Despite the rhetoric from both the right and left on the National Defense Authorization Act debates, it turned out to be much ado about nothing, yet solely reading much of the commentary from some LGBT media and advocacy groups, it is difficult to understand that the final bill changed nothing for chaplains.
Guest blog by Vicki Hudson
“I will seek to provide pastoral care and ministry to persons of religious bodies other than my own within my area of responsibility with the same investment of myself as I give to members of my own religious body.
Each chaplain I spoke with said almost the same thing: they would be willing to share their experience with me, and open to my writing in their stead, but they were not willing to write even an anonymous article for fear of it being connected back to them.
By Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton
Communications Director for both OutServe and the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy
Over the past several years, right-wing so-called Christian groups like Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Family Research Council have been warning usthat the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” represented a fundamental threat to military chaplains. Now we finally see what they mean.
Air Force Chaplain (Colonel) Tim Wagoner, after close to thirty years as a Southern Baptist Chaplain, parted ways with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) after he was publicly called on the carpet. His offense? Sitting in the back of his own chapel while one of his chaplains conducted a same-sex ceremony for one of his Airmen. Although Chaplain Wagoner insisted that he did not “personally condone” same-sex weddings, he insisted on being a good leader by supporting both his subordinate chaplain and his airman.
The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is notoriously hard-line in its anti-gay positions, and published a “clarification” of Wagoner’s views, along with a stern warning to all Southern Baptists about their doctrine. A few days later, they gleefully reported Wagoner’s departure from their denomination.
So what do we have here? A denomination sending a message to all Southern Baptist chaplains that they don’t dare even give the APPEARANCE of supporting their gay and lesbian troops, lest the SBC withdraw their “endorsement” – and since all military chaplains must be endorsed by an approved body, this could end their military career.
So apparently DADT repeal did carry a threat to military chaplains. A threat coming from people like the Southern Baptist Convention.
The military chaplaincy exists to ensure that military members have access to religious services – not for chaplains to seek converts. If the sponsoring denominations cannot accept the necessary limitations on a chaplain that require him to “perform or provide” for ALL service members, regardless of belief, then they shouldn’t be sponsoring military chaplains.
The harsh and insensitive rhetoric trivializes the lives and families of America’s service members, and tramples on their First Amendment rights. The elite alliance of retired chaplains and denominational endorsers have lobbied relentlessly to violate “free exercise” by restricting the ministries of chaplains whose religious beliefs aren’t anti-gay enough for them.
Military Same Sex Marriage as a Religious Rite and Right: A Chaplain’s View
by Paul W. Dodd, Chaplain (Colonel), U.S. Army (Ret) and
Tom Carpenter, Esq. (CAPT USMC 1970-1982) and Elder, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Co-Chairs, Forum on the Military Chaplaincy
Last month an enlisted soldier and her partner were quietly blessed in a private religious ceremony at an Army chapel. Word leaked out, however, unleashing a vociferous attack by Republican congressmen and others, who condemned the “marriage-like ceremony” as illegal and a desecration.
That religious ceremony marked the first known use of a military chapel for a same-sex couple, a highly charged political issue. The service – at an installation chapel at Fort Polk, La., – had no legal effect as Louisiana does not recognize gay marriages or civil unions. It was solely a religious rite under the auspices of their religious denomination – a simple expression of their free exercise of religion.
“It’s outrageous and illegal,” crowed Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), a member of the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America, and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who has introduced several bills to prevent such ceremonies.
LGBT service members and civilians alike, who have been raised in traditional communities of faith, have long experienced the sting of rejection by members of the clergy and by those who should love them most – their families and friends. Religion is often cited to justify hate crimes, bullying and bigotry. It forms the rationale for reparative therapy or transformational ministries (the pseudo-science of changing one’s sexual orientation).