By Jack Minor
A coalition of military chaplains is urging Congress to protect the rights of chaplains and members of the military to express their biblically based views of homosexuality, because current law leaves them open to harassment and disciplinary actions.
Brig. Gen. Douglas E. Lee, a former Army chaplain and the chief of the executive committee of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said there haven't been direct assaults on chaplains for their views of homosexuality – yet.
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But he said the pressure to conform to the military's new policy of allowing homosexuals in the ranks is like guerrilla warfare.
His organization recently wrote Congress on the issue.
Members of Congress "are being told that everything is just fine, and there is no problem with the implementation of the law, however, that is not true," Lee said.
The change was adopted when Congress repealed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy under which homosexuals could serve as long as they didn't disclose their sexual orientation.
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The letter sent by the CALL provided Congress with specific reports revealing the need for the pending Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, which would protect the rights of chaplains and service members to oppose homosexuality without fear of retaliation.
Among some of the cases cited by the alliance:
- A senior chaplain on a major stateside military installation recently was stripped of his authority over the chapel under his charge for his insistence that, in accordance with federal law and military regulations proclaiming the chapel as a "sacred space," the chapel would not be used to celebrate "marriages" between same-sex couples.
- A chaplain was threatened with early retirement then was moved to an assignment where he could "be supervised" after he forwarded an email to his subordinates that was a thoughtful reflection on the military's former "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
- At Andrews Air Force Base a senior NCO asked a chaplain for assistance over an incident that occurred in the public food court. Two sailors under his command were eating and talking when one of them mentioned he might want to be a chaplain someday but didn't know how the new regulation allowing homosexuals to serve would affect that plan. Another service member at the next table who was listened to the conversation stood up and berated the two sailors for talking about the new policy and reported the "incident" to the NCO. Unsure of what to do, he instructed the soldier who want to become a chaplain that he needed to be more careful in public.
- A chaplain on funeral duty with some enlisted sailors heard them discussing how they felt it was unfair that fellow service members that chose the "gay" or lesbian lifestyle were allowed to choose their roommates, but as heterosexuals they were unable to do the same.
- A service school that trains officers experienced a recent incident in which a male service member sexually harassed another male service member through text messages, emails, phone calls and visible confrontations. The targeted member was not interested in a same-sex relationship, but the offending male insisted the two would make a good couple. The harassment was reported, but no disciplinary action resulted.
The media generally characterizes the legislation passed by Congress in 2010 as simply a repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," a policy initiated by Bill Clinton in 1993.
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But, in reality, the military's centuries-old ban on homosexuality was repealed.
Lee said while much of the media focus has been on chaplains and how the policy will affect their right to freely practice their religion, the bigger threat is the loss of freedoms for all service members.
"Chaplains have more protections than the regular soldier, because they are a constitutionally protected position," he said. "The issue is not one of chaplains being assaulted at the moment, but rather of the troops out there in the enlisted world who are facing assaults on the religious freedom."
Supporters of the ban have said no soldier has been disciplined for his religious beliefs on homosexuality, which proves that the new policy is working out just fine and that "gays" and lesbians are working side by side with no effect on morale or unit cohesion.
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However, Lee says there are many signs that permitting homosexuals to serve openly has indeed created a variety of problems and not all of them are related to homosexuality.
"There are little bubbles popping up all over the place on issues related to DADT and they aren't all about homosexuality. They have to do with morals, values and how soldiers view life," Lee warned. "What has happened in Colombia with the Secret Service and the military is indicative of an atmosphere that emboldens things that for decades were considered immoral."
He also cited a recent report that showed sex crimes have surged in the Army following the new homosexual policy.
He said the report is not surprising because there is a deliberate attempt by some to eliminate Christian morality from the military.
"There have been no frontal assaults on chaplains because there is a First Amendment, however the problem is an erosion in the culture where the moral foundations are being destroyed by a desire of many in the current administration and some in the Pentagon to make the military completely secular."
At the time of the Army's founding, purity and morals were considered by Gen. George Washington to be a vital foundation.
"Purity of morals being the only sure foundation of public happiness in any country and highly conducive to order, subordination, and success in an Army, it will be well worthy the emulation of officers of every rank and class to encourage it both by the influence of example and the penalties of authority," Washington said. "It is painful to see many shameful instances of riot and licentiousness. … A regard to decency should conspire with a sense of morality to banish a vice productive of neither advantage or pleasure."
