AMPA Lobbies with Uniformed US Troops

The Arizona legislature recently passed a religious liberty bill and sent it to the desk of Governor Jan Brewer. The bill would have, by some interpretations, protected Arizona citizens who declined to affirm homosexuality based on religious grounds.  Governor Brewer vetoed the bill.

During the few days between the legislature passing the bill and the Governor’s veto, the American Military Partner Association, a homosexual advocacy group for the US military, took to Facebook to encourage its members to call Governor Brewer’s office in opposition to the bill — and the AMPA used the images of uniformed service members to do so:

The AMPA’s actions raise some interesting issues.  First, the AMPA is a 501(c)3 — a tax-exempt, “charitable” organization. The IRS notes the AMPA puts its 501(c)3 status at risk if a “substantial” portion of its activities

urg[e] the public to contact members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

The AMPA is clearly attempting to influence legislation (and frequently does); whether such activity is “substantial” is probably up to the IRS.  They are certainly not the only “charity” that does so.

The second potential issue is the role of uniformed service members, because US troops are restricted from taking some actions in regard to politics — or even “allowing” themselves to be used in certain political manners. For example, DoDD 1344.10, which governs political activity by service members, says

A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not… Allow or cause to be published partisan political articles, letters, or endorsements signed or written by the member that solicits votes for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.

While DoDD 1344.10 doesn’t specifically address pictures on Facebook, it does say [emphasis added]

Activities not expressly prohibited may be contrary to the spirit and intent of this Directive. Any activity that may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating the Department of Defense…with a partisan political activity or is otherwise contrary to the spirit and intention of this Directive shall be avoided.

There is certainly room for nuance. For one, the AMPA isn’t soliciting votes, just phone calls. For another, some will argue homosexuality isn’t a “partisan” or “political” issue — essentially the same position that allowed uniformed service members to participate in homosexual “pride” events.  (Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma asked this very question, and compared it to whether a uniformed service member could attend a pro-life rally.  The Air Force said it was a “one time exception to policy” — though the one time exception was later repeated.)

The basic facts, though, are that a “charity” is using pictures of its members — uniformed US troops — in an attempt to influence legislation.

Interestingly, had a group done precisely the same thing in support of the law, they’d likely be excoriated as ‘homophobes’ and people would be demanding the troops’ court-martial for their intolerance and conduct — even if such a transgression was innocent or inadvertent, as it likely was in this case. That response would be consistent with that taken against virtually every US service member who has made a public statement that did not affirm homosexuality to date — even out of uniform and in their capacities as private citizens.

By contrast, US troops who have made statements affirming homosexuality — or denigrating religious beliefs held by their military peers who consider homosexuality a sin — have seen no similar backlash.

Finally, there will be some who claim the AMPA’s position — and the political position it ascribes to its uniformed members — is essentially the same as the DoD’s official policy anyway, regardless of the law or politics.

Interestingly, the AMPA is essentially correct in its position that these legislative issues will soon affect US troops, though not in the way they seem to think.  As has repeatedly happened in the past, the controversy creates a legal nexus between sexuality and religious liberty, and that will ultimately flow to religious liberty in the US military.

While religious liberty in these conversations is often dismissed or ignored, it is central to the discussion.  Sexual behavior has not been recognized as an innate human liberty, nor is it protected in the US Constitution.  By contrast, religious liberty has been recognized as a basic human liberty and it is explicitly protected in the US Constitution.  (Even so, some still say sexuality trumps religion, including some in government.)

Still, if American law says that one cannot participate in the marketplace unless one affirms homosexuality (as some seem to think the law demands) — even if it would violate one’s religious beliefs to do so — how long will it be until someone says one cannot serve in the US military unless one is willing to affirm homosexuality?

And what will happen to religious liberty then?

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:12 (NIV)