Tom Carpenter, Gay Chaplains Group Takes on Tolerance of Islam

In a fascinating example of his tone deaf prejudice, Tom Carpenter of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy managed to, yet again, demonstrate his bias when he highlighted Chaplain (LtCol) Khallid Shabazz — the soon-to-be first Muslim Division chaplain in the US Army.  Carpenter said Chaplain Shabazz was

A real world example of how a chaplain of one faith provides support for troops and their family members who do not share his religion.

It is worth noting every military chaplain is tasked to provide support even for those who do not share his religion — and Carpenter has never provided a “real world example” of one who didn’t, though he has certainly made plenty of baseless accusations.

More tellingly, Carpenter made a fascinating assumption in the form of a rhetorical question:

Note that most of [Shabazz’s] counseling deals with alcohol problems. As a Muslim, who do not imbibe, does he tell these Christians they must give up alcohol, or that they are sinners for using it in the first instance?

First, upon what basis does Carpenter assume the alcoholics are Christians?

Second, who’s to say Shabazz doesn’t describe his religious beliefs on alcohol during his counseling — something Carpenter seems to just assume.  In actuality, the article implies Shabazz’s beliefs do play a potentially negative role in his interactions with his troops — a fact Carpenter coyly ignored.

To the point, though, Chaplain Shabazz’s Islamic faith does not allow the consumption of alcohol or pork, believes homosexuality to be abhorrent, and treats men and women very differently. Even so, Carpenter assumes Shabazz is a “real world example” of supporting the troops, irrespective of his beliefs.

Fair enough.  That’s a viewpoint that is fairly tolerant of Shabazz’s Islamic beliefs.

However, while Christianity doesn’t prohibit alcohol or pork and presents men and women far more equitably — its moral views on homosexuality are similar.

Yet, Tom Carpenter assumes a Christian chaplain cannot support the troops because of his beliefs — and therefore shouldn’t even be in the military.

Why does Tom Carpenter assume a Christian chaplain cannot “support all troops” but an Islamic chaplain can — when some of their religious beliefs share moral aspects?

Worse, it seems Tom Carpenter carefully edited his comments to avoid Shabazz’s own admission of the issues his faith has created.  Contrary to his portrayal, the context surrounding Carpenter’s citation about “Christians” and alcohol reveals that Shabazz’s religious beliefs are, in fact, a problem for some troops [emphasis added]:

Shabazz…has counseled scores of soldiers, the majority of which have sought assistance for alcoholism and relationship problems.

Some have refused to work with Shabazz because of his Muslim faith, but Shabazz says it doesn’t bother him and that he lives by the chaplain’s motto of “perform or provide.”

In other words, some Soldiers know he’s a Muslim and decline to seek counseling on alcohol and relationships — they “refused to work with” him — because of his religious beliefs. (And Shabazz doesn’t even care.)

One could argue this chaplain has “alienated” some of his troops because of his beliefs, or that his beliefs “make them uncomfortable.” If he was a Christian, Carpenter and his supporters would say he was thus unfit to wear the uniform.

But Carpenter says a Muslim chaplain whose beliefs have the same effect is “supporting all the troops.”

Does Carpenter not see his self-contradiction?

In reality, the US military expects chaplains to hold to and express their religious beliefs. The US military expects its troops to be tolerant of different religious views. Troops certainly don’t have to agree with those beliefs, nor do they have to be religiously counseled under them.

But troops or their advocates who demand chaplains with “different” religious beliefs be sanctioned or discharged are demonstrating the very prejudice the military says it opposes.

It’s admirable that Carpenter would judge Shabazz, a Muslim chaplain, on his conduct and performance rather than the content of his religious beliefs, declaring that he “supports all troops” despite having beliefs that discourage some Soldiers from seeking his counsel.

Kind of makes you wonder what personal issue prevents Tom Carpenter from treating a Christian chaplain the same way.


One comment

  • I wonder how Tom Carpenter would advise a chaplain endorsed by a so-called LGBT-friendly faith group who was approached for counseling by a religious and social conservative Airman (of any faith tradition). That happens, you know.

    What if the Airman explained the discomfort she was having in her workplace dealing with “harassment” (i.e., being called a bigot) from a few others because she has calmly yet consistently expressed her biblical convictions regarding God’s design for marriage? What if the Airman wanted to discuss how she can be “in the world but not of the world” by holding to her solidly biblical convictions on an issue from Scripture that could not be more clear, historically and theologically? What if she wanted to discuss how to more clearly articulate the “biblical position” by being prepared in season and out of season, being salt and light as her home-church pastor taught her, and always being ready to give an answer for her hope in Christ?

    Would Tom advise the chaplain to help the Airman correct her obviously “errant” views? Or would he advise the chaplain to encourage the Airman in line with the Airman’s own convictions, even though those convictions would be diametrically opposed to the chaplain’s views? I wonder.