We’ve all read about the demise of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” and the forced acceptance of open homosexuals in the U.S. military. As someone who served 26 1/2 years in the USAF, I’ve often wondered about what comes next. My prediction is that homosexuals will want recognition of their partnerships as “marriage,” with all the benefits that spouses and family members of service members receive. These include housing allowances (or housing on base), access to base facilities, and medical care. When the Department of Defense is told to accept, and perform, marriages between homosexuals on military facilities, what will happen to the chaplains who cannot participate in such a thing? Attempting or facilitating a “marriage” between homosexuals is a grave moral evil for a Catholic, or a Mormon, or a Muslim (among others). What happens to the chaplain who says “no?”
The Congress recently passed, and President Obama signed, the National Defense Authorization Act. Within the Act, there is a section that addresses conscience protection for chaplains.
SEC. 533. PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE OF MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES AND CHAPLAINS OF SUCH MEMBERS.
(a) PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE.—
(1) ACCOMMODATION.—The Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs of a member of the armed forces reflecting the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.
(2) DISCIPLINARY OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION.—Nothing in paragraph (1) precludes disciplinary or administrative action for conduct that is proscribed by chapter 47 of title 10, United States Code (the Uniform Code of Military Justice), including actions and speech that threaten good order and discipline.
(b) PROTECTION OF CHAPLAIN DECISIONS RELATING TO CONSCIENCE, MORAL PRINCIPLES, OR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.—No member of the Armed Forces may—
(1) require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or
(2) discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a requirement prohibited by paragraph (1).
(c) REGULATIONS.—The Secretary of Defense shall issue regulations implementing the protections afforded by this section.
So, what’s the problem? Upon signing the NDAA, President Obama issued a “signing statement” which said:
Section 533 is an unnecessary and ill-advised provision, as the military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members. The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct. My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that.
Which will prevail? The Congress, which after all, raises armies (according to the constitution)? Or the Commander in Chief? I predict that the DoD will be told by the President to start performing homosexual “marriages” on military bases in states where such unions are legal, within a year. I further predict that a chaplain will be ordered to perform such a ceremony, and will decline, citing the above section 533. That chaplain will be administratively disciplined, and we will see this issue in the courts.
Remember as this unfolds–this is a different problem than that posed by military doctors and nurses who will not perform abortions. The military badly needs doctors and nurses, and is desperately short of doctors. Therefore, the administration will adjust policies to keep doctors in the service. What about chaplains? The troops are the ones who need chaplains–the administration will be just as pleased to have no chaplains in the way.