity, as always, at gun point!
    Who are the real hypocrites Mr. legion?

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  37. floyd says:

    Cian; Superb Hyperbole!! BRAVO!!!
    Though totally devoid of foundation,it exquisitely combined fugue and cacophony to an ecstatic level!

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  38. Bithead says:

    Think about this for just a moment; if he had come out strongly pro homosexual, and addressed it as being his personal moral position on the matter, how would it be now, with those demanding an apology from Pace? My guess is, they wouldn’t be heard from.

    Nah. Nothing political going on here, huh?

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  39. BlameBush! says:

    Four-Star Homophobe Slanders Gay, Babykilling Troops…

    Gen. Peter Pace’s bigoted remark that homosexual behavior is “immoral” was not only an obvious jab at John Edwards, but a Pattonesque slap in the faces of the 65,000 gay, babykilling troops who are currently slaughtering innocents in Iraq. Pace…

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  40. Bandit says:

    I’m glad to know you are not a fan of Michael Savage, a radio host with a listenership of over 6 million. His hatred for gay people is quite something, and his popularity is growing all the time.

    Which has what to do with what? If you believe the nation is becoming less accepting of homosexuality then you’re delusional.

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  41. Think about this for just a moment; if he had come out strongly pro homosexual, and addressed it as being his personal moral position on the matter, how would it be now, with those demanding an apology from Pace? My guess is, they wouldn’t be heard from.

    The Christian right would be demanding his head on a platter.

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  42. LaurenceB says:

    Dr. Joyce is right that Pace has nothing to apologize for. These demands for apologies are tiresome indeed.

    That having been said, Pace’s personal opinion is the wrong one. People are often wrong, do they really need to make a public apology each and every time?

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  43. Bithead says:

    The Christian right would be demanding his head on a platter.

    Hmmm. Interesting point.
    Now, for the big money; which group, in the two scenarios described thusfar would be more successful in getting Bush to toss Pace under the bus?

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  44. Steve Verdon says:

    You are obviously comparing homosexuality and bestiality, just by mentioning them together.

    Same to you Andy as you just mentioned the two in a comment. So you clearly are a despicable person too. I hope you see the absurdity of your position.

    And Michael, I think you are not quite correct in terms of religion vs. homosexuality. For example, female castration/genital mutilation is very much looked down upon in the West and voicing such an opinion probably wouldn’t get one in much trouble, IMO. Sure wouldn’t with me. That said however, I don’t at all agree with Gen. Pace in regards to homosexuality. I have a hard time calling a consensual act between two adults immoral.

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  45. floyd says:

    “I have a hard time calling a consensual act between two adults immoral.”Steve;rethink this statement.

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