The Non-Existent Conflict Between DADT Repeal And Religious Liberty

With DADT Repeal now on its way to being fully implemented, the right is now claiming that it poses a threat to the religious liberties of military chaplains. As with their other arguments, this one is totally without merit.

Politics Daily’s Matt Lewis picks up on an objection to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that I’ve heard from other conservatives, that it could somehow infringe on the religious liberty of service members, and especially military chaplains:

Sooner or later, however, the gay issue will bump into a new one — religious liberty. And that’s arguably where the next battle will take place. The repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” for example, raises this issue.

For example, will Army chaplains be required to perform marriage for same-sex couples? Will chaplains be allowed to preach against homosexuality from the pulpit — or counsel against homosexual conduct? While these are sure to be questions the military must grapple with, one can also imagine this issue eventually making its way into the civilian world.

Just as we have seen controversies arise over medical doctors who refuse to perform abortions, what about civilian pastors who — because their faith teaches them homosexuality is a sin — refuse to perform gay marriages? Could they one day lose their legal right to perform marriages at all — or jeopardize their tax-exempt status? And what about free speech — could a pastor one day jeopardize his church’s tax status by preaching against homosexuality from the pulpit?

Lewis links to an August Daily Caller column by Daniel Bloomberg of the Alliance Defense Fund, which happens to be a public policy/legal organization founded by such far-right evangelicals as James Dobson, Donald Wildmon,  and the late D. James Kennedy. In support of his assertion that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would represent the beginning of an assault on the religious liberties of military chaplains, Bloomberg relates this anecdote:

The U.S. military operates what might best be called an “exchange program” that allows chaplains to become functioning members of foreign military chaplaincies.  One such U.S. chaplain—whose name and the distinctive aspects of his service must be withheld to avoid censure—recently discovered when his faith contradicts the military’s endorsement of homosexuality.

A junior officer approached the chaplain with numerous questions about Christianity, and they talked for hours about a wide range of subjects, including a brief discussion about orthodox Christianity’s stance on homosexual behavior.  The officer left satisfied.  Later, though, a more senior officer berated the chaplain publicly for his religious perspective on homosexual behavior.  This officer threatened him, saying that if the chaplain had not been a U.S. service member, he would certainly have been written up for “harassment.”

Later, a female service member was brought to the chaplain for help regarding relationship issues with her same-sex partner.  The chaplain happily provided emotional support and sought administrative solutions so that she could return to her duties.  After the situation was resolved, she met with the chaplain for follow-up counseling during which she asked how she might have a healthier relationship with her partner.  He explained that, in this instance, since his faith teaches that no homosexual relationship can be healthy because it is innately against the will of God, he would instead help her find another chaplain who could counsel her if she would like.  Her response?  She said she knew of his beliefs and that she was willing to seek counsel from him anyway because she trusted him.

But when he later explained his decision to his supervising chaplaincy officer, the officer ominously warned him that he should be careful who he talked to honestly about his beliefs and that he shouldn’t discuss them in an open public forum.  The officer particularly cautioned him to keep silent about those beliefs in an upcoming chaplaincy-wide meeting because one of the senior chaplains, who openly self-identified as “gay,” would not tolerate open statements about orthodox religious belief on homosexual behavior.

In addition to the fact that it is often unwise to make policy based on anecdotes, there’s one basic fact about Bloomberg’s tale that he glosses over and then fails to not the significance of is simple, but crucial; he was talking about the operation of a foreign military, not the United States military. It doesn’t necessarily matter which nation, he’s talking about because it’s certain that it doesn’t have the legal protections for religious freedoms that we do thanks to the First Amendment. While there may certainly be occasions where a chaplains official duties might conflict with his religious beliefs, it’s also certain that our laws provide them with far more protection than any foreign nation would. So, using this example of something that may or may not have happened in the military of a foreign nation is entirely irrelevant to a discussion of implementing DADT repeal in the United States.

