Military chaplain agencies demand conscience protections as ‘don’t ask’ repeal looms
WASHINGTON, May 25, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Twenty-one religious agencies that provide chaplains to the U.S. military sent a joint letter to the military’s chiefs of chaplains Monday voicing strong concern over the need for religious liberty protections if the military lifts its “don’t ask don’t tell” policy that forbids open homosexuality in the military.
The letter asks the chiefs for their help in urging Congress and the Department of Defense to adopt such protections.
Alliance Defence Fund (ADF) attorneys helped draft proposed religious liberty protections for the Pentagon’s working group on the matter, but the law designed to dismantle the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy still lacks any such protections.
“Service members should not be denied the very constitutional liberties they volunteered to defend,” said ADF Legal Counsel Daniel Blomberg.
“If this government truly cares about protecting religious liberties as it says it does, why has it been afraid to put it in writing? The alarm has been sounded time and time again in this process by those with the utmost credibility. The question is: will our military leaders and elected officials listen?”
The letter is signed by agents representing many of the major Christian denominations that provide chaplains, including the military’s largest chaplain endorser, the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services USA issued his own statement Friday. “The faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services must never forget that those with a homosexual inclination must be treated with the respect worthy of their human dignity,” wrote Archbishop Timothy Broglio. “Likewise the Church is unbending in her commitment to the notion that the reality of marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman.”
“It is likewise abhorrent to contemplate that any chaplain will ever be compelled to perform a religious ceremony contrary to the dictates of his/her faith,” added the archbishop.
The joint letter additionally expressed concern that signatories, who are veteran military officers and chaplains themselves, have rarely been sought for input. The letter specifically cites a recent Navy chaplaincy directive that would allow same-sex “marriage” ceremonies at Navy chapels in some states even though doing so would be illegal under the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Though this revision is now temporarily suspended pending further review, we are genuinely concerned that this might be a sign of things to come,” the letter states. “We are likewise concerned that endorsers and faith communities had no voice in the formulation of such a significant policy change.
“DOMA remains the law of the land. There is no clear reason why it does not apply to Federal military facilities, particularly base chapels. … Since the current administration has publicly stated that it will no longer support and defend DOMA, this action has every appearance of selective disregard for the law and raises significant concerns.”
“It is not sufficient to posit, as the [Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) for DADT] report did, that chaplains and service members remain free to exercise their faith in chapel services,” the letter continues. “Service members should know that chaplains’ ministry and their own rights of conscience remain protected everywhere military necessity has placed them.”
“We hope that you will join us in urging the Department of Defense and Congress to adopt such specific and intentional conscience protections,” the religious agencies concluded.