Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, issued the following statement today in response to a letter from a group of retired chaplains asking President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates to uphold the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of gays in the military:
As a longtime advocate for equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, I am deeply troubled by the views expressed in today’s letter from a group of retired military chaplains to President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates. It is so fraught with illogical reasoning, one almost does not know where to begin in discussing its content.
The chaplains claim that their religious freedoms would be threatened if gays serve openly in the military. Yet, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in no way would hinder chaplains from voicing their personal moral convictions and theological doctrines. The chaplaincy should represent the diversity of faiths in the military, not simply one point of view.
Similarly, the chaplains argue that this would impact their “ability to counsel” because “service members seeking guidance regarding homosexual relationships will place chaplains in an untenable position.” By this logic, we also should ban all service members whose gambling habits, treatment of spouses, and views on abortion, politics, or the economy are not in line with those of the chaplains. As a Baptist minister, I frequently counsel people whose beliefs on a number of subjects are not exactly in line with the religious or moral values that I embrace. Such a challenge in counseling comes with the territory of being a clergy member.
If forced to interact with gays in the military, this group of chaplains says they will be presented with a moral conundrum. Yet, Jesus said we are to love other people as he loved us—the love of Jesus was inclusive beyond measure and graceful beyond imagination. In fact, this Sunday, Christians around the world will be studying Jesus’ admonition for his followers to love others as he has loved them—often called “the new commandment.” The views expressed by the chaplains are the antithesis of the themes of love and inclusion commended and demonstrated by the Christ from whom they form their religious identity. If Christian chaplains followed the teachings of Jesus they would have no problem joining any military member in prayer or spiritual thought.
Our servicemen and women deserve chaplains who support and comfort them as they carry out their military duties regardless of their individual lifestyles. Sexual orientation is no more a hindrance to that mission now than was racial identity years ago. Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a step forward in equality and justice for all citizens. When chaplains find the government’s pursuit of these goals to be a threat to their values, we must ask whether something is askew with their values.
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.