As for the examples that Lewis brings up, I cannot honestly understand why a military chaplain would, in the normal course of his duties in that position,  feel the need to preach about the supposed evils of homosexuality in front of his congregation of soldiers, many of whom may not even belong to the same sect of Christianity as he does, or who may not even be Christian at all. The military chaplain, after all, is charged with seeing to the religious needs of all the service men and women that he may be stationed with, not just the ones who agree with his particular version of Christianity — think of Father Francis Mulchahy from M*A*S*H as an example of a military chaplain fulfilling that role. In that role, a fire and brimstone speech about the evils of homosexuality would seem to be out of place and incompatible with the duties of his assigned task.

Furthermore, the gay marriage example is a canard that has been raised repeatedly in the battle over same-sex marriage. and the answer here is the same as it is there. The First Amendment would clearly prohibit the government from forcing a clergy member from marrying someone in a religious ceremony in a manner conflicts with their religious beliefs. It isn’t going to happen and if it did the courts would put a stop to it immediately.

This supposed conflict with religious liberty is just another example of a “gays in the military”  horror story that people will end up laughing about in 20 years or so when they wonder just why it was so hard for us to do something so simple as allow gay people to serve their country.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Military Affairs, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Russell says:

    My answer to those making this argument is the same as for those officers and enlisted that feel treating homosexuals equally is beyond their ability: resign. Military service is not a right and one gives up a degree of freedom when placing oneself under military discipline.




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  2. Janis Gore says:

    What the f** ck are these people talking about? When my brother was ill, in my house, my strict Southern Baptist father-in-law made it a a point to visit him in his room. It’s scripture.




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  3. Janis,

    These people believe that letting gays serve openly will cause soldiers to abandon their sworn duty and preachers to abandon their faith. That’s the only thing I can assume from the wild stuff they keep coming up with




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  4. just me says:

    I think there will likely be some issues of conflict, but I don’t think it will be anything that can’t be worked out or figured out.

    As for gay marriage-the Federal government currently doesn’t recognize gay marriage, and as far as I know even Chaplains aren’t required by the military to perform sacraments outside the tenants of their faith at this point in time.




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  5. michael reynolds says:

    Somehow Christian chaplains have gotten around that whole “Turn the other cheek,” thing, and the “Blessed are the meek,” thing, and and the “Remember the sabbath thing.” Kinda think they’ll find a way to deal with this.




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  6. anjin-san says:

    Reminds me of a line from a Woody Allen movie…”If Jesus came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he would never stop throwing up”.




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  7. Janis Gore says:

    Maybe Keith, or Jay Tea or Eric will come along to help me undestand.




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  8. tom p says:

    >”Maybe Keith, or Jay Tea or Eric will come along to help me undestand.”

    Janis, don’t hold your breath…

    >”When my brother was ill, in my house, my strict Southern Baptist father-in-law made it a a point to visit him in his room. It’s scripture.”

    But not THEIR scripture….

    ps: sorry about your brother. Grateful he had a few TRUE christains around him.

    pss:I am not a Christain. Just a human being who has lost too many friends, cousins, brothers, before their time.




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  9. Janis Gore says:

    Nothing to be sorry about Tom P. . The brother is in good health. He got over the osteomyelitis.




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  10. tom p says:

    >”Nothing to be sorry about Tom P. . The brother is in good health. He got over the osteomyelitis.”

    good. I am very happy your brother is doing better now.

    I seem to recall a conversation with you about osteomylotis. My apologies for forgetting.

    tom




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  11. Janis Gore says:

    Merry Christmas, Tom P, and happy holidays to everyone who keeps or comments on this blog.




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  12. mike says:

    I cannot wrap my head around any argument that goes, I cannot treat these human beings as full, actual human beings because that would violate my right to religious freedom.

    I’m also not sure why anyone would want to be married by someone who was being forced to marry them. I can see entirely why gays and lesbians would want to be embraced by their faiths the way they themselves embrace their faiths but I personally would opt out of any faith that did not recognize me for who I am and accept me for it.

    Anyway, my wife and I got married in Colorado without the involvement of any church or clergy member — we married ourselves, which you can do here (clergy, officer of the court, or yourselves are your choices) — which amounted to just signing marriage license. Any religious acts, which we eschewed, are completely superfluous as far as the state seems to be concerned. Which is as it should be.




