DADT Repeal a Chance to “Counter” Evangelical Chaplains

An article from the homosexual advocacy magazine Dallas Voice indicated the repeal of the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” presented an opportunity to “rebalance” the chaplaincy.

The article relied largely on an interview with Chaplain Candidate (1Lt) Chris Antal, a Unitarian Universalist.  Interestingly, Antal gives some credence to the “change” that occurred in the military after most chaplains (and the rest of the military, frankly) enlisted:

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

To date, the position of the military leadership has been members of the military signed up to serve, regardless of any change in the moral culture.  For that reason, applications for dismissal due to moral opposition to the policy change were not permitted.  (Only chaplains could do so, by virtue of having their sending body rescind their endorsement.)  The rest of the article references the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, a group of active and retired chaplains and others who advocated for repeal of DADT.  (A member of that group previously called religious opposition to the homosexual lifestyle “bigotry.”)  The group was reportedly started by those

who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.

Interestingly, the group tried to lay claim to the “mainstream” moniker:

[Susan] Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.”

By mainstream, she explains, she means “more liberal traditions.”  According to her, questioning the cause or principles of war has caused “liberal” denominations to hesitate in promoting the chaplaincy.  As a result, more “conservative” (mainstream?) denominations may be over-represented.

Another civilian member of the group, the Rev. Steve Sprinkle, anecdotally claimed not just “conservative” dominance in the military chaplaincy, but dominance from a particular seminary:

Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty University…Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

Sprinkle provides no support for his “estimate,” nor did the writer apparently fact check it.  (Similarly, the article provides no support for the statement “Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.”)  It would be an impressive feat for Liberty to have achieved, given the school has had a dedicated chaplaincy program (outside of its normal seminary) for only the past four years, and there are thousands of chaplains in the military.

(As of February this year, the Religion News Service reported 1 in 5 chaplain candidates is enrolled at Liberty University.)

Sprinkle isn’t just concerned about a balanced “representation” of varying faiths, however.  He actually assigns sinister motives to Liberty:

Sprinkle said Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

Though their aim seems more political than spiritual, if the Forum can generate more chaplain volunteers who meet the criteria to serve in the US military, so be it.  That, at least, is a far cry better than those who make claims of theological imbalance in the chaplaincy and seem to want to restrict the chaplaincy as a result.  The goal, however, remains the support of the spiritual fitness and religious freedom of members of the military — not the advocacy of any particular non-theological ideology.