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The U.S. military's "Don't ask, Don't tell" (DADT) policy

Policies of religious groups towards DADT. Part 2

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"LGB" is an acronym referring to lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
"LGBT: adds transgender persons and transsexuals to the LGB.

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This essay is a continuation from Part 1

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Policies of The Orthodox Church in America:

This is a conservative denomination whose membership numbers are debated; estimates range from 27 thousand to 1.06 million circa 2005! 1 "The Orthodox Church in America condemns homosexual behavior and requires its chaplains to steer lesbians and gays to repent and renounce the gay lifestyle.

During 2010-MAY, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America sent a letter to the military chaplains board that discussed a hypothetical conversation between a military officer and her chaplain. With the DADT policy repealed, the officer would be free to reveal her sexual orientation to the chaplain without endangering her assignment in the military -- at least unless the Republican Party gains control of the presidency, House and Senate. If that were to happen, there is every likelihood that DADT would be reinstated.

One could imagine the officer requesting counseling services from a conservative Christian chaplain concerning tensions between herself and her same-sex partner as they prepare for their upcoming marriage. The pastor or priest might be inclined to say that from the standpoint of the chaplain's faith group, she should abandon any plans to marry because sex outside of marriage is a serious sin, same-gender sexual behavior is always a serious sin, and marriage is restricted to opposite-sex couples composed of one woman and one man. The church expects LGB individuals to lead a lonely life without a sexually-active partner.

On the other hand, the military expects chaplains to deal with all service members in the unit to which they are assigned. That would probably include members of the chaplain's faith group, and members of a different denomination within Christianity, members of a different religion, and service members affiliated with no organized religion. The military would probably expect the chaplain to offer LGB service members counseling from the viewpoint of the client.

Metropolitan Jonah wrote:

"If our chaplains were in any way … prohibited from denouncing such behavior as sinful and self-destructive, it would create an impediment to their service in the military. If such an attitude were regarded as 'prejudice' or the denunciation of homosexuality as 'hate language,' or the like, we would be forced to pull out our chaplains from military service." 2

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Policies of the Southern Baptist Convention:

This is a fundamentalist denomination with 16 million members and 448 active-duty chaplains. They mounted a committed and active battle to retain the DADT policy and did it on a number of fronts:

  • Its agencies contacted members of Congress and the Pentagon;
  • Retired chaplains sent letters to President Obama;
  • A resolution adopted at the denomination's annual meeting in Orlando in 2010-JUN condemned allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. 3

The Convention's Position Statement on Sexuality states simply:

"We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy -– one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a 'valid alternative lifestyle.' The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ." 4

On 2010-JUN-19, Adelle Banks of the Washington Post wrote that:

"Southern Baptists ...have many more active-duty military chaplains than any other denomination ... "

"If a policy makes it more difficult -- in fact, discourages -- one of the groups that provides one of the largest numbers of chaplains to the military from continuing to engage in chaplaincy ministry, that should raise significant concerns for them about the ... spiritual well-being of our men and women in uniform," said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research and director of the Research Institute of the denomination's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. 3

Rev. David Mullis, the Southern Baptists' military chaplaincy coordinator was concerned that chaplains' freedom of religion might be restricted if DADT is abandoned. He said:

"For instance, a chaplain could be told there are certain passages of the Scripture that you shouldn't preach from. If there was a prohibition about certain kinds of literature that did not espouse homosexuality, I can see the Bible being banned in the military." 3

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Policies of the Roman Catholic Church:

This is also a conservative denomination. At 68 million members in the U.S., they are the largest Christian denomination. They have 252 to 285 active-duty chaplains (sources differ). The church has not taken a strong and consistent position on the right of LGBs to openly serve in the military.

  • Cardinal Ratzinger's position:

    In 1992, many years before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He wrote:
    "There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment." 5
  • Archbishop Timothy Broglio's position:

    He heads the Roman Catholic Church's Archdiocese for Military Services and is the church's chief liaison to the military. He has written that although the U.S. Constitution guarantees many rights to all citizens, serving in the military is not one of them. He has expressed major concerns about the repeal of DADT. On 2010-JUN-01 he issued a statement that cites three sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2357, 2358 and 2359) He wrote, in part:

"... those with a homosexual orientation can expect respect and treatment worthy of their human dignity.  The prohibitions regarding sexual harassment and intimidation refer just as much to homosexuals as to anyone else. However, unions between individuals of the same gender resembling marriage will not be accepted or blessed by Catholic chaplains. Furthermore no restrictions or limitations on the teaching of Catholic morality can be accepted.  First Amendment rights regarding the free exercise of religion must be respected.

This means that Catholic chaplains must show compassion for persons with a homosexual orientation, but can never condone-even silently-homosexual behavior.  A change might have a negative effect on the role of the chaplain not only in the pulpit, but also in the classroom, in the barracks, and in the office.

