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

Policies of religious groups towards DADT. Part 3

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"LGB" is an acronym referring to lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

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This essay is a continuation from Part 2

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Policies of two fundamentalist Christian para-church groups:

  • Family Research Council (FRC): This is an evangelical Christian advocacy group. It will be rated as an anti-gay hate group during 2011 by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- an organization that monitors hate groups in the U.S. 1 On the day that the DADT policy ended -- 2011-SEP-20 -- the FRC's president, Tony Perkins, said:

    "The American military exists for only one purpose -- to fight and win wars. Yet, today, the U.S. military became a tool in reshaping social attitudes regarding human sexuality. Using the military to advance a liberal social agenda will only do harm to the military's ability to fulfill its mission." 1

  • American Family Association: This is another evangelical Christian group that concentrates on fighting all forms of equality for the LGBT community. They are perhaps best known for advocating that the number of sexual orientations be increased from three (heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality) to over 30. By applying this concept to laws intended to fight hate crime, they were able to claim that the bill would protect pedophiles. They convinced a lot of people of the validity of this belief.

    On the eve of the vote on the DADT repeal bill on 2010-SEP-21, they issued an urgent appeal:

    "The United States Senate will vote tomorrow ... on a bill which will overturn the law that currently prohibits open homosexuals from serving in the U.S. military.

    If passed, this bill will introduce sexual tension into the intimate living quarters military members share. This will be devastating for military readiness, retention, and recruitment. 

    It also will likely mean the end of military careers for conservative officers and chaplains who have deeply held moral and religious convictions that homosexual conduct should not be promoted in the armed forces. 

    The clear and present danger this bill poses to religious liberty is confirmed by this quote from Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, who is the deputy chief of staff in charge of personnel matters for the U.S. Army (emphasis added):

    'Unfortunately, we have a minority of service members who are still racists and bigoted, and you will never be able to get rid of all of them. But these people opposing this new policy will need to get with the program, and if they can't, they need to get out.' (Source: Washington Times, 9/17/10)

    Over 1,100 retired flag and general officers have signed a letter expressing their resistance to any change in current law, saying it will severely compromise the mission of the United States military and 'impact leadership at all levels.' 

    Additionally, 66 retired chaplains have signed a letter expressing their conviction that overturning current law will likely mean the end of conservative chaplains in the U.S. military." 2 (Emphasis theirs)

There are a number of obvious errors in the AFA statement:

  • The bill did not overturn the DADT policy. It merely set up a system so that if it could be assured that the DADT policy could be abolished without harming or impeding the military, then it could be repealed.

  • DADT is a policy, not a law.

  • I suspect that few if any "conservative officers and chaplains" were forced to end their careers when African American service members were allowed to join previously white-only units.

  • Nobody is promoting homosexuality. DADT oppressed LGBT service members. Its repeal simply allows persons of all sexual orientations to serve openly.

  • I suspect that few were forced to resign or be separated from the military when women were allowed to serve.

  • I suspect that few if any will lose their employment because people of all sexual orientations will be treated equally for the first time since the U.S. was founded.

  • As has happened with so many topics involving sexual minorities, the threat to religious freedom has been raised. But the abolition of DADT will not limit anyone's religious beliefs'. It will not restrict religious freedoms, except the freedom to perform actions that oppress, discriminate against and denigrate women and sexual minorities.

These fear-based messages can be contrasted with a statement on the same day to reporters by Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer:

"... today, with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant joint force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values." 1

It will be interesting to observe in the upcoming months just how many religious denominations pull all of their chaplains from military service, and how many chaplains are fired for what Bostick calls racism and bigotry.

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Policies of mainline/liberal/progressive Christian groups:

During 2010-APR, Christian, Jewish, Sikh and other faith groups, joined with dozens of faith-based advocacy organizations to send a letter to Congress asking that DADT be repealed.

