Gays, the Military, and Religious Liberty

Tony Perkins — the head of the Family Research Council, not the more famous actor of the same name — argues that ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will also end religious freedom in the armed forces.

Some people think allowing open homosexuality in the military means nothing more than opening a door that was previously closed. It means much more than that. It would mean simultaneously ushering out the back door anyone who disapproves of homosexual conduct, whether because of legitimate privacy and health concerns or because of moral or religious convictions.

This outcome is almost inevitable, because pro-homosexual activists have made it clear that merely lifting the “ban” on openly homosexual military personnel will not satisfy them.

[…]

This means that all 1.4 million members of the U.S. military will be subject to sensitivity training intended to indoctrinate them into the myths of the homosexual movement: that people are born “gay” and cannot change and that homosexual conduct does no harm to the individual or to society.

Anyone who points to the mountain of evidence to the contrary – or merely expresses the personal conviction that sex should be reserved for marriage between one man and one woman – runs the risk of receiving a negative performance evaluation for failing to support the military’s “equal opportunity policy” regarding “sexual orientation.”

For no other offense than believing what all the great monotheistic religions have believed for all of history, some service members will be denied promotion, will be forced out of the service altogether, or will simply choose not to reenlist. Other citizens will choose not to join the military in the first place. The numbers lost will dwarf the numbers gained by opening the ranks to practicing homosexuals.

[…]

Those most likely to suffer are military chaplains. While some in the ranks will simply choose not to exercise their First Amendment rights in order to preserve their careers, this is not an option for chaplains. Their ministry is to proclaim the moral and theological teachings of their faith.  But under the new regulations, will they be free to preach from the entire Bible? Or will they be forced to excise the many passages declaring homosexual conduct to be a sin?

In their counseling role, military chaplains assist all service members who come to them, even if they are of other faith traditions. But if a homosexual seeks counseling regarding his personal relationships, will the chaplain be free to recommend therapy to overcome homosexual attractions? Or will he be forced to affirm a lifestyle that his faith condemns?

While chaplains are members of the military, they must be “endorsed” by a sponsoring religious body. Denominations that are unequivocal in holding to a biblical standard of sexual morality may stop endorsing military chaplains rather than allow them to compromise their principles.

This may result in a chaplain corps that has plenty of Unitarian ministers and homosexual Episcopal priests, but a shortage of clergy to minister to the largest religious groups in America, such as Roman Catholics (whose catechism declares that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”) or Southern Baptists (whose Baptist Faith and Message declares that “Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography”).

First off, it’s amusing to defend a policy that denies freedom to a minority group unless they hide their most fundamental beliefs on the basis that changing it will require others to give up the freedom to speak out on their fundamental beliefs.

Still, there’s some truth in what Perkins writes.  Integration of gays into the military culture will likely lead to sensitivity training and other command actions and policies to ensure it goes smoothly.  And, yes, those who have strong anti-gay views will be forced to either keep that to themselves, find another line of work, or face disciplinary consequences.

The early commenters aggregated at memeorandum are over the top in their vitriol for Perkins and his beliefs, dismissing it as outright bigotry.

Wonk Room‘s Igor Volsky snarks, “Tony Perkins is worried that last week’s votes to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) could push God-fearing Christians and military chaplains out of the military and encourage disease-ridden ‘homosexuals’ to transform the institution into a gay Mecca.”

PZ Myers:

Those “great” monotheistic religions also teach that women are inferior, that slavery is a respectable institution, that to kill and be killed for your god is a virtue, that homosexuals are to be stoned to death. Don’t try to tell me that because a centuries-old book of tribalism and superstition says something is so, it deserves respect. It does not. It has earned contempt and dissent.

[…]

So his holy book and ignorant superstitions are not cause to continue a policy of discrimination, we have a history of similar arguments being made and being proven wrong…what about his claim that this change in policy will drive out good god-fearin’ gay-hatin’ soldiers and chaplains?

The Reaction‘s Capt. Fogg:

Sometimes it feels like trying to explain calculus to a deaf canary. The idea that permitting anything some religious group doesn’t like is infringing on their self-given right to tell other people what to do or to punish them for doing or not doing it, seems impossible to counter no matter how obvious or how long you try. I’ve tried for a long time, but it’s like the Shroud of Turin, even if you could show it’s made from polyester and has a made in Taiwan tag its authenticity returns again and again.

In the interest of perpetuating the kind of de facto but illegal kind of control they have exerted over private and public affairs for so long, they have invented a mythology wherein our government really owes so much to 21st century esoteric Christianist philosophy, that it’s best simply to let delusional perverts and enemies of freedom dictate to us regardless of contrary laws and public sentiment.

