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23 April 2012

Repudiation: Tim Huelskamp Protects Chaplains from Imaginary Foe

In January, Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a member of the International Religious Freedom Caucus and of the Tea Party Caucus, proposed the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, which I discussed after the National Organization for Marriage cited it as necessary since military chaplains were being required to perform same sex marriages.  There has never been such a requirement of chaplains and will never be.  Nonetheless, the proposed legislation is back in the news with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) picking up the story on 20 April.
U.S. Congressman Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, said chaplains and other military personnel are facing punishment for not supporting gays in the military.
His claims come after the Obama administration's decision to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that allows homosexuals to serve openly.
Rep. Huelskamp told the House Armed Services Committee that one chaplain was threatened with early retirement just because he forwarded an email about DADT.
So, let's break this down again.  Failure to support one's fellow military personnel would be cause for punishment.  That is not the meaning behind Mr. Huelskamp's statement, but it is important to recall that the word uniform does not refer only to what one wears in the military.

It would harm the efficacy of the military if any personnel were allowed to denigrate others for who they are.  Insulting a fellow sailor or soldier because of their color or ethnicity or ancestry or gender or sexuality would impair unit cohesion.  Straights don't need to cheer gays for being homosexual and gays don't need to cheer straights for being heterosexual and neither can be tolerated deriding the other any more than whites jeering blacks or men jeering women.  It would harm the military to do so.

The next day, 21 April, OutServe Magazine had a lengthy article that includes:
In January, thirty conservative House Republicans co-sponsored HR 3828, the so-called “Military Religious Freedom Protection Act.” In addition to prohibiting the use of military facilities for same-sex weddings, according to Attorney Jeffrey Hersh, legal director for [The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy (the Forum), a national coalition of military chaplains, lay leaders, and advocates], the “bill would effectively authorize chaplains to refuse any duty or function which could conflict with their personal beliefs.” Hersh further believes “if this bill passes, it could result in service members being denied free expression of their faith, and obstruct them from religious ministries and spiritual counseling – rights which the chaplain corps is sworn to secure.”
The OutServe article concludes
In their Covenant and Code of Ethics, the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF), the largest agency charged with endorsing chaplain candidates for military service, affirms a pluralistic ministry for all endorsed chaplains. The Code states, “I understand as a chaplain in the United States Armed Forces that I will function in a pluralistic environment with chaplains of other religious bodies to provide for ministry to all military personnel and their families entrusted to my care.” It is a code, which most service members can support, and NCMAF should hold their member organizations accountable for honoring it as they care for America’s troops.
Army chaplains perform their ministries under the motto, “Pro Deo et Patria,” for God and country. They, like all military chaplains, have a dual allegiance. They are endorsed as clergy by their respective faith groups, and commissioned as officers in the U.S. military. They must honor their oaths of office while remaining faithful to their distinctive religious faith – no easy task! Now that DADT has been repealed and gay and lesbian troops can serve openly, a higher level of professionalism and trust will be required of all military chaplains.
Will chaplains help bring an end to bigotry and bullying, or will they object on religious grounds and foster discrimination? Will there be a collision between chaplains most concerned about their own religious freedom, and service members who demand respect and equality from their chaplains and other military leaders? Will service members, like Airman Phillips, receive support from their chaplain when difficult family issues arise, such as a mother’s concern for her son’s “spiritual well-being?”
Fortunately, there have always been chaplains who have listened, cared and offered acceptance, without bias or discrimination, to all their troops. It is our hope that such a welcoming and affirming spirit will characterize the chaplain corps as we move forward to open and equal service for America’s military.
Airman Phillips, noted in the penultimate paragraph above, is on active duty in Germany and came out to his father on YouTube the day that DADT was repealed.  He has a YouTube channel called AreYouSurprised which included a humorous argument for marriage equality.

Back to the CBN article,  I can find no other reference on-line to a military chaplain facing early retirement because of forwarding an e-mailing regarding the repeal of DADT.  It might have happened.  As I wrote above, it is unacceptable and harmful to our fighting abilities for any military personnel to be denigrating any other military personnel.  It is amazing to me that supposed conservatives are arguing for measures that would degrade our military prowess.

The Military Religious Freedom Protection Act was referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel in February.

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