One issue that hasn’t been adequately addressed in the media is how the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will impact the religious liberty of military chaplains (as well as soldiers) who believe that homosexuality is sinful? One glossed over result from the Pentagon study summary was this concern:
Some feared repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell might limit their individual freedom of expression and free exercise of religion, or require them to change their personal beliefs about the morality of homosexuality. The views expressed to us in these terms cannot be downplayed or dismissed. Special attention should also be given to address the concerns of our community of 3,000 military chaplains. Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell exists among the chaplain corps. A large number of military chaplains (and their followers) believe that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, and that they are required by God to condemn it as such.
The report then went on to address this concern:
However, the reality is that in today’s U.S. military, people of sharply different moral values and religious convictions—including those who believe that abortion is murder and those who do not, and those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and those who do not—and those who have no religious convictions at all, already co-exist, work, live, and fight together on a daily basis. The other reality is that policies regarding Service members’ individual expression and free exercise of religion already exist, and we believe they are adequate. Service members will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs; they must, however, continue to respect and serve with others who hold different views and beliefs.
Within the chaplain community, the solution to this issue can be found in the existing guidance developed by and for our chaplains, which we believe should be reiterated as part of any education and training concerning repeal. Those regulations strike an appropriate balance between protecting a chaplain’s First Amendment freedoms and a chaplain’s duty to care for all. Existing regulations state that chaplains “will not be required to perform a religious role…in worship services, command ceremonies, or other events, if doing so would be in variance with the tenets or practices of their faith.” At the same time, regulations state that “Chaplains care for all Service members, including those who claim no religious faith, facilitate the religious requirements of personnel of all faiths, provide faith-specific ministries, and advise the command.”
So on one hand they said… we understand and you’ll be protected. On the other hand regulations say they have to provide “care” for all Service members. How that is interpreted will be the lynchpin here. I do expect chaplains will demonstrate love and compassion on homosexual soldiers just as Jesus would. That doesn’t mean not calling sin sin (just like Jesus also did). Jesus showed love to the adulterous woman, but He also said, “go and sin no more,” (John 8:11). Does requiring chaplains to care for all Service members require counseling gay couples? Because if were in the shoes of the chaplain the couple certainly wouldn’t like my advice and while it would be deemed hate speech by those on the left I see it as love for those who are entangled by sin.
Terry Mattingly of Get Religion back in October pointed out the potential pitfall for the religious liberty of conservative members of the military chaplaincy corps:
And what happens if the conservatives are right and that any advocacy of traditional doctrines by chaplains is labeled “hate speech,” with offenders either being punished or simply denied the ability to advance in rank? If you read the views of theological liberals, there will be no problems after repeal, unless there are problems. No one is talking about “hate speech,” except for those who believe that conservatives are already guilty of “hate speech.”
And there friends is the rub. I expect our military chaplains will act professionally, but will those who disagree with their theological positions demonstrate the same tolerance (the classic definition) expected from those chaplains?
Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts
Shane Vander Hart lives near Des Moines, IA and is the editor of Caffeinated Thoughts and Caffeinated Theology. He is the Iowa Communications Director for American Principles Project and American Principles in Action. He also provides a conservative perspective at The Des Moines Register as a contributor for their From The Right blog. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook. He gets lonely.