[…]

President Tony Perkins isn’t likely to remember that when President Truman integrated the armed forces, it offended the “rights” of racists in the very same way. Anyone who simply couldn’t bear the thought of being in the same barracks with one of those lesser races God wanted to keep separate from his own light skinned people, just had to leave and of course the same sort of people will be offended by sharing a foxhole with someone with different sexual preferences.

While I’m bemused to see such intolerant vitriol used to argue against intolerance,  they’re right at a fundamental level:  Members of the armed forces give up their rights to express beliefs that are prejudicial to good order and discipline.

A large percentage of our soldiers doubtless voted for John McCain and hold President Obama in some degree of contempt.  They’re very limited in their rights to express that sentiment.  Ditto those who oppose the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.  Or who think women shouldn’t be flying combat aircraft or serving in harm’s way.     Once something becomes official policy, service members have to suck it up and carry out their orders.

The military doesn’t employ chaplains to express themselves but rather to provide spiritual counseling and maintain morale.   Indeed, chaplains are essentially non-denominational, expected to perform their duties regardless for a wide spectrum of soldiers.   When we deployed to Desert Storm, we had just the one battalion chaplain.    He was of some sort of Christian denomination, probably Protestant.   But he was there to comfort and buck up the troops, not indoctrinate them on the more ideological tenants of his faith.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Religion, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. just me says:

    I actually think the point about Chaplains, and bodies no longer endorsing them is probably the real problem in the making.

    More so that it is likely going to result in a shortage of chaplains for certain denominations, and those denominations likely having the main bulk of enlistees. I think what happens isn’t so much that religious freedom is infringed on, but that it is going to be increasingly difficult for a Baptist or Catholic to find religious counsel they will trust if their only choice is a Unitarian or some other theologically liberal leaning chaplain.

    It isn’t really an infringement on religious rights, but it does create a scenario where the bulk of the serving members aren’t going to be comfortable or confident in the chaplains they do have.

    I am curious how the Catholic church will deal with the situation. They have stopped providing adoption services in states that required them to place children with homosexuals, will they stop sending chaplains, if the military requires them to withhold condemnation of homosexual behavior?

    There are no easy answers, and the reality is saying “good riddance they’re all biggots” isn’t a better one than trying to find ways to accommodate. Another issue the military probably needs to consider and work out.

  2. sam says:

    It isn’t really an infringement on religious rights, but it does create a scenario where the bulk of the serving members aren’t going to be comfortable or confident in the chaplains they do have.

    I can’t speak for the other branches, and admittedly my own service was almost 50 years ago, but the only time I ever saw a chaplain, and I’m pretty sure this is true of most Marines then, was when I went to “Shooter’s Mass” in bootcamp the day before I had to first qualify on the range. To borrow from Flashman, that room on that day was the holiest place in Southern California.

  3. Ole Sarge says:

    Will there be investigations of “abuse” (sexual actions coerced by difference in rank) by older men against teen aged (male) recruits?

    Will we have in a dozen years scandals like those plaguing both the Boy Scouts and the Roman Catholic Church? (Most of which are incidents of Pederasty, NOT Pedophilia)

    Will the famous words “Bring me men… to match my mountains…” mean something entirely different?

    Will promotions, and assignments be based upon “doing it” than on merit?

    And what about the issue of fraternization? Or improper relationships that disrupt “good order and discipline”?

    There are too many questions and based upon civil society experiences, too many apparent answers that this means an overall derogation of military readiness and unit cohesion.

  4. Robert in SF says:

    James,

    Could you please provide some citation for the statement you made:

    A large percentage of our soldiers doubtless voted for John McCain and hold President Obama in some degree of contempt. They’re very limited in their rights to express that sentiment.

    If that’s not just your conjectural opinion, but some claim you made, based on corroborating material of fact, I would like to be able to back up that should it ever come up in discussion. I don’t see how you could support it, unless you are relying on a poll of some sort…and I suspect that people’s conclusions from polls are not always necessarily consistent with the facts of the polls’ results. And polls seem to me to be very hard to conduct in a neutral way, so as to not select or prompt a result desired.

    As for Just Me’s statement:

    I am curious how the Catholic church will deal with the situation. They have stopped providing adoption services in states that required them to place children with homosexuals…

    I believe you should educate yourself a little more to actual facts of the case. Perhaps you just mentioned this in a casual manner, but in case you really believe this blunt claim:

    In summary, the State wouldn’t allow them to provide publicly funded adoption services if they continued to discriminate against qualified homosexual couples based solely on their sexual orientation….no one was forced to place kids with “teh gayz”….The agency simply had to be neutral to sexual orientation when it came to helping find kids a good home.

