Commander: Troops Ordered Not to Have Opinion on DADT

According to an ongoing story covered at FoxNews, Utah Air National Guard TSgt Layne Wilson was reprimanded after writing a letter to a West Point chaplain regarding a post-DADT chapel ceremony, which presumably occurred last December.  The text of his letter does not appear to be completely available, but it said in part

Our base chapels are a place of worship and this is a mockery to God and our military core values. I have proudly served 27 years and this is a slap in the face to us who have put our lives on the line for this country. I hope sir that you will take appropriate action so this does not happen again.

Apparently, West Point complained to the Utah Air National Guard, and Wilson’s supervisor gave him a Letter of Reprimand because he

“failed to render the proper respect to a commissioned officer.”

Given that only part of the story is public, it is difficult to fully discuss. On the other hand, another part of the conversation is public and may stand on its own. As noted in a memo from LtCol Kevin Tobias, 130th Engineering Installation Squadron commander, following this incident [emphasis added]:

“We talked about his feelings about DADT and how he doesn’t agree with it,” Tobias wrote. “I then told him that maybe this is a good time for him to move on because we’ve been ordered to not have an opinion about gays in the military and we need to treat them as we would treat anyone else in the service of our country.”

“I also reiterated that I respect his feelings but I’m not comfortable reenlisting him with his strong feelings about this matter.”

Given the number of written statements, it seems a substantial amount of paperwork may actually exist on this matter.  Just the little that has been released — which includes names, dates, units, etc. — provides substantiating evidence for the claims made by the Military Religious Freedom Coalition and Congressmen like Representative John Fleming.

To be clear, a serving US military member was told by his commanding officer that he should get out of the military — and his commander hesitated to reenlist him in the military – for no other reason than his religious beliefs regarding the policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

By contrast, there has never been a single substantiated story of a US troop being told by his commander he wasn’t fit for service, or being told he was not “comfortable” being reenlisted, because he wasn’t a Christian, which is Michael Weinstein’s hollow but repetitive drumbeat.  To that point, this is only the latest example in which Weinstein’s “religious freedom” charity has apparently declined to come out in defense of a Christian US troop’s claims of discrimination based on religious belief.  Weinstein apparently refuses to defend Wilson’s religious liberty because he’s the wrong kind of Christian, by Weinstein’s definition.

Keep in mind, current US law explicitly requires the military to accommodate the beliefs of troops [emphasis added]:

The Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs of a member of the armed forces reflecting the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.

(Coincidentally, there is a proposal to stiffen the language of this section because it is not being “enforced” as Congress intended.)

Whether or not TSgt Wilson “failed to render proper respect” to an officer is one topic.  Completely separate from that, however, is whether the Air Force is legally permitted to use an Airman’s beliefs as a basis for a reenlistment decision.  (Reportedly, TSgt Wilson, a full-time National Guardsman, saw his 6-year contract replaced with a one-year part time contract — a move that was only reversed after his lawyer complained.)

It would seem the original statement from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – that those who disagreed with repeal should “vote with their feet” rather than serve — is a prevailing sentiment, despite the DoD’s apparently official policies that no servicemembers would be required to change their beliefs.

For example, the Support Plan for Implementation of DADT repeal, which is still cited on current official US military sites, specifically says US troops can still “freely practice their religion” and “express their personal views” [emphasis added]:

Does repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell affect the speech, morals, or religious rights of Service members?

No. There will not be any modifications or revisions to policy regarding Service members’ protections and obligations with respect to free speech and free exercise of religion.

The Department of Defense recognizes the right of all Service membersto hold individual beliefs consistent with their moral foundationsand does not seek to change them.

Service members can continue to freely practice their religion and express their personal views within the limitations of the UCMJ and Service standards of conduct.

This text and others like it were used to dismiss the concerns of some faith leaders who were concerned about the impacts of repeal on religious freedom

The official response: There will be no impact.

Given the controversy in TSgt Wilson’s case, some might disagree.