A leading group lobbying for repeal of
“Don't Ask, Don't Tell” has called objections to repeal by
retired chaplains a “red herring.”
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
(SLDN) responded to the chaplains' argument that repeal of the law
that bans gay troops from serving openly would force them to choose
between serving God and the U.S. armed forces.
The retired chaplains argue that repeal
of the law could lead to a chaplain preaching against being gay to
conceivably be disciplined as a bigot under the military's
nondiscrimination policy, the AP reported.
Sixty-five former chaplains have
written to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates
urging them to keep the the law in place. Obama says he objects to
the law, but
is appealing a court case that found the law unconstitutional because
the wants it ended legislatively.
“Many (if not most) chaplains will
confront a profoundly difficult moral choice: whether they are to
obey God or to obey men,” they wrote in the letter dated September
A majority of the 3,000 chaplains on
active duty are from religious faiths that oppose being gay or sex
between members of the same sex, including the Southern Baptist
Convention, the Roman Catholic Church, the Full Gospel Pentecostal
church, and the Assemblies of God.
SLDN, however, called the argument a
“The military already recognizes that
the bottom line is the religious needs of a religiously diverse
population of service members,” said Paul W. Dodd, a U.S. Army
retired chaplain, in a statement released Saturday by the group.
“For a person to be considered for appointment as a military
chaplain, a chaplain must agree that he or she is willing to function
in a pluralistic environment and is willing to support directly and
indirectly the free exercise of religion by all members of the
“Military chaplains are required to
serve a religiously diverse population, which holds different views
on many things, including gender, race, other religions, and sexual
orientation. This does not mean, of course, that the military
chaplain must abandon his or her personal beliefs. Nor does it mean
that the chaplain must modify his or her spiritual message when
conducting a denomination-specific service.”
“All chaplains will continue the
historic tradition of securing the free exercise of religion for all
our troops,” he added.
Included in the Defense Department's
report on how to end the law – due December 1 – is an internal
survey on attitudes in the military on the policy. According
to details leaked to NBC News, the survey will show that most troops
are not concerned about serving and living alongside openly gay