“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” – Samuel Adams

Religious Agencies Express Concern Over Religious Freedom in Military

WASHINGTON — Twenty-one religious agencies providing chaplains to the U.S. military sent a joint letter to the military’s chiefs of chaplains Monday voicing strong concern over the continuing absence of religious liberty protections if openly practiced homosexual behavior is definitively imposed on the military. The letter asks the chiefs for their help in urging Congress and the Department of Defense to adopt such protections.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys helped draft and propose religious liberty protections for the Pentagon’s working group on the matter, but the law designed to dismantle the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy still lacks 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. “If this government truly cares about protecting religious liberties as it says it does, why has it been afraid to put it in writing? 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 protections that ADF and others have proposed simply preserve the constitutional status quo and allow service members to speak openly about their religious and moral beliefs,” Blomberg added. “The chiefs do not have an easy job, and the signers of this letter clearly want to support their service to God and country. Part of that support is encouraging the chiefs to help defend important religious liberties.”

The letter is signed by endorsing agents representing many of the major Christian denominations that provide chaplains, including the military’s largest chaplain endorser, the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board. The Roman Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services USA issued his own statement Friday.

The letter expresses additional concern that the endorsing agents, who are highly respected veteran military officers and chaplains themselves, have rarely been sought for