The U.S. Department of Defense's recognition of Gay Pride Month less than a year after the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) is the new "stark reality" that behavior once considered by the military as grounds for court martial is now celebrated, says the director of a chaplain alliance group.
"For the first time ever, the Department of Defense is making a positive event over behavior (sodomy) that had been a court martial offense a year ago," Chaplain (Col.) Ron Crews, USAR retired, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told The Christian Post on Monday. "Now the DoD is wanting to honor that behavior. That's the stark reality that we're living in now."
The Pentagon announced it will hold its first-ever Gay Pride event Tuesday. Plans for the event include a keynote speech by the DoD's lead lawyer, Jeh Johnson, followed by a panel discussion called "The value of open service and diversity," according to CNN.
Crews said the chaplain alliance is concerned about a couple of areas inside the U.S. military since the repeal of DADT, a transition period he calls the "new environment."
"During the repeal process the Department of Defense told Congress and they also told us that the homosexual community would not be considered as a separate class within the military, but yet by this celebration they are making the LGBT community a separate class," Crews said. "They told us one thing during the repeal and now they are doing exactly the opposite, which makes me wonder what else did they say prior to repeal that is going to change?"
His concerns go beyond the military's Gay Pride celebration.
"We're still in the early stages of how all this is being worked out. We're going to need some time to see what it means when a chaplain says 'no' to providing marriage or pre-marriage counseling to same-sex couples," Crews insists.
Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, released a statement Monday in which he said that he believes the military's Gay Pride events will be optional and should not be considered a threat to the evangelical community.
"The honorable concept of free expression of religion shows its dark side when teachings against homosexuality result in divisions in our military," states the atheists and freethinkers association. "While we should not encourage these divisions, it may be prudent to offer the evangelical community space to consider its attitudes and sensibilities as the rest of the military takes time to end discrimination and honor the silent service so many lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) service members have endured for so long."
MAAF stated that they use "LGB" to refer to lesbian, gay, and bisexual while "other designations may add LGBT or LGBTQQI to identify gender identity and sexual orientation like transgender. These additional designations are not yet accommodated by the military."
Torpy told CP in an email exchange that it should be expected that "those with anti-gay religious beliefs" will object when military leaders accept and support LGB service members.
"Individuals come to the military and leave the military as individuals, private citizens with beliefs, families, interests, and whole lives that are not defined entirely by their military service. They are certainly not defined by military policy," Torpy said. "Military leaders took decades to change this policy. Current military leaders took at least two years to work through this policy change. It is unsurprising that some individuals within the military are still struggling to reconcile their anti-gay beliefs with a military that is now suddenly accepting of LGB people."
Crews is leery of the process and views the current White House administration's actions regarding gays in the military as deceptive. He questions how the military will react when a chaplain refuses to take part in an event such as Gay Pride Month. Chaplains in Crews' association will not participate, he said.
"Military celebrations usually require or have a place for a chaplain to provide an invocation or something," Crews said. "Associates of the Chaplain Alliance would not be able to participate in those types of ceremonies. We're concerned that if a chaplain says 'no,' how will Command view that? We are trusting that commanders will honor and respect that chaplains prerogative to say 'no' that he would not participate."