Army chaplains oppose DADT repeal on religious speech grounds

Font Size:

With the Pentagon set to release their survey of military opinion on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) Tuesday, military and religious groups are speaking out against repealing DADT on the grounds that it will restrict religious freedom in the Armed Services.

Opponents of repeal fear that the official normalization of homosexuality in the military will conflict with the ability of military chaplains to minister freely for fear of being charged with discrimination if they speak about what their faith dictates with regards to homosexuality.

In September, a group of 66 retired military chaplains wrote of their concerns and opposition to repeal in a letter to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“[T]he proposed ‘non-discrimination’ law may effectively ban chaplains from expressing their religious beliefs on homosexual behavior,” they wrote. “The affects of this ban would be felt keenly within a chaplain’s religious duties, but it would extend outside the pulpit, too. Since chaplains are tasked with teaching classes in moral leadership and ethics both on armed forces bases and at branch schools, such censorship would prevent them from providing the full moral instruction their faith background gives them.”

Gary McCaleb, senior council of The Alliance Defense Fund, told The Daily Caller that one of the most concerning elements of DADT repeal is the threat that chaplains will be charged with discrimination. According to McCaleb, the official acceptance of homosexual behavior can only be enforced through a nondiscrimination policy, which will infringe upon the ability of chaplains to preach, and, if chaplains do preach against homosexual behavior, it will likely result in reprimand.

“The chaplains who will speak as a matter of religious faith and morality that homosexual behavior is wrong are obviously not going to be complying with the nondiscrimination policy that affirms homosexual behavior,” McCaleb said.

Retired 28-year U.S. Army chaplain Col. Ronald Crews was one of the 66 chaplains who signed the letter to Obama and Gates. Crews told TheDC that while DADT is not perfect, it is a good compromise.

“It has worked well to allow people of faith to be able to serve in the military without feeling muzzled,” Crews said. “What my chaplains are concerned about it is, will they still be able to preach from all of the scriptures in their role? Secondly, will they be able to counsel soldiers who come to them who are concerned about sexual behavior and will they be able to speak to them their convictions from the scriptures about sexual behavior.”

Retired 31-year U.S. Army chaplain General Douglas Lee told TheDC that the debate has been framed by some to mean that chaplains do not want to deal with homosexuals who come their way for guidance — a contention he says is absolutely wrong.

“Chaplains have, are, and will always take care of the troops who come their way for help,” Lee said. “Some people believe that to be against ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ means chaplains don’t want to take care of people. That is absolutely false.”

Crews said one of the main concerns with repeal is that those who are not accepting of the homosexual lifestyle will be punished or discharged.

“If any soldier has a concern from a Biblical perspective about homosexual behavior will they be reprimanded? Will they have equal opportunity charges brought against them if they speak out?”

According to Lee, this is true in Canada, where religious advisers cannot speak, preach, or counsel against homosexuality.

“What that means is their chaplains do a good job of taking care of people who come their way, but when it comes to being able to preach your faith group tenets that might put homosexuality in a negative cast, they simply cannot or will not do it.”

In Lee’s view, the First Amendment will not be a protection for speech believed to be discriminatory.

DADT is attached to the Defense Authorization bill, expected to come before Senate during the lame duck session.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to requests for comment.