Thursday, April 29, 2010

Retired Chaplains Urge President To Retain Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Yesterday 41 retired military chaplains sent a letter (full text) to President Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates urging them to retain the military's current "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians in the armed forces, or at least to include robust religious liberty protections in any change. Copies of the letter were sent to additional military and legislative leaders as well. (CBS News reported on developments.)

The letter says: "if the government normalizes homosexual behavior in the armed forces, many (if not most) chaplains will confront a profoundly difficult moral choice: whether they are to obey God, or to obey men." The letter contends that chaplains will be pressured into watering down their religious teachings and may have their ability to share their religious beliefs challenged. It goes on to argue:
Marginalizing a large group of chaplains ... will unavoidably harm readiness by diminishing morale. Similarly, making orthodox Christians-- both chaplains and servicemen-- into second-class Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen or Marines whose sincerely-held religious beliefs are comparable to racism cannot help recruitment or retention.
According to, to counter the letter, six gay rights activists delivered toy soldiers to their lawmakers yesterday to represent the 13,500 service personnel who have been discharged under "don't ask, don't tell." Also, the Interfaith Alliance released a statement (full text) criticizing the chaplains' letter, saying in part: "Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is a step forward in equality and justice for all citizens. When chaplains find the government's pursuit of these goals to be a threat to their values, we must ask whether something is askew with their values."