Blog: Clergy Not Required to Perform Same-Sex Marriage, Except Chaplains

Much ado was recently made about Supreme Court justices questioning whether clergy would face sanction if they refused to perform same-sex marriages. In short, the concern was dismissed out of hand.

Interestingly, Jay Bookman, blogging at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, said the same thing — but he made a significant footnote [formatting original]:

Under the First Amendment, no one, with the possible exception of military chaplains**, can ever be required by government to conduct religious services that are contrary to their faith. That’s just elementary, and while I’m no fan of Scalia, I’m still surprised to see him offering objections so ill-informed that would be better suited to an email-chain than to Supreme Court debate.

Bookman’s footnote: 

** Military chaplains have long been a special case. As government employees, they operate under a different set of rules than civilian religious leaders. Their job is to minister to soldiers of all faiths, regardless of whether they agree with that person’s faith, and as a condition of service they agree not to use their position to proselytize to what amounts to a captive audience.

Jews who join the military, for example, shouldn’t be counseled by chaplains to become Christians, nor should Protestants be pressured to convert to Catholicism. As the Army puts it, a chaplain must be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

If you can’t abide by that job requirement, don’t become a chaplain.

It is either ironic or hypocritical that Bookman would criticize a Supreme Court Justice as “ill-informed,” while making such ill-informed commentary himself.

Bookman’s focus on conversion is irrelevant to the topic, though it reveals his (misguided) perspective on religion in the military in general. His insinuation that military chaplains can be forced to conduct services for other religions, though, is on topic — and it is false.

It is true that chaplains “perform or provide” — meaning they actually perform religious rites or provide access to resources for those faiths to which they do not adhere. That does not mean they can be required to “conduct religious services that are contrary to their faith.” To use Bookman’s own example, a Jewish chaplain is not required to conduct a Catholic Mass just because he is “sensitive” to the needs of his troops.

Ultimately, Bookman is irrelevant to the conversation. Few people know who he is or care, and there are more credentialed individuals elsewhere who explained the topic of military chaplains (mostly) correctly. But he does reveal there are people who sincerely believe military chaplains can be forced to conduct themselves contrary to their faiths — which may include, in some people’s minds, affirming homosexuality.

That isn’t supposed to be true…under current law and policies. Chaplain Wes Modder, who is currently fighting for his Navy career because he didn’t affirm homosexuality consistent with the tenets of his faith, would likely beg to differ.  Could it change, though? That is an interesting question.

After all, homosexual activists have long maintained that letting two adults just love each other has no impact at all on the freedoms of heterosexuals or those who are morally opposed to homosexuality.

Try telling that to Sweet Cakes by Melissa.