According to Lee, another issue that is not gaining much attention is open homosexuality versus the rights of the congregations. But disagreements are developing.
"We have a case where a chaplain who belongs to denomination that believes homosexuality a sin took over a chapel and discovered the organist was an open homosexual and a 'married' one," Lee said. "He tried to influence the chapel program but so far he has been unable to keep the homosexual's duties limited to playing the organ which is what he was hired to do.
"In another service where there wasn't a strong chaplain, this homosexual is leading the service and speaking and there are people in that service who were not in agreement with his homosexuality."
He warned, "Homosexuals are becoming more emboldened to speak, despite congregations preferring they not be in that positions but they have no choice and the congregations don't know what to do about it."
The organization points out to Congress that this is not the first time a presidential administration has implemented a policy that negatively impacted the free exercise of religion within the armed forces.
In 1996, following President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, chaplains joined a campaign asking Congress to override the veto. They were told by the military that "applicable directives prohibit you from participating in this campaign."
The chaplains subsequently sued over the policy and emerged victorious.
The group says despite the victory, chaplains and service members should not have to sue the government for the right to practice their religion.
The CALL letter insists its intent is not just to protect the rights of those opposed to homosexuality but the rights of everyone to practice freedom of conscience and religion, even those who disagree with them.
"The ideals that drive chaplains to serve are worthy of preservation and protection, not persecution. At this stage, the persecution is beginning," the letter said.
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said that when President Obama "put his hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the constitutionally protected rights of all Americans, no exception was made against those in the military."
He's introduced legislation that would protect the religious faith rights of chaplains.
"Whether it is expressing the tenets of one's faith on the issue of marriage or abortion or contraception, it is a violation of the most fundamental of rights – the free exercise of religion – to coerce a chaplain to act in contravention of the tenets of his faith," Huelskamp said.
His statement addressed the Obama administration's attempt to stifle a statement by Roman Catholic chaplains that the president's requirement that Catholic groups pay for abortion-causing drugs would not be followed.
His H.R. 3828, the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, already has dozens of cosponsors.
An analysis of Huelskamp's bill by the Center for Military Readiness explains that while the First Amendment to the Constitution "guarantees rights of conscience and religious freedom to both chaplains and military personnel" a need has developed to "deter infringements on religious liberty."
The bill, according to the CMR's analysis, "would preserve the status quo prior to repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"Conscience clauses are common in civilian law but conspicuously absent in the repeal legislation. Under the MRLFA, within disciplinary limits already set in the UCMJ, service members and chaplains would be able to speak openly about their sincerely held religious and moral beliefs at all times, without fear of career reprisals," the analysis says.
Now, under procedures set up by the Obama administration, chaplains only have such freedom in their worship services, and they could be punished for "resistance" to the indoctrination of homosexual behavior in the ranks.
"Service members deployed far from home have a right to receive counsel from chaplains endorsed by their faith group who are free to express their views on matters of morality at all times, not just during worship services. Religious study groups, the Army's 'Strong Bonds' marriage counseling program, and social, educational, or family/athletic activities frequently involve the expression of sincerely held beliefs outside of worship services," the analysis says.
Obama's "new policy takes sides between a minority of military chaplains who have no moral objections to homosexual conduct, and the majority of chaplains who do," the analysis says. "Absent congressional action, constitutional rights of conscience will be protected for one group but not the other."
A WND/Wenzel Poll in March showed nearly one in four registered voters considers the homosexual lifestyle "sinful" and another group nearly the same size defines it as "aberrant and destructive."
And still another nearly 10 percent say it is "aberrant."
The poll showed a majority of voters still reject homosexual "marriage."
"Our polling on the subject shows that Americans are increasingly split on the question of gay marriage, but that the majority still believe laws against such unions should stand," Wenzel said in his analysis.
Half of those surveyed said they are opposed to courts overturning laws that ban gay marriage, and 54 percent said they are opposed to state lawmakers overturning such laws.
The results came in response to the question "What is your opinion of homosexuality?" Nearly 24 percent said they consider it "sinful," including a surprising 17 percent of those who self-identified with the Democratic Party.
Another 22.3 percent, including 14.8 percent of the Democrats, said it was both aberrant and destructive, and yet another 9.5 percent defined homosexuality as "an aberrant lifestyle."