The harm to military religious liberty posed by the possible dismantling of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is only recently starting to get the kind of attention it needs. If the military is forced to normalize homosexual conduct, service members’ religious beliefs that such conduct is immoral and harmful will likely be a casualty of the political push to radically alter military personnel policy. This likelihood is demonstrated by the nationwide assaults on religious belief in the civilian world and by new evidence from an active-duty chaplain that is being revealed for the first time here.
Not surprisingly, those who have fought the hardest to protect service members’ religious liberty against the normalized homosexual behavior are the same men who have given decades of their lives to the service of that liberty: chaplains. In April, 41 veteran chaplains—men who have ministered to our troops in battlegrounds ranging from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan—signed a letter outlining the harm to religious liberty. These include censorship of sermons, counseling, and ethical teaching; forced changes to religious services and programs; and the marginalization of chaplains and service members with orthodox religious beliefs. A major vehicle for these harms, they warned, would be discrimination complaints, which would effectively end chaplains’ careers and thus censor their ministry.
And now new evidence has come to light that these concerns are true.
Since the beginning of the most recent round of this debate, the militaries of foreign countries that have allowed homosexual behavior to be practiced openly have been touted as proof that the U.S. military can adopt their practices and still be an effective fighting force. But a recent account from an active-duty U.S. chaplain working with one of those militaries shows religious liberty will not fare well in the face of normalized homosexual conduct.
The U.S. military operates what might best be called an “exchange program” that allows chaplains to become functioning members of foreign military chaplaincies. One such U.S. chaplain—whose name and the distinctive aspects of his service must be withheld to avoid censure—recently discovered when his faith contradicts the military’s endorsement of homosexuality.
A junior officer approached the chaplain with numerous questions about Christianity, and they talked for hours about a wide range of subjects, including a brief discussion about orthodox Christianity’s stance on homosexual behavior. The officer left satisfied. Later, though, a more senior officer berated the chaplain publicly for his religious perspective on homosexual behavior. This officer threatened him, saying that if the chaplain had not been a U.S. service member, he would certainly have been written up for “harassment.”
Later, a female service member was brought to the chaplain for help regarding relationship issues with her same-sex partner. The chaplain happily provided emotional support and sought administrative solutions so that she could return to her duties. After the situation was resolved, she met with the chaplain for follow-up counseling during which she asked how she might have a healthier relationship with her partner. He explained that, in this instance, since his faith teaches that no homosexual relationship can be healthy because it is innately against the will of God, he would instead help her find another chaplain who could counsel her if she would like. Her response? She said she knew of his beliefs and that she was willing to seek counsel from him anyway because she trusted him.