(Photo: Reuters / Larry Downing)
The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” certified by the Pentagon Friday to allow gays to openly serve in the military, threatens religious freedom of troops and chaplains and appears to be groundless as records supposedly justifying the move remain secret, Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund said.
“Our troops’ religious liberties are in unprecedented jeopardy because the government has caved in to pressure from small groups of activists to impose homosexual and bisexual behavior on our military,” ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Daniel Blomberg said in a statement Friday.
The ADF statement came just after the Obama administration cleared the last hurdle in ending the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which barred openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. The ban will end after the 60-day waiting period, on September 20.
Once that happens, the first casualty may well be the religious freedom of chaplains and service members, Blomberg said. “No formal protections have been adopted despite many having been proposed,” he complained. “No Americans, and especially not our troops, should be forced to abandon their religious beliefs.”
Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty has similar concerns. “We believe Secretary [of Defense Leon] Panetta has listened to the voices of the vocal minority and failed to listen to the majority of concerned citizens who want our military to continue to be the strongest and most combat ready in the world,” the group said in a statement Friday.
The military, “now straining under the burden of years of continued combat,” should not be a place of “social experimentation,” said the CARL statement, signed by Chaplain Colonel Ron Crews, U.S. Army (Retired), among other senior chaplains.
“Our nation’s leaders must continue to ensure that chaplains will not be asked to violate their consciences or renounce the teachings of their faith … They will continue to respect and serve those with whom they disagree. We hope that those who disagree with them will offer the same respect,” added CARL.
ADF’s Blomberg said 21 religious agencies providing chaplains to the military sent a joint letter to the military’s chiefs of chaplains in May voicing concern over the continuing absence of religious liberty protections if openly practiced homosexual behavior is definitively imposed on the military. “The letter asked the chiefs for their help in urging Congress and the Department of Defense to adopt such protections. The U.S. House of Representatives has since passed several provisions that would provide partial protections, but these have not been made law yet.”
ADF has also called on Department of Defense officials to release the reports that purportedly justify the move.
“The reports of the chiefs of the services and combat commanders that supposedly justify this move should be released in full, allowing service members, the public, and Congress to evaluate the situation themselves. This administration cannot expect America to accept its ‘certification’ at face value.”
Blomberg charged that the administration’s “Survey of the Troops” was revealed to be a “charade that underhandedly obeyed activist demands to abandon the moral standards that have served the U.S. military for generations.”
According to The Washington Post, about 70 percent of the 400,000 troops and their families surveyed said they were fine with the repeal of DADT. However, the Center for Military Readiness claims the results of the survey had been “pre-scripted” even before the survey of the troops went out.
“A previously-undisclosed investigation conducted by the Department of Defense Inspector General strongly suggests that the so-called Pentagon ‘study’ of gays in the military in 2010 was a publicly-funded, pre-scripted production put on just for show,” CMR president Elaine Donnelly said in a statement June 28.
“The purpose of the Pentagon Working Group process was not to ‘study’ the issue, but ‘to gain momentum in support of a legislative change during the ‘lame duck’ session of Congress following the November 2, 2010, elections,’” Donnelly noted, quoting from the 30-page report.
Both CARL and ADF fear that the move could be seen as a government endorsement of homosexual conduct. ADF mentioned the military “will become an unwilling participant in the efforts to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.”
The DADT policy was formulated in 1993 as conciliation between then president Bill Clinton and a conservative Congress. The military has discharged roughly 13,000 troops from the military under the policy.
In December 2010, Congress passed the repeal as was pledged by President Obama when he took office. On Friday, President Obama, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen sent the required repeal certification to Congress, saying it would not harm the military’s readiness.
“Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country,” Obama said.
ADF assured it stands ready to defend service members “if they are ever unconstitutionally required to choose between serving their country and obeying their God as a result of this damaging policy decision.”