The groups included: More Light Presbyterians; Alliance of Baptists; American Conference of Cantors; American Friends Service Committee; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Dignity USA; Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ); The Episcopal Church, USA; Equal Partners in Faith; The Fellowship; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Interfaith Alliance; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Lutherans Concerned/North America; Metropolitan Community Churches; More Light Presbyterians; National Black Justice Coalition; National Council of Jewish Women; Other Sheep: Multicultural Ministries with Sexual Minorities; Rabbinical Assembly; Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International. The Sikh Coalition. Union for Reform Judaism. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries; United Church of Christ, Wider Church Ministries; United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Unity Fellowship Church Movement; and Women of Reform Judaism.

The letter stated:

"On behalf of our organizations, representing a diverse group of faith traditions and religious beliefs, we urge you to pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009 (MREA) this year. This long-overdue law will repeal the unjust and unwise Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) law, which prohibits lesbian and gay Americans from serving openly in the military.

We write because we strongly believe this policy of government-sanctioned discrimination is morally wrong and entirely contrary to the teachings and values of our faith communities. Since DADT was adopted, more than 13,500 lesbian and gay service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation. Their selfless service has been rewarded with humiliation, and their discharges fray the fabric of our communities. An estimated 66,000 lesbians and gays now serve in our armed forces, and are compelled to live dishonestly and in fear of termination for reasons unrelated to their performance. As faith leaders, we deal routinely with the damage such discrimination and fear imposes on our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers and their families. We believe the laws of our country should reflect the highest regard for integrity and care for our neighbors as we care for ourselves.

Repeal of DADT will finally allow all service members to contribute their talents and skills to our country openly and honestly.

We urge you to recognize in law what the majority of Americans -– Republicans, Democrats and Independents of many faiths –- have recognized in their hearts: this discriminatory law is unjust and wrong and must end this year." 3

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Almost 20 years previously, this denomination supported the right of LGBs to serve openly in the military. Its Churchwide Assembly passed a statement:

"Early in 1993, Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom wrote to President William Clinton and General Colin Powell to support the president’s intention to lift the ban on homosexual persons in the armed services. Based on prior statements issued by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor churches, these letters were written to advocate for the civil rights of gay and lesbian people. Bishop Chilstrom emphasized, "They should be judged on the basis of their conduct rather than their sexual orientation." He also indicated that the conduct of heterosexual people must be considered as well. He wrote, "I am only pointing out that we should not allow the sexual misconduct of some gay and lesbian persons to prevent others from serving in the military, any more than we would allow the misconduct of some heterosexual persons to prevent others from serving." 4

United Methodist Church: At its 2008 General Conference, the Church adopted a statement supporting the right for LGBT service members to openly serve. It said in part:

"The United Methodist Church has historically been opposed to discrimination in society including the military. Our anti-discrimination stance is supported primarily through Jesus’ teachings about radical love and the acceptance of those persons living on the margins of society."

"The United States of America, a nation built on equal rights, presently denies the right of professing homosexuals to actively serve their country, forcing men and women who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to assume a 'don’t ask, don’t tell' position when enlisting into military service. This situation is discriminatory, unethical, and regrettable; therefore, we affirm the stance that the US military should not exclude persons from service solely on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity." 5

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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. "Anti-Gay Groups, on the Defensive After Criticism, Lash Out," Southern Poverty Law Center, 2011 Spring issue, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  2. "Senate votes Tuesday (Sept. 21) on homosexuals in military," American Family Association, 2010-SEP-20, at: http://www.afa.net/
  3. "MLP Joins Faith-Based Organizations Letter Asking for Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell," More Light Presbyterians, 2010-APR-28, at: http://www.mlp.org/
  4. Gay and Lesbian people in the military, Churchwide Assembly, 1993, at: http://www.elca.org/
  5. "Military Service Regardless of Sexual Orientation," from "The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church — 2008," The United Methodist Publishing House. Online at: http://www.umc.org/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2011-SEP-24
Latest update: 2011-SEP-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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