“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.]


  • watchtower online…

    Wow…this could very well change the Chaplaincy forever. I don’t think too many homosexuals will go to preachers at Military installations and ask for advice in they are going to be thrown under the bus for being themselves.

    After the DADT policy is repealed, to solve “the right of chaplains to preach, counsel, or teach according to their faith when doing so requires identifying homosexual behavior as sinful or detrimental” : civilianize the Chaplaincy…attend your favorite church OFF BASE…then there will be NO problems.

    The only real challenge is how crusty old Gunny Grumpy is going to deal with gay Corporal Snuffy. Only time will tell…but based on a preponderance of opinion, not to mention the fact, proof from other countries Militaries, it probably won’t be a big deal. The zealots, of course, will find a way to stir the pot and make it a problem…that I’m certain of.

    The ban on abortions in Military facilities was originally about money…then it became a religious thing. When the old geezers in congress (or the Church) gets involved…well, to be blunt, every freedom we “thought” we had gets controlled by laws in some way or another.

    watchtower offline…

  • Of course, Christian pastors suffer terribly because people with divorces who remarry are allowed to serve in the military.

  • Donalbain, we’ve gone over this before, and you failed to respond. Do you actually have something to contribute to the conversation?

  • I am still waiting for you to explain the difference between allowing a gay man to serve and a remarried divorcee. The last time, you claimed, rather pathetically that abolishing DADT was not about who is allowed to serve in the military and so I ended that conversation.

    So, once again, I have to ask, what is the difference between allowing a gay man to serve and allowing a remarried divorcee to serve?

  • As linked above, that question has been answered. If you refuse to read it, that speaks to your willingness to engage in this conversation.

  • You are obfuscating the issue; it has nothing to do with “who is allowed to serve.”

    So, your idea of an answer was to say that repealing DADT was nothing to with who is allowed to serve. That is a flat out lie. The repeal of DADT is ALL about who is allowed to serve.

    Now, once more with feeling; “What is the difference between allowing a gay person to serve and allowing a divorced and remarried person to serve?

  • The repeal of DADT is ALL about who is allowed to serve.

    Contrary to your apparent assertions, DADT does not prevent a person with a homosexual preference from serving in the armed forces. That’s the reason it was created.

  • It prevents an OPEN homosexual from serving. It prevents anyone who is known to be homosexual from serving. It is ALL about who is allowed to serve.


    What is the difference between allowing a gay person to serve and a allowing a divorced and remarried person to serve?

  • Your question has already been answered. If you refuse to read it, that’s your choice.

  • No.. you never ONCE pointed out any difference. You just said that DADT is not about who is allowed to serve. You are a liar.

  • Don,

    Your response to JD pointing out the differences was “Excuse me while I laugh and then ignore you for being a complete moron.”

    In summary the difference is the ‘protections’ the bill would add that prohibit anyone (else) from expressing disapproval of a particular lifestyle, not the lifestyle itself. I have the right to criticize people who are divorced and remarried. While I haven’t seen it myself, I’m assuming that the repeal of DADT act will put homosexual status on the same status as race, gender, etc as a protected category. Publicly criticizing protected categories is prohibited.

    That is the difference.

  • OK.. you are ASSUMING. That’s fine.. but isnt really that interesting to me.

  • Senator Lieberman, among others, proposed S.3065 which calls for the

    Revision of all equal opportunity and human relations regulations, directives, and instructions to add sexual orientation nondiscrimination to the Department of Defense Equal Opportunity policy and to related human relations training programs

    The current “prohibited factors” are race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; orientation would be added by this law.

    The “assumption” is actually fact. Is that interesting to you?

  • Are Christian pastors harmed because they are not allowed to criticise Hinduism?

  • Don,

    Would you be harmed if you were not allowed to criticize Christians?