WASHINGTON – The U.S. military will begin this month to train service members to accept open homosexuality in the ranks, the Pentagon has announced.
But critics say many members of the military’s roughly 3,000-strong corps of chaplains, expected by the Pentagon to play an important role in the transition to a “gay”-friendly military, are likely to resist the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
“Opposition is going to be broad, especially among the evangelical chaplain community,” said Billy Baugham, executive director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers.
ICECE recruits candidates from evangelical denominations to serve as military chaplains. More than 45 million Americans belong to denominations represented by ICECE, said Baugham. Chaplains must be endorsed by their denominations to serve in the U.S. military.
Baugham added that more than 600 military chaplains are associated with ICECE, which represents their interests before Congress. Another 1,200 Southern Baptist Convention-endorsed chaplains generally share the views of ICECE chaplains, added Arthur Schulcz, legal counsel for ICECE.
“Even as I’m speaking, several of them are preparing to show that their own church doctrine prohibits them from engaging in supporting homosexuality and teaching homosexuality or any of its traits,” said Baugham. “They’re going to make standing against this policy part of their ecclesiastical body [of doctrine].”
“A chaplain is not just an individual, he represents his sending church,” explained Schulcz. “They’ve ignored ICECE’s concerns about, preaching, teaching, and counseling. How can a chaplain fulfill his obligation to represent his church? When a person comes to him he can only speak to that issue out of his faith background. He’s not authorized to speak out of any other.”
The DADT repeal implementation training program will consist of three “tiers,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley on Friday. “Starting out with our experts, that’s the first tier; the second tier deals with our commanders or our leaders; and the third tier is, of course, the force as we move forward.”
The “experts” will develop training programs “for those responsible for implementing changes to the policies involved and for those providing services relating to these changes to service members, including chaplains, judge advocates, and counselors,” according to a document distributed at the news conference.
Though they may be involved in implementing DADT repeal training, and their ministries will be directly affected, the chaplains still have no idea what the training will consist of, said Alliance Defense Fund attorney Daniel Blomberg. ADF, a defender of civil and religious liberties, represents both military chaplains and endorsers.
“I have not heard anything regarding specifics,” said Blomberg. “A pastor would be free to preach his beliefs about homosexuality, according to the Pentagon, but you don’t know what a chaplain can do in a counseling situation or an ethical situation. Could a chaplain refuse to allow a married homosexual couple to participate in counseling for married couples, or refuse to hire a homosexual to be a children’s church teacher? None of these issues are being answered, and that’s a real problem.”
“My clients say homosexuality is a sin, and so the question has to be what is that training going to say about homosexuality?” said Schulcz. “If it says homosexuality is a good thing, I think there are going to be a lot of problems. If we say now we have homosexuals and you have to treat them with respect, that’s a different issue, but what is respect? Respect is one of those vague terms that has not been defined.
“It’s inevitable that chaplains will be asked questions to which they will have to respond with the truth. Say a soldier comes to a chaplain and says ‘My commander is a homosexual and he wants me to do things that are offensive. What does the Bible say about this?’ If a chaplain were to tell him exactly what the Scripture says, and why the Scripture warns about the consequences of that behavior, is that respect? Or will it be called conduct unbecoming, disrespectful, or undermining morale?”
During the briefing, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon would provide no special consideration of chaplains’ objections to DADT repeal.
“I don’t think there’s anything any different here. I mean, having served, the chaplains continue to serve all who wear the uniform, and of course all who are working in – within the Department of Defense. And with their own faith groups, they actually still follow their own faith lines. So there’s no new policy guidelines coming out there,” Cartwright said.
“Our guess is they will ignore the rights of chaplains as they have done up to this point,” said Schulcz. “The majority of chaplain responses [to the Pentagon report asserting the military could successfully repeal the 'gay' ban] raised questions about the effect of repeal on their ministries. [The Pentagon] said ‘Gee, the existing regulations are sufficient to respond to those concerns.’ Part of this review involves regulations that have to change, but they haven’t told us which regulations will have to change.
“We don’t know who’s going to be doing the training. It appears the homosexual community has had a great deal of input into preparing the training materials. That’s like having Exxon determine our policies on oil exploration. We’re going to have political indoctrination here.”
Baugham said ICECE is currently talking with members of Congress, particularly the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, about holding hearings before the ban is repealed.
“I have the surgeon general’s finding on what’s going to happen, and everything is negative,” said Baugham, referring to a report issued in 1993, when Congress rejected the Clinton administration’s initiative to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the ranks.
“If the health care system is flooded by a swell of homosexual diseases, the projection is that the military health care system cannot keep up with the problems this is going to cause,” said Baugham. “Soldiers are going to be infected and they’re going to infect others, and when they get home they’re going to infect their spouses. To pretend that’s not going to happen is irresponsibility by Dr. Gates and Adm. Mullen. In our judgment they should be removed from office.”
Robert Gates is the secretary of defense. Adm. Mike Mullen is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and President Obama’s principal military adviser.
“The powers that be are aware of this report, but they are ignoring it. We asked for honest hearings so this would be out in the open and discussed and they slammed the door on us,”
“We’re going to get hearings sooner or later if we have to sleep on their doorstep.”
Baugham’s call for hearings was echoed by Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness and a leading critic of open homosexuality in the military.
“They’re taking the first step to begin the training so they can repeal the 1993 law [banning open homosexuality],” said Donnelly. “Once training is started, the secretary of defense, the president and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs can certify that everything is prepared.”
Before the “gay” ban can be repealed, the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must “certify” that the military can allow open homosexuals to serve without impairing military effectiveness, readiness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention. The ban will be repealed 60 days after certification.
“What they’re trying to do is by no means simple,” added Donnelly. “LGBT law has all kinds of complexities. Looking at it superficially as they tried to do at Friday’s briefing isn’t going to work.
“Our position is members of Congress have to have hearings and ask hard questions. Scores of questions need to be asked and answered. I’m preparing the list. It’s really sad the military and its culture is being sacrificed so the president can deliver on his campaign promises.”
President Obama promised to lift the military’s “gay” ban during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“As far as the training goes, the services, we’re pretty certain they’ll be ready during the month of February to start the training because of where we are right now in terms of training policy development,” said Stanley.
“What we’ve been doing for the last several weeks is working with representatives from all the military departments to develop the training guidance and modules and training plans, so to speak. And we expect to have those accomplished next week,” added Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy Vee Penrod.
Stanley also said he expected the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning open homosexuals in the military to be implemented before the end of 2011, so open homosexuals will be able to serve before the new year, but he wouldn’t set a target date.
“As Secretary Gates says, we believe we can do it within this year,” said Stanley. “Based upon what we know right now, we believe we can do that. But there’s no artificial target put down because that would create an artificiality that just wouldn’t be real.”
Marine Gen. James Cartwright characterized the one-year prediction as “a good goal,” but he cautioned that the Pentagon may “discover something” that could delay the implementation of the repeal into 2012.