“The army was now not only starved but naked; the greatest part were not only shirtless and barefoot, but destitute of all other clothing, especially blankets,” wrote one soldier. Commanding Gen. George Washington informed the Continental Congress that “unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place … this army must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things: starve, dissolve, or disperse.”
Yet despite the harsh conditions for the Revolutionary Army during its winter at Valley Forge – conditions that cost the lives of at least 2,500 of Washington’s 6,000 soldiers – Washington remained steadfast in his duty to maintain high standards of morality in the military. On March 10, 1778, “with Abhorrence and Detestation” of homosexual conduct, Washington ordered Lt. Frederick Gotthold Enslin “to be dismiss’d [from] the service with Infamy [disgrace],” and “to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army, never to return.” No one objected to such an order.
Over 200 years later, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was subjected to widespread criticism in the press when he stated last week, in reference to homosexuals serving in the military, that he does “not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.” Under former President Bill Clinton, a new policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was implemented in the military to protect from disclosure the homosexuality of its members. Gen. Pace did not take issue with the policy, but he likened homosexual behavior to adultery and noted that the military “prosecute[s] that kind of immoral behavior.”
As Washington’s experience at Valley Forge indicates, Gen. Pace’s opinion comports with a long military tradition. It also echoes military law: 10 U.S.C. 654(a)(15) of the U.S. Code provides that the “presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”
Joining in the criticism of Gen. Pace were many well-known political figures such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who stated, “We don’t need moral judgment from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.” Most of the candidates for president also condemned his remarks. Some media outlets have even called for Gen. Pace to resign. The universal sentiment of elites seems to be that the general had no business stating his opinion on the matter.
As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I encountered the same virulent opposition in 2002 when I wrote in a Supreme Court judicial opinion that “[h]omosexual conduct by its very nature is immoral, and its consequences are inherently destructive to the natural order of society.” The opinion concerned the custody of three children whose mother sought to regain custody from the father after she had willingly relinquished custody when she began a homosexual relationship. In making my observations about homosexuality, I merely repeated what statutes, judges and legal commentators had said about homosexual behavior for centuries. I followed the law in Alabama, and for doing so I was excoriated in the press as “hateful,” “prejudiced,” and likened to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
That same year, a high school in Santa Rosa, Calif., issued a warning to freshman Rebeka Rice when she responded to teasing from other students about her Mormon upbringing by saying, “That’s so gay.” None of the students to whom the comment was directed were homosexual and Rice stated that the comment simply meant “that’s so stupid” or “that’s so dumb.” Yet, because she used the word “gay” in a derogatory fashion, the school punished Rice, who is currently embroiled in a lawsuit to defend her free speech rights.
All of these illustrations carry a common thread: Homosexual conduct, which, according to the great English jurist Sir Edward Coke, was “a detestable and abominable sin, amongst Christians not to be named,” now must not be criticized or else the speaker will suffer ardent denunciation. Those who practice an immoral act that less than 40 years ago was not to be mentioned in polite public circles now demand that those who still believe in morality, and say so, must be silenced.
Activists driven to turn social norms on their head are imposing a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of their own upon those who believe in biblical morality. People may no longer question homosexuality, nor can they tell others the truth about its immorality. Ironically, a military policy to protect from disclosure the homosexuality of its members is now interpreted to force others to accept homosexuality without question.
Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, once said that “no people will tamely surrender their liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the contrary, when people are universally ignorant, and debauched in their manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders.” So it is that while brave men like Gen. Pace seek to defend our country from without, we are being destroyed from within by those who want no part of virtue or morality. For the sake of our nation’s survival, it is time to voice our strongest opposition to homosexual conduct because morality still matters, not only in the military, but also in society at large.
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