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Do Chaplains Fear Gays?

A March 15, 2011 editorial in the Northwest Florida Daily News titled: “Chaplains should not fear gays” is the basis of this article. . Mr. Editor. May I have your attention? The chaplains do not fear the gays! They fear the government! Additionally, did you intentionally mention that tax collectors are “perhaps the worst sinners of all” as an offhanded remark about our tax collector? If not, please accept my apology for reading into it more than you intended. Please read the rest of my comments to see where I also saw other possible, underhanded accusations.

In the editorial, many statements were made concerning how Jesus treated people with love and respect and “He was truth and He had no fear of sin. He knew that love always conquered hate and that truth always conquered lies.” Does this mean that the editor thinks the retired chaplains hate gays? If not, that is what is inferred, and may I offer my apology for reading into it more than was intended if that be the case?

May it be understood here that all the sinners Jesus encountered mentioned by the editor were changed. The tax collector left and followed Jesus. The prostitute was broken and weeping and became a follower of Christ. The woman caught in adultery was changed and charged to “go and sin no more.” In other words, “leave of your adulterous life.”

These chaplains were not talking about distancing themselves from those of the gay community. They were concerned that they could not fully teach with liberty the principles of the Bible. In the editorial, the statement, “Would Jesus threaten to leave a soldier serving who didn’t obey such a command? Not the Jesus most Christians know and love.” IF the insinuation is that a chaplain would desert a wounded gay on the battlefield. This again is an absurd and unfounded accusation and if not, may I offer my apology for reading into it more than was intended?

First of all, it must be understood that of the sins mentioned by the editor, Sodomy is the only one that moved God to rain fire and brimstone out of heaven to destroy whole cities because of the abomination of the sodomites. See 2 Peter 2:6-7 which states, “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation (lifestyle) of the wicked.” Romans 1:18-32 gives part of the record of this and goes on to describe in detail this great abomination. Verse 18 states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The rest of the chapter describes in detail the sin of sodomy. A chaplain that cannot take the Bible and establish and expound a Biblical position with religious liberty to those under his care, has but one choice… “Obey God rather than man (government).”
I have given the first few pages ( leaving out the footnotes) of the letter referred to which was sent to the President and Secretary Robert Gates by the group of retired chaplains.