    From ~ Boston Globe website:

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/02/16/bishops_to_oppose_adoption_by_gays/

    State authorities say adoption agencies cannot discriminate, however. Any agency in Massachusetts that handles adoptions must obtain a state license, which prohibits them from turning down prospective parents based on sexual orientation, religion, and race, among other factors, said Constantia Papanikolaou, general counsel for the Department of Early Education and Care, which licenses all adoption agencies. If an agency knowingly discriminates, it could be stripped of its license to broker all adoptions.

    ”You can’t have a discrimination policy,” Papanikolaou said. ”It’s a condition of their license.”

    No one has asked that a quota be set for gay/lesbian persons in the military. No one would ask. I can’t imagine there are quotas around race, religion, or other protected classes for military service. Those kinds of hyperbolic “slippery slope” arguements are baseless. No one here has made them, so far, and I just wanted to head them off as they frequently come up in discussions around this topic.

  5. Ole Sarge,

    I’ve done some research into your questions. Here are the answers:

    No

    No

    No

    and less so than what happens between male and female officers/subordinates.

    There you go buddy. Hope that helps.

  6. Ole Sarge says:

    Really? And you know this how?
    The origins of the “no fraternization” has its roots in homosexual behavior and relationships.

    The old “male officer and female (junior) enlisted” has more to do with the dynamics of having more women concentrated in the junior enlisted ranks, than as junior officers. It is still that way in some career fields and specialties or rates.

    There was always less of a problem between the Os and junior Es, and more of one between Senior NCOs and junior enlisted, and Field Grade Officers and very junior company grade officers.

    But that’s my observation after 22 years of military service.

    There is also LESS of a stigma over being homosexual/lesbian in a garrison, or regular military base, and under field conditions. For the vast majority of military service members, we are “civil servants” in uniform, work normal hours and live in the communities that surround military bases.

    It isn’t the military of the old WW II, Korean War or even Viet Nam War. Where vast numbers of single young men and a few women lived in open barracks and were “locked down” at night. Those that do live in dormitories, have more in common with their peers in college dorms.

    Frankly, I don’t care whom my troops sleep with, don’t bring the issue to work. I don’t care what parties you throw or attend, don’t bring it to work. Focus on the mission.

    Yes, a majority of those serving that are homosexual or lesbian, CAN keep it out of the duty/work area. It’s the envelope pushers and the agenda driven activists that I had no time for, and worked a speedy “exit” out the main gate.

  7. Brett says:

    But he was there to comfort and buck up the troops, not indoctrinate them on the more ideological tenants of his faith.

    See, Perkins and his ilk want the bolded. They want chaplains – particularly fundamentalist chaplains – to serve as their vanguard inside the military among others, and to convert as many people as possible.

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    First off, it’s amusing to defend a policy that denies freedom to a minority group unless they hide their most fundamental beliefs on the basis that changing it will require others to give up the freedom to speak out on their fundamental beliefs.

    So perverted sex makes one a minority? Felling good about having perverted sex is a fundamental belief?

    gee, I guess they are, but who gives to donkeys asses, and what does it have to do with serving in the military?

    You can try to figure out what someone whats you to believe or you can figure out what’s really going on, these are your choices……..

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    See, Perkins and his ilk want the bolded. They want chaplains – particularly fundamentalist chaplains – to serve as their vanguard inside the military among others, and to convert as many people as possible.

    So do the the homosexuals and there none critically thinking liberal supporters, blagh blagh blagh
    but the Christians are the bad ones blagh blagh blagh

    PZ Myers:

    Those “great” monotheistic religions also teach that women are inferior, that slavery is a respectable institution, that to kill and be killed for your god is a virtue, that homosexuals are to be stoned to death. Don’t try to tell me that because a centuries-old book of tribalism and superstition says something is so, it deserves respect. It does not. It has earned contempt and dissent.

    […]

    So his holy book and ignorant superstitions are not cause to continue a policy of discrimination, we have a history of similar arguments being made and being proven wrong…what about his claim that this change in policy will drive out good god-fearin’ gay-hatin’ soldiers and chaplains?

    take this jerk someone of the same sex off for example, Classic example of an idiot indoctrinated brain washed hater who doest not know what the hell he is talking about but is talking about it with a flaming passion of hatred and purpose.