Biden Reverses Transgender Ban. First Military Chaplain Already Investigated.
President Joe Biden’s reversal of the military ban on transgenders hadn’t even been announced for minutes before it claimed its first controversy.
US Army Chaplain (MAJ) Andrew Calvert posted a comment on the Army Times Facebook page discussing Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s support for repeal. As quoted by the Army Times in a follow-up story, Chaplain Calvert said
“How is rejecting reality (biology) not evidence that a person is mentally unfit (ill), and thus making that person unqualified to serve,” Andrew Calvert posted on the Army Times Facebook page Monday. “There is little difference in this than over those who believe and argue for a ‘flat earth,’ despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary…
“The motivation is different,” Calvert continued, “but the argument is the same. This person is a MedBoard for Mental Wellness waiting to happen. What a waste of military resources and funding!”
First of all, it used to be a standard talking point in training that “the Army Times is not your friend.” The Army/Air Force/Navy/Marine Corps Times family of “newspapers” is a commercial enterprise. They profit off controversy – and Chaplain Calvert handed them just the thing they needed. (For context, when they posted on Facebook about Chaplain Calvert being investigated, it received more than 2,000 comments. Average posts on their page get about 70.)
Second, the standard adage is “never read [much less participate in] the comments.” Frankly, there is little redeeming value in posting in the comments section of any media organization’s publications. (Chaplain Calvert has his own website, as well, which as yet has not been criticized.)
Third, can a US Army Chaplain say something like that?
It’s important to remember that US military chaplains, and US military members themselves, are explicitly allowed to express their religious beliefs. Chaplain Calvert can go on any social media site he wants and post “Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven,” and the US military not only shouldn’t do anything about it, it should forcefully defend his ability to do that, even as a member of the US military. A chaplain — and any member of the US military — is permitted to express their religious beliefs.
This was affirmed just a few months ago with the US military’s latest updates to its religious liberty policies. The same is true if a military member chooses to publicly explain the Christian theological position on transgenderism.
Without sidetracking into the detailed theology, the fact that God created man and woman separately, the fact that rejecting biology is to reject God’s design, and the fact that such actions and beliefs are wrong are absolutely relevant, defensible, and permissible statements of religious belief – even for members of the US military.
Likewise, on a Military Times article about a progressive military chaplain being commissioned, an atheist member of the US military can absolutely post in the comments that he thinks Christians are wrong to put their faith in a “sky fairy”.
But can that atheist then say that Christians are unfit to serve? That may be where Chaplain Calvert may have an issue, even if those policy decisions were made in the absence of evidence to satisfy the emotional and political narrow agenda of a few.
Criticizing the issue of normalizing men who choose to declare themselves women (or vice versa) certainly falls within the bounds of religious ideology. Whether or not those people are “qualified to serve”, however, is a political decision, not a religious one. (It used to be an issue of merit-based qualification, but that bridge was burned long ago on the pyre of political pandering.) The question, then, is whether any member of the US military (chaplain or not) can question the “fitness” of another potential servicemember. Given what has happened in the past, the answer is uncertain.
To be fair, there is some legitimacy to the issue of mental or medical fitness for duty. Objectively, people who are one gender yet believe themselves to be another do have a disconnect from reality, whether consciously chosen or not. Current DoD policies still acknowledge the stress of that cognitive “challenge.”
Remember, even though President Biden is directing the Executive Branch to remove barriers to transgenders to serve, prior military policies are technically still in place. Various DoD Instructions and Policies regarding transgenders in the US military, including limiting service or accession, are still published on DoD and government websites (though they’ll likely soon be scrubbed or annotated as “under review” in some fashion):
In the very least, even those policies that allowed continued service by transgenders in the military required them to demonstrate stability in their “preferred gender” (the official term) over some set period of time.
Those policies acknowledge the mental and hormonal issues associated with tinkering with biology.
More poignantly, just a few years ago PFC Bradley (Chelsea) Manning defended himself from charges of aiding the enemy and espionage by saying…he was unfit to serve. Manning claimed the US military, rather than he, was responsible because it had failed to revoke his security clearance despite the “clear signs of emotional distress” that left him “nearly paralyzed by internal struggles over his belief that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body.” He was not some conservative supremacist trying to score political points – he was an “actual transgender” person making the declaration that he had been “unfit” to hold a security clearance.
