The Department of Defense may want to set up a conflict between its policy and federal law written by Congress and signed by the president, but several thousand evangelical Christian chaplains in the military will have no part of it.
That’s according to an announcement today from the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, whose members are various Christian church denominations or groups that “endorse” chaplains for the United States military.
Chaplains must have those endorsers, or outside groups that affirm that the individual chaplain is qualified for the leadership post as chaplain, in order to be in the military.
The organization’s statement today came in response to last week’s announcement by the Department of Defense that chaplains now can participate in same-sex ceremonies, and in fact, will be allowed to use federal facilities for such exhibitions.
“While the memorandum acknowledges a chaplain’s right to not participate in same-sex ‘marriage’ ceremonies – a right not given by the Pentagon, but rather given by the Creator and protected by the chaplain’s faith group – the new policy makes it clear that the Pentagon has placed the military in the midst of a deeply controversial issue during a time of ongoing war,” the organization said.
Spokesman Dr. Ron Crews, the executive director of the alliance, explained, “By dishonestly sanctioning the use of federal facilities for ‘marriage counterfeits’ that federal law and the vast majority of Americans have rejected, the Pentagon has launched a direct assault on the fundamental unit of society – husband and wife.”
So the alliance’s statement that the more than 2,000 military chaplains represented by its endorsers will not be involved in same-sex ceremonies.
At issue is the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which for all federal purposes recognizes only a man and a woman as participants in a marriage. Homosexual activists have been trying for some time to get that definition repealed, even though two-thirds of all states also have the same definition in their own constitutions or laws.
Barack Obama joined their camp earlier this year by announcing that the administration, through the Justice Department, simply would not do its duty to defend an existing federal law, the DOMA, when it is challenged in court. Republicans in the U.S. House were forced to obtain outside counsel for those disputes because of the decision on the part of the White House not to provide a defense.
It was reported just last week that the Department of Defense issued memos regarding same-sex “ceremonies” now that officials have abandoned the centuries-old standard that those acting openly on their homosexual lifestyle choices were disqualified from military service.
In its announcement, the Defense Department said not only would military chaplains be allowed to participate in such events, they also could be held at military chapels across the nation.
That drew an immediate negative reaction from Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the archbishop of the archdiocese for military services in the Catholic church. The Roman Catholic Church “does not perform the sacrament of matrimony for same-sex couples,” said an announcement.
Therefore, no such events will happen at West Point’s Catholic Chapel, which is a Catholic parish and is unlike the nondenominational chapels found on other military installations.
Crews’ announcement said the evangelicals were joining the Catholics on this matter.
“I was stunned at the memorandum that came out last Friday,” he told WND. “It appears to set the Department of Defense in opposition to Congress in that Congress has passed a definition of marriage that is now federal law.”
“It appears they’re allowing chaplains to be in a position of violating federal law, and that would be done by sanction of the Defense Department,” he said.
“We’re very concerned if this is just the first salvo from the Department of Defense after repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,'” he said.
He said he and his organizations were encouraging Christian chaplains to remain in the military and serve the needs of the soldiers and their families. But he also confirmed that it’s clear there are those who have decided they will just walk away from what had been their ministry.
“We’re not willing to abandon our soldiers and their families,” Crews said.
The solution that is needed, he said, is a formal recognition in the law that soldiers and chaplains have a right of conscience in the military – and cannot be penalized for acting on their faith system.
“We call once again for Congress to affirm that the federal definition of marriage applies to the Department of Defense and that no federal facilities may be used to circumvent federal law,” he said. “In addition, we call on Congress to enact a ‘right of conscience’ clause in the Revised Title 10 code to ensure that no American, and especially not our service members, be forced to deny their religious beliefs.”
The DoD memos authorize military chaplains to conduct same-sex “ceremonies” on or off base and make military property, such as a chapel, available on a “neutral-to-sexual-orientation” basis.
The law of the land regarding marriage in the United States has been the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.
The federal law, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, has been under increasing attack since President Obama took office in January 2009.
One newly released memo, signed by Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, provides guidelines to all military chaplains that “supersedes” prior guidelines.
It states that a military chaplain “may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law.”
A second Defense memo declared that the military must make its facilities available in a way that is “neutral to sexual orientation.”
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., issued a statement Friday also criticizing the Defense Department memos. In it, he says, “DOMA clearly applies to the Department of Defense.”
“The Department of Defense has decided to put the White House’s liberal agenda ahead of following the law,” Akin said. “The Defense of Marriage Act makes it clear that for the purposes of the federal government, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman. The use of federal property or federal employees to perform gay marriage ceremonies is a clear contravention of the law.”
Akin noted that in May, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act carrying his amendment on the issue.
“My amendment, which is now the position of the House of Representatives, would make it clear that federal employees and federal property can only be used to support marriages that are consistent with DOMA,” Akin said.
In an email to WND, Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt of the Pray In Jesus Name Project said Obama’s Pentagon “issued new regulations Friday forcing all military chaplains to facilitate homosexual wedding ceremonies in military chapels in some states” or face disciplinary action.
“In other words, chaplains MUST open up their chapels to desecration,” Klingenschmitt said.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council also issued a statement on the issue.
“It is outrageous that only 10 days after repeal of the law against homosexuality in the Armed Forces, the Defense Department is already pushing the military further down the slippery slope,” he said. “The repeal law passed by the lame-duck Congress last year said nothing about authorizing same-sex ‘weddings’ on military bases or by military chaplains.”
Perkins argued that the Defense of Marriage Act “remains the law in America, defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman for all purposes under federal law.”
He noted that the House already taken action to reinforce DOMA, “which clearly repudiates the policy announced today.”