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  13. anjin-san says:

    Janis… keeping a good thought for your brother this holiday season 🙂




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  14. Janis Gore says:

    Cheers, honey.




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  15. Shanon says:

    Another problem is the code of conduct that servicemen have to yield to outside of combat. Even if a disparaging comment is made about a homosexual outside of the realm of work, the can still be discharged in the same way they can be discharged for saying racist of sexist comments. Although no one would justify the latter two bigoted comments, neither deals with an actual action. The only thing the differentiates a straight person from a gay one is the issue of having sex with the same gender as oneself. There is absolutely zero evidence that people are born “gay”, but skin color and gender are undeniably hereditary. A Christian soldier who believes that homosexuality is immoral cannot say anything about it. The (juvenile) attitude from the left is that either the soldier gets over it or gets out. Now, do we really want mass amounts of servicemen leaving our volunteer military in a time of war? Seeing as this probably won’t happen, the homosexual agenda will be force fed to armed service men against their will. The one group the should be most considered is the the group that will be most affected, the average soldier. Yet the politicians thumb their noses at them in order to pander to a sexual minority. This will likely end in a social trainwreck.

    “This supposed conflict with religious liberty is just another example of a “gays in the military” horror story that people will end up laughing about in 20 years or so when they wonder just why it was so hard for us to do something so simple as allow gay people to serve their country.”

    That’s if we have a military, or nation, in 20 years. Instead, historians will likely point to this as the one of death knells of the US superpower.




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  16. Janis Gore says:

    Did you serve, Shanon?




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  17. TG Chicago says:

    Matt Lewis (quoted in the OP) said: “Will chaplains be allowed to preach against homosexuality from the pulpit — or counsel against homosexual conduct?”

    If they could before the repeal, I suppose they can afterwards. They can perhaps also preach against divorce, remarriage, masturbation, lying, and killing, if they want to. *Should* they preach against these things? Mataconis answers that question in the post.

    But do military chaplains preach sermons insisting that “Thou shalt not kill” to people in a war zone? My guess is that they don’t. If they can avoid one of the Ten Commandments, I’m guessing they can avoid some of the other stuff.

    That said, if a gay soldier came to a chaplain asking for advice, and the chaplain said, “I believe homosexual behavior is a sin. I must recommend that you discontinue any homosexual acts”, I don’t find that to be an unacceptable outcome. I would think that the chaplain’s job is to give the best interpretation of spirituality that they are able, and that there is no requirement that his interpretation is acceptable to all. We have Muslim chaplains, and their views are presumably not 100% acceptable to evangelical Christians (and vice versa). Yet it hasn’t been a serious issue.

    But if a chaplain is unable to lead a service knowing that someone in the congregation is openly gay, then that’s their problem, not the gay servicemember’s. In that situation, the chaplain would be unfit for duty. There may be some gray areas regarding communion and things of that nature, but that shouldn’t be a brand new situation, as Catholics and Protestants have long served together without major issues.




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  18. michael reynolds says:

    Even if a disparaging comment is made about a homosexual outside of the realm of work, the can still be discharged in the same way they can be discharged for saying racist of sexist comments.

    BS.

    There is absolutely zero evidence that people are born “gay”, but skin color and gender are undeniably hereditary.

    Factually wrong.

    The (juvenile) attitude from the left is that either the soldier gets over it or gets out.

    No, that’s the attitude in the military. They sort of thing you should obey the chain of command. They’re funny that way.

    The one group the should be most considered is the the group that will be most affected, the average soldier. Yet the politicians thumb their noses at them in order to pander to a sexual minority.

    A lie. The majority of serving soldiers have no problem with the policy. Neither to the Chairman and SecDef.

    That’s if we have a military, or nation, in 20 years. Instead, historians will likely point to this as the one of death knells of the US superpower.

    Evidence of a hysterical mind.




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  19. Janis Gore says:

    This is all talk. What’s the best price you can get on bedside toilet? I came up with $70.




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  20. anjin-san says:

    > That’s if we have a military, or nation, in 20 years

    You can always leave if your knees are knocking together and keeping you awake at night. Because it’s not ok to discriminate against gays in America. Or anyone else. End of story.