In short, it is no stretch to question whether removing all restrictions on service by transgenders is a non-issue or a “MedBoard waiting to happen.”
It is notable, too, that various people have said Christians are unfit for service when their Christian faith does not align with what others think the policies should be (though they haven’t said the same of Muslims). In fact, Chaplain Calvert’s own fitness for service has been questioned based on nothing more than these comments. This has occurred despite the fact the US Constitution prohibits the government from restricting the free exercise of religion. (By contrast, there is not currently a recognized protected right – constitutional, human, or otherwise – to be treated by others or the government in accordance with a gender that you decide.) Right or wrong, it is not uncommon for the fitness to serve to be questioned in virtually any criticized demographic.
Chaplain Calvert’s statement somewhat reflected military policy that was current when he made that statement. It is possible an understanding leadership will acknowledge the challenges of troops trying to adjust to fairly significant policy reversals (as they did when President Trump reversed the policy a few years ago) and act with a little grace. (Importantly, President Biden’s order told the military to figure out how to implement his order. The order itself changed nothing — and, at the time of Calvert’s statement, no policies had changed from the Trump administration.) That grace will certainly not be extended by those politically inclined to see him crucified regardless.
It is important to be clear that there is no “religious freedom” protection for a military member to say that a homosexual, transgender, Muslim, Satanist, Libertarian, or Packers fan is “unfit” to serve. Generally speaking, it is probably also unkind, if not unhelpful, to equate someone’s mental health with “flat earthers” – even if the basic premise is valid.
Chaplain Calvert will likely get some heat, but some of his critics will likely be blind to the irony of their own accusations. Retired Navy SEAL Senior Chief Kristin (Christopher) Beck is frequently vaunted as the face of the transgender movement in the military. He was quoted in the Military Times trying, unsuccessfully, to describe a chaplain’s job:
“Chaplains should support all troops and their belief systems, said Beck, 54. “And if they don’t, they are constitutionally in conflict.”
To borrow a phrase, “Every word of what you just said is wrong.” Well, you could probably say chaplains “support all troops” in the same way the general public “should”. But chaplains do not support the belief systems of all troops. (Besides, the “belief system” that includes a gender contrary to biology isn’t a religious belief system at all.) In fact, to require them to do so would violate the Constitution. Can you imagine a scenario in which a Muslim was required to support the belief system of a Jew? That doesn’t happen.
Rather, chaplains work with military commanders to ensure the military has the environment in place for each servicemember to exercise his faith, regardless what that faith is – including, by the way, the faith of Christianity. So a Muslim chaplain does work to make sure a Jewish troop has the ability to exercise his faith, but chaplains are not required to “support their belief system.”
As might be expected, Mikey Weinstein’s group went after Calvert for his Christian beliefs, with Chris Rodda combining criticism of the transgender comments with this quote from Calvert’s Facebook page:
“Progressive Christianity is not progressive at all. It is a regression to the Garden of Eden when the serpent questioned ‘Did God actually say…’”
The MRFF’s Mikey Weinstein called Calvert’s characterization of Progressive Christianity
absolutely repulsive, illicit bigotry and pervasive prejudice [and] malicious libel.
However, Calvert’s comments on Progressive Christianity were on theology, not people, and they are entirely consistent with the theology of mainstream Christianity today. (In fact, the idea of connecting Progressive Christianity to the serpent in the Garden isn’t even original.) As discussed, making such a theological statement is an explicitly protected expression of faith, even within the military. Weinstein’s efforts to ride the coattails of the Military Times Facebook post with a larger issue maligning conservative Christianity writ large falls flat. (The former Air Force lawyer also apparently needs to look up the definition of “libel.”)
Somewhat speaking to Chaplain Calvert’s point, the greatest irony is that those who have been most vocal in demanding that the Nation surrender to “science” over the past year are now turning a blind eye to the science of biology.
You can’t walk into a grocery store without a mask “because science,” but a man can require the government to treat him like a woman “because…” ?
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.