“If Gays Serve Openly, will Chaplains Suffer?”
USA Today has duelling articles on the potential impact of the repeal of the policies commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“No, the mission is to serve all soldiers.”
Arnold Resnicoff, a former Navy Chaplain, responds in the negative. Resnicoff was also a special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 to 2006, when the Air Force Academy “Christian scandal” made news. (Michael Weinstein called Resnicoff an “unmitigated disaster.”)
Resnicoff’s primary argument is that
good chaplains can preach and teach, true to their beliefs — respecting rights while challenging what they believe is wrong. (emphasis original)
He maintains there would be zero impact to Chaplains.
“Yes, religious liberty is in real jeopardy.”
Daniel Blomberg of the Alliance Defense Fund answers in the affirmative. In contrast to Resnicoff, Blomberg says the change would “likely harm” Chaplains:
This harm includes limitations on the right of chaplains to preach, counsel, or teach according to their faith when doing so requires identifying homosexual behavior as sinful or detrimental.
Obviously, the two are making competing claims, and both cannot be correct. However, the future is “uncertain” with respect to how the repeal will play out. For example, while the ADF represents Chaplains who oppose repeal, they have asked that if repeal is inevitable, specific safeguards be put in place to protect the religious freedom of Chaplains. The result of those protections would be the outcome that Resnicoff apparently foresees without qualification.
Interestingly, Resnicoff also takes a similar tack as others who have supported the repeal by comparing it to other acts that religious personnel might find “immoral.” In this case, he cites abortion:
For some faiths, abortion is premeditated murder, yet no religious group makes threats to withdraw chaplains unless rules bar women who had abortions, or “tolerate” them only if they “never tell.”
Resnicoff is correct, but his comparison to the issue of homosexuality is either disingenuous or ignorant.
First, Blomberg accurately points out that the military tried to stifle Chaplains who encouraged their congregants to support the partial birth abortion ban (because it was a “political” issue). So contrary to Resnicoff’s prior assertions, “good Chaplains” may not be free to be “true to their beliefs” (at least not until the Courts intervene; they supported the Chaplains in the abortion dispute).
Second, to make the comparison valid, Resnicoff needs to cite official government policy on abortion in the military, not just a point of “acceptable immorality.” It is at this point his comparison falters: not only is abortion currently banned in most cases in military facilities, but military doctors are not required to perform abortions even in cases where they are permitted. Even the current push to permit abortions in military facilities is reported to have a conscience clause allowing those with moral objections to defer.
Thus, despite the claim of equivalency, the military treats abortion differently, even as it currently treats homosexuality differently. Resnicoff’s point fails. His example is not an environment envisioned in a post-DADT military by those who support repeal.
[The Burris amendment to the 2011 DAA only deleted text banning use of military facilities for abortion, it did not add any text; thus, while Senators have said the amendment has a “conscience clause,” one does not appear to be explicit.]