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  21. ognywogny says:

    If you think chaplains will not be pressured to “tone down” their message, you are a fool and (from you bio I assume) have no clue of military life. The commander wants smooth sailing in his/her unit and will most assuredly lean on a chaplain who is not in full, wholehearted agreement with DOD policy. As to the courts protection, you are a lawyer, I don’t believe you believe that crap!




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  22. anjin-san says:

    I have to wonder about the bs line that our military will somehow be decimated. Israel has had gays & lesbians serving openly for some time. No one doubts the ass-kicking abilities of the IDF. Are these guys really stupid enough to buy into this crap?




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  23. tom p says:

    >”What’s the best price you can get on bedside toilet? I came up with $70.”

    Janis, I got mine for free… I found it on the side of a gravel road burned but structuraly sound. I now use it for all of my back woods toilet needs!

    Not sure if you can do as well, but you never know what you’ll find on the back roads of the Ozarks…




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  24. tom p says:

    >”No one doubts the ass-kicking abilities of the IDF. ”

    Anjin, you have forgotten that the American armed forces are filled with a bunch of panty-waisted pussies…




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  25. george says:

    “That’s if we have a military, or nation, in 20 years. Instead, historians will likely point to this as the one of death knells of the US superpower.”

    Certainly, because the Spartans proved that homosexuals make horrible soldiers …

    Look, if that’s all it takes to remove the US as a superpower it wasn’t likely to last anyway.

    I’m not sure how the problem with chaplains works anyway. They’re always encountering soldiers with different belief systems, and some of the historical antagonisms between Catholics and Protestants were deadly … and yet the chaplains seemed to be able to function with an army containing a mixture of soldiers. This seems like a real non-issue.




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  26. Joe Schmoe says:

    Seeing as this probably won’t happen, the homosexual agenda will be force fed to armed service men against their will.

    Where can I find this homosexual agenda? Do they have a manifesto? Did they vote on it during their nationwide meetings, or is this a splinter group of homosexuals claiming their agenda is the agenda of all homosexuals?

    And why would the army force someone to eat something that is, presumably, written on paper? They still have powdered eggs, right?




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  27. michael reynolds says:

    Joe Schmoe:

    Don’t you know anything? The Homosexual Agenda Steering Committee meets on Tuesdays. The Council Of Manipulating Jews is on Wednesday. And the Liberal Anti-Christmas Action Committee is on Thursdays.




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  28. John425 says:

    It is all very nice and well for senior officers to promote DADT. Try being the new enlisted guy just assigned to the outfit and given a bunk in a 2-man room where the first one is gay. Guess how long the morale of that new guy will last when everyone teases him about being “roomies”. Guess how many fights will break out.




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  29. An Interested Party says:

    It is all very nice and well for senior officers to promote integration. Try being the new enlisted white guy just assigned to the outfit and given a bunk in a 2-man room where the first one is black. Guess how long the morale of that new guy will last when everyone teases him about bunking with a ni@@er. Guess how many fights will break out…




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  30. anjin-san says:

    I am going to try to guess John’s IQ… it will be a number less than 100.

    Frankly, if a recruit can’t handle some teasing, I don’t think we should give him advance training in weaponry…




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  31. stuhlmann says:

    Chaplains currently have to do interact with lots of soldiers that their (the chaplains’) faith tells them are sinners bound for hell. Imagine a baptist chaplain counseling a Catholic or Jewish or Muslim soldier. The chaplain has to do his military duties towards these soldiers of different faiths, even though he believes that the soldiers are doomed to hell unless they convert to the true Christian faith. If in the future that baptist minister also has to counsel gays, in addition to Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, not much has changed. The Bible says that we are all sinners and that we should look to our own sins, not to the sins of others.




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  32. ognywogny says:

    stuhlman: first, we all have our stereotypes. Yours is that you think that all Baptists think of Catholics and Jews as hell bound. That is not the case. But most Baptists (and Catholics and Jews and Muslims) see homosexuality as abhorrent. Your comparison is a logical fallacy. And I know the military-there will be pressure to conform.




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