Chaplain groups ask military to create religious liberty protections

WASHINGTON — Twenty-one religious agencies that provide chaplains to the military have sent a letter to the military's chiefs of chaplains voicing strong concern over the absence of religious liberty protections under the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The letter, which asks the chiefs for their help in urging Congress and the Department of Defense to adopt such protections, reads, in part:

"Chaplains are instructors of conscience. Chaplains have a tremendous moral responsibility to insure that when they preach, teach or counsel, they do so in accordance with their conscience and in harmony with the faith group by which they are endorsed.

"When guidance, however, is forthcoming from senior leadership that implies protected status for those who engage in homosexual behavior … this creates an environment that is increasingly hostile to the many chaplains — and the service members they serve — whose faith groups and personal consciences recognize homosexual behavior as immoral and unsafe and do not permit same-sex unions."

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund proposed adding religious liberty protections but the law designed to dismantle the "don't ask, don't tell" policy did not add any such protections. ADF has provided free legal support to many concerned chaplains and service members.

"Service members should not be denied the very constitutional liberties they volunteered to defend," said ADF legal counsel Daniel Blomberg. "The alarm has been sounded time and time again in this process by those with the utmost credibility. The question is: Will our military leaders and elected officials listen?"

The denominational chaplaincy heads maintained that DOMA "remains the law of the land. There is no clear reason why it does not apply to federal military facilities, particularly base chapels."

The letter — stating that the Obama administration has publicly stated it will no longer support and defend DOMA — "has every appearance of selective disregard for the law and raises significant concerns."

The chaplains said the policy changes toward homosexuality in the military would "create an environment that is increasingly hostile to the many chaplains — and the service members they serve — whose faith groups and personal consciences recognize homosexual behavior as immoral and unsafe, and do not permit same-sex unions.

The letter is signed by representatives of the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), National Association of Evangelicals, Presbyterian & Reformed Joint Commission, Anglican Church in North America, Evangelical Free Church of America, Calvary Chapel, Grace Churches International, Foursquare Church, Pentecostal Holiness Church, Church of God of Prophecy, Full Gospel Churches, Conservative Baptist America, Plymouth Brethren, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Free Methodist Church of North America, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, International Ministerial Fellowship and the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church.

WNS


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