DADT Repeal Plan Covers Religion, Chaplains, Transsexuals

While much discussion has occurred over the Department of Defense’s report on DADT, many seem to have missed the completely separate (and substantial) report written on how to implement repeal within the military.

Much of the “Support Plan for Implementation” (PDF, 1.9MB) is at least alluded to in the original report, and much is administrative (like suggesting the use of “gay and lesbian,” as opposed to “homosexual”).  Still, there are some interesting specifics.  For example, while the plan reiterates that average servicemembers will not be allowed to separate for moral reasons, it gives a “suggestion” to Chaplains on how they can get out of the military if they so choose: 

If a chaplain is unable to reconcile serving with or caring for gay and lesbian Service members with his or her faith, the chaplain may request that the relevant endorsing agency withdraw its ecclesiastical endorsement for him or her. This would trigger an administrative separation under DoDI 1304.28.

Ironically, such action raises ethical issues, since the Chaplain would be requesting an action he didn’t actually believe in for the sole purpose of avoiding his military obligation.

On the topic of privacy, the plan specifically states “sexual orientation” cannot be used to make decisions on living arrangements.  Even in announcing this prohibition, however, the plan alludes to the fact the military currently makes decisions about living arrangements based on gender (for obvious reasons):

The Services shall not establish quarters or berthing assignment regulations or policies that segregate Service members according to sexual orientation. Applicable male/female segregation requirements remain in effect.

Commanders retain the authority to alter berthing or billeting assignments on an individualized, case-by-case basis, in the interest of maintaining morale, good order, and discipline, consistent with the performance of the mission.

Thus, people who are sexually attracted to the opposite gender may be segregated, while those who are attracted to their own gender are not allowed to be segregated.  It seems likely this point will receive significant resistance.

On the topic of religion and morality, the plan reiterates the free exercise of religion and notes the obligation to follow orders, regardless of religion:

Topic: Moral and Religions Concerns

  • Service members can continue to freely practice their religion, being aware of the expectations set forth by the UCMJ and appropriate Service standards of conduct.
  • Service members are not expected to change their personal religious or moral beliefs; however, they are expected to treat all others with dignity and respect, consistent with the core values that already exist within each Service.
  • Service members do not have the right to refuse duty or duty assignments based on a moral objection to another’s sexual orientation.
  • Service members remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are gay or lesbian, even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held, moral or religious beliefs. As expressed in the [MCM]: “the dictates of a person’s conscience, religion, or personal philosophy cannot justify or excuse the disobedience of an otherwise lawful order.”

An interesting addition was an explicit, if heavily qualified, statement on religious expression and accommodation:

Service members may, in appropriate circumstances and within the limitations of law and policy, express their moral or religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation. However, Service members may not make statements detrimental to good order and discipline and must obey lawful orders. Service members who feel that their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality require religious accommodation, may request such accommodation of that belief under DoDI 1300.17.

The implementation plan has a series of “vignettes” to help convey the intent of the new policies.  One noted it would be inappropriate for military members to “joke” about not wanting to shower with homosexuals, because it could be “discrimination or harassment.”  Another involved a Chaplain’s sermon (edited for brevity):

SITUATION: [A] Service member informs you that she attended a worship service at the base chapel…and the chaplain’s sermon included several direct statements that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage should be only between a man and woman. The Service member disagreed with the chaplain’s remarks and felt they were discriminatory and biased and should not be allowed.

Issue: Can the Service member file a complaint of discrimination or harassment against the chaplain? Should chaplains revise their sermons to avoid the perception of discrimination?

Discussion: Chaplains have the right to express their religious beliefs during their conduct of a service of worship or religious study. Unless a chaplain’s speech is otherwise prohibited, such as publically maligning senior leaders, their sermons and/or teachings cannot be restricted, even with regard to socially controversial topics.

This situation is an excellent opportunity to have a discussion with the Service member about religious respect and the proper boundaries of religious expression within the military…If either the chaplain or the Service member feels that due to their religious views, speech, or practice, they have been improperly treated, redress is available through their chain of command, existing Service policy, or the IG if necessary.

Finally, within the FAQ of the implementation plan, there was an intriguing question:

Can transgender or transsexual individuals join the Military Services?

No. Transgender and transsexual individuals are not permitted to join the Military Services. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has no effect on these policies.

Given the entire context justifying DADT repeal, the natural response is…why not?