Repealing DADT Will Hurt Chaplains

December 1, 2010

It appears Lady Gaga may get her wish.

The Pentagon released their study of the controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy recently where gays currently can serve in the armed forces as long as their homosexual orientation and behavior is not lived out openly. Many on the leftward spectrum feel it a violation of basic freedoms to force someone to serve but not serve openly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the current ban, “requires people to lie.” While those on the right of the spectrum worry the ramifications of a lift of the ban may be dangerous for the military in the midst of two wars. The report addressed a recent poll of the military which found that two thirds of soldiers serving do not care if gays serve openly in the military and therefore the ban should be scrapped (interestingly those who did not want the ban repealed are those serving in active combat).

What most of the media does not focus on is what those with religious responsibilities in the armed forces think about the possible repealing of DADT. While most Christian chaplains serving are ready and willing to provide counsel and help to those of any kind, whether hetero or homosexual, the possible repeal of the ban may handcuff chaplains from maintaining their religious freedom as they perform their duties for the military.

Richard Young, a retired Army Colonel who spent 25 years as a chaplain said in the July 17, 2010 issue of World magazine, “For the first time in American history, virtues that are taught by chaplains will go directly against the moral message of the military. This will really muzzle how chaplains will be able to minister without facing charges of discrimination.” Evangelical Christians currently make up the core of the chaplaincy serving the armed forces. They generally take the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality very seriously. When they are forced to no longer be able to articulate what they believe because it is against government policy, we may see a great departure of those who serve the spiritual needs of the military.

Chaplains have many concerns how this repeal may force them to choose between serving the military and serving God. A letter sent by a number of retired chaplains to urge President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates to keep DADT listed a number of concerns. Among them, the retired chaplains inquired whether, as the administrators of the Army’s Strong Bonds program for marriages strained by military life, chaplains would have to begin including same-sex couples? Would they be forced to allow homosexual soldiers to assist with lay duties at religious services? And would chaplains be required in counseling session to remain silent on their views about homosexuality?

Repealing the DADT ban will have wide-reaching effects on the military. While gays will be able to serve openly, chaplains will not. The specific goal of chaplains is to provide the much needed spiritual support to our men and women in uniform. If they will not be able to do their duties because the government restricts their religious freedom by not being able to talk about their belief that homosexuality is wrong, and they are forced the leave the military, who will take their place? It is clear, that while it may help gays by repealing DADT, it has very real and great potential to hurt chaplains.