A more fundamental question, however, should be raised.  What exactly is the meaning of a change?  No one can deny that persons with a homosexual orientation are already in the military.  Does the proposed change authorize these individuals to engage in activities considered immoral not only by the Catholic Church, but also by many other religious groups?  Will there be changes in the living conditions, especially in the AOR?

There is no doubt that morality and the corresponding good moral decisions have an effect on unit cohesion and the overall morale of the troops and effectiveness of the mission.  This Archdiocese exists to serve those who serve and it assists them by advocating moral behavior.  The military must find ways to promote that behavior and develop strong prohibitions against any immoral activity that would jeopardize morale, good morals, unit cohesion and every other factor that weakens the mission.  So also must a firm effort be made to avoid any injustices that may inadvertently develop because individuals or groups are put in living situations that are an affront to good common sense.

I think that those questions require an adequate response.  The effect of a repeal of the current legislation has the potential of being enormous and overwhelming.  Nothing should be changed until there is certainty that morale will not suffer.   Sacrificing the moral beliefs of individuals or their living conditions to respond to merely political considerations is neither just nor prudent especially for the armed forces at a time of war.  Catholics believe that nothing will be done if there is a careful and prudent evaluation of the effects of a change. ..." 6

  • Lawyer John Schlageter's position:

    He is the general counsel for the archdiocese. He revealed that there are no plans to remove Catholic chaplains because of the elimination of DADT. He said:

"We don't think that the free exercise [of religion] would be that restricted that we have to pull out." 2

  • Catholics for Equality (CFE):

    This is a LGBT-positive group of Roman Catholics. The "about" page on their web site states:

    "Drawing on the rich tradition of Catholic social justice teachings, grounded in the Gospel message of Love, American Catholics are among the strongest supporters of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of any religious group in the U.S.

    Yet the official voice of the hierarchy increasingly advocates discrimination and opposes reasonable measures to secure basic freedoms for LGBT Americans.   Far too often, the anti-freedom voice of the hierarchy is portrayed as representing the moral values of American Catholics. 

    We believe this trend is a repudiation of Catholic belief in the inherent dignity of every person. It further contradicts the American values of fairness and equality for all citizens under the law enshrined in the U.S. Constitution." 5

    According to Kathleen Gilbert of LifeSiteNews:

    "On their Facebook page they urged their supporters to 'call your Senators ... and remind them that the Pentagon study refutes the misinformation and fear tactics in Archbishop Broglio’s statements opposing DADT.'

    In a September letter to Broglio, CFE’s leaders decried the 'deep disrespect' shown to gay servicemen by opposing the repeal and urged that the Catholic Church become an 'enlightened partner in the American pluralistic military and society'."7

  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):

    Kevin Whiteman of the Catholic Examiner wrote:

    "Fueling the belief that the pro-homosexual Lavender Mafia is alive and well within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America, the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has been conspicuously silent on condemning the Obama Administration and the overwhelmingly Democrat support in Congress for the repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' regulation that prohibited openly homosexual individuals from serving in the Armed Forces. ..."

    "... the Archbishop of Washington, DC, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, recently stated that 'there isn’t a specific Catholic Church position' on the issue of homosexuals serving in the military." 8

    The term "Lavender Mafia" (a.k.a. gay mafia) has been used to refer to a network of LGB executives in the entertainment industry and to a "... faction within the leadership and clergy of the Catholic Church that allegedly protects and advocates for the acceptance of homosexuality within the Church and its culture." 9

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This topic continues in Part 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Orthodox Church in America," Wikipedia, as of 2011-SEP-17, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. Terry Mattingly, "Mattingly: ‘Don’t ask’ policy puts chaplains in vise," The Observer, the American Orthodox Institute Blog, 2010-OCT-2010, at: http://www.aoiusa.org/blog/
  3. Adelle Banks, "Southern Baptists Convention fighting 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal," Religion News Service, 2010-JUN-19, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  4. "Sexuality," Southern Baptist Convention, 1999, at: http://www.sbc.net/
  5. "About: Catholics for Equality," at: http://catholicsforequality.org/
  6. "Archbishop Broglio, Military Services USA on Proposed Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'," Catholic Online, 2010-JUN-03, at: http://www.catholic.org/
  7. Kathleen Gilbert, "USCCB silence on 'Don’t ask' provokes criticism," LifeSiteNews, 2011-JAN-07, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
  8. Kevin Whiteman, "Where is the USCCB on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?" Catholic Examiner, 2010-DEC-29, at: http://www.examiner.com/
  9. "Gay Mafia," Wikipedia, at 2011-MAY-29, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2011-SEP-24
Latest update: 2011-SEP-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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