Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ could affect military chaplains’ religious freedom

2 18 2010 archmil

Proposed changes allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military could marginalize military chaplains from religions which consider homosexual acts sinful, a religious liberty group has warned.

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said that if the military is forced to promote homosexual behavior there will be “open conflict between the virtues taught by chaplains and the moral message delivered by the military.”

“In such a conflict, it’s obvious who will win and who will lose,” Theriot claimed. “If the state favors the demands of the homosexual activists over the First Amendment, it is only a matter of time before the military censors the religious expression of its chaplains and marginalizes denominations that teach what the Bible says about homosexual behavior.”

A Feb. 17 letter from the ADF to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates lists many possible conflicts centering on whether chaplains could sincerely adhere to their religious beliefs and still conscientiously preach and counsel while serving as military chaplains.

Problems may arise concerning whether chaplains must allow soldiers who openly engage in homosexual behavior to lead worship services or to serve in other lay leadership roles. Another concern for the ADF is whether chaplains may make public statements critical of homosexual behavior or military policy on the issue.

The ADF cited previous civilian conflicts between religious liberty and laws concerning homosexual behavior.

“Military chaplains who have volunteered to defend the liberties protected in our Constitution shouldn’t be denied those very same liberties,” Theriot argued.

He warned that forcing chaplains to “deny the teachings of their faith” in order to serve in the armed forces is a “grave threat” to the First Amendment and to the spiritual health of those in military service.

“We urge you to reconsider your decision and avoid this collision with America’s most cherished and fundamental freedom of religious liberty,” the ADF letter stated.

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