Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal and Military Chaplains

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This morning’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a story about the fears expressed by some conservative military chaplains about the effects on them of the pending repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The story is part of the meme of victimizing the oppressor. From the story:

The military’s bottom line is that no chaplain will be penalized for teaching that gay sex is sinful.

“Service members must not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs,” said the Support Plan for Implementation of the repeal. “They must, however, continue to respect and co-exist with others who may hold different views and beliefs.”

The plan tells trainers for the repeal to “use language that is respectful of all perspectives. … This includes gay and lesbian individuals as well as people of faith who have moral concerns with repeal, all of whom can be stereotyped in a negative way.”

Nevertheless, the Pray in Jesus Name Project, which supports conservative chaplains, has called the Pentagon guidelines the “plan to purge Christians” from chaplaincy.

“Now the Obama Administration is officially on record pressuring chaplains to quit the service if they cannot ‘reconcile’ with homosexual sin that violates their Christian conscience,” said a petition on its website.

The “purge” is a clause that says chaplains have an option to leave the military that isn’t open to others who object to serving with gay troops. They can ask their faith group to withdraw its endorsement, which would trigger a discharge.

In a pluralistic society–and especially one with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the free exercise of religion–religious beliefs must be “respected.” The verb “to respect” has a multiplicity of meanings. Here, I use it not in the sense of “holding in esteem or honor” but in the sense of “refraining from intruding upon” the religious beliefs of others.

But what never ceases to amaze me–and what is fully on display in this article–is how, for the truly reactionary, it is never enough to respect religious belief in this way–even when those religious beliefs are being brought out of the place of worship and into the secular arena (whether that be counseling troops in the military or the state‘s recognition of relationship through marriage), where others may embrace differing beliefs or no religious beliefs at all. Instead, they ask for religious beliefs to be respected in the former sense of the word (i.e., of holding them in esteem or honor), asking, in essence, that their beliefs be imposed on others in everyday, nonreligious life–notwithstanding the same constitutional amendment’s admonition that the “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In the case of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, we are told that, to do otherwise, is to oppress conservatives (and especially conservative Christians) and purge them from the military.

Once again, the victimizer turns himself/herself into a victim to stymie change and prevent the reversal of a long history of antigay discrimination. Quite unfortunately, this is nothing new, but it still bears being called out for what it is whenever we see it.

-Tony Infanti

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