Dear Mr. President and Secretary Gates,
Mr. President, on January 27, 2010, you requested repeal of the longstanding
policy prohibiting open homosexual behavior in the armed forces, popularly known
as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”1 Bills are pending in both houses of Congress to repeal
the policy and replace it with a law preventing discrimination on the basis of “sexual
orientation.”2 As chaplains whose cumulative service is measured in centuries, we are
deeply concerned that these changes would threaten the religious liberty of chaplains and Service members. In our role as chaplains, we experienced daily the challenges of serving those within the armed forces. We preached, taught, counseled, consoled, and shared spiritual insights, both with those in our respective faith communities and with any Service member who sought our aid. We did so in times of peace and in times of war. And since we are now retired, we can speak freely to protect the right of chaplains and Service members to exercise their religious beliefs—unlike our active-duty brethren in the chaplaincy, who may risk accusations of insubordination or discrimination if they raise these concerns.3 Put most simply, if the government normalizes homosexual behavior in the armed forces, many (if not most) chaplains will confront a profoundly difficult moral choice: whether they are to obey God or to obey men.4 This forced choice must be faced, since orthodox Christianity—which represents a significant percentage of religious belief in the armed forces—does not affirm homosexual behavior.5 Imposing this conflict by normalizing homosexual behavior within the armed forces seems to have two likely—and equally undesirable—results. First, chaplains might be pressured by adverse discipline and collapsed careers into watering down their teachings and avoiding—if not abandoning—key elements of their sending denomination’s faith and practice. Such a result would be the very antithesis of religious freedom and inimical to the guarantees made by our First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Second, chaplains might have their ability to freely share their religious beliefs challenged and torn away in a variety of everyday situations. For instance, chaplains who methodically preach book-by-book from the Bible would inevitably present religious teachings that identify homosexual behavior as immoral.6 Thus, while chaplains fulfill their duty to God to preach the doctrines of their faith, they would find themselves speaking words that are in unequivocal conflict with official policies. In fact, the proposed “non-discrimination” law may effectively ban chaplains from expressing their religious beliefs on homosexual behavior.7 The affects of this ban would be felt keenly within a chaplain’s religious duties, but it would extend outside the pulpit, too. Since chaplains are tasked with teaching classes in moral leadership and ethics both on armed forces bases and at branch schools, such censorship would prevent them from providing the full moral instruction their faith background gives them. An additional conflict will come in the context of the armed forces’ work to preserve their members’ marriages. For example, the Army’s Strong Bonds program, which receives millions of dollars in annual funding and has successfully supported many marriages facing the unique stresses of military life, is administered solely by the chaplaincy. If homosexual conduct is normalized in the armed forces, it will only be a matter of time before homosexual couples request to participate in the Strong Bonds program. The religious beliefs of many chaplains involved in the program would not allow them to support relationships that are both harmful and sinful. Such chaplains will either have to deny their religious beliefs to comply with the “non-discrimination” policy or face the potentially career-ending consequences of a discrimination complaint when they deny the request. Normalizing homosexual behavior will also harm chaplains’ ability to counsel. Service members seeking guidance regarding homosexual relationships will place chaplains in an untenable position. If chaplains answer such questions according to the tenets of their faith, stating that homosexual relationships are sinful and harmful, then they run the risk of career-ending accusations of insubordination and discrimination. And if chaplains simply decline to provide counseling at all on that issue, they may still face discipline for discrimination.8 Either way, chaplains are punished simply for counseling (or not counseling) in light of their faith. Another practical issue concerns the conduct of religious services. Chaplains are commonly called on to share the pulpit with other chaplains of theologically compatible denominations for religious services. Also, Service members often fill a variety of lay leadership roles at religious services, from receiving the offering and assisting with communion to helping lead worship and reading Scripture. A chaplain, then, who is requested to co-lead a service with an openly homosexual chaplain or to allow an openly homosexual Service member act as lay leadership may be concerned about the confusing moral message it would send to his congregants if he agrees to do so. The chaplain’s religious concern about condoning homosexual behavior may lead him to deny such requests—and thereby jeopardize his ability to continue ministering in the armed forces. Similarly, chaplains hire civilian workers to assist ministry activities like youth work. At least one of the undersigned chaplains was faced with a choice between two qualified candidates for a ministry role, but chose not to hire one of them since she was involved in a heterosexual relationship he believed to be immoral. That ministry-based choice was permissible because the armed forces have not normalized heterosexual immorality, like adultery or fornication. But if homosexual behavior is normalized, chaplains may be forced to hire openly homosexual individuals to fill ministry positions. Even if a chaplain never receives a formal complaint for exercising his religious beliefs, his career and ministry will be threatened simply by the existence of the “nondiscrimination” law. By raising homosexual behavior to the same protected status as innate, innocuous characteristics like race and gender, the armed forces will cast the sincerely held religious beliefs of many chaplains and Service members as rank bigotry comparable to racism. Further, all officers, including chaplains, are evaluated by their superiors in a report like the Army Officer Efficiency Report or the Navy Officer Fitness Report. A question on the report specifically asks if the officer supports the armed forces’ equal opportunity policy, of which the “non-discrimination” policy would be a part. A bad or lukewarm report would destroy a chaplain’s career. And thus a law protecting homosexual behavior could be used to attack chaplains who share our religious beliefs. These concerns are not mere speculation. Civilians are already experiencing widespread conflict between religious liberty and “non-discrimination” policies protecting homosexual behavior. Christian counselors have been punished for declining to counsel same-sex couples,9 Christian prison chaplains have been disciplined for refusing to turn their worship service over to individuals who openly engage in homosexual behavior,10 Christian voluntary organizations have been discriminated against by governmental entities for requiring organizational leadership to share their religious beliefs on homosexual behavior,11 Christian businesses have been fined for declining to promote homosexual behavior,12 and Christian ministries have been penalized for choosing not to allow their facilities to be used for same-sex commitment ceremonies.13 These are just a few examples of the ongoing conflict, and nothing will insulate armed forces chaplains from these issues already rampant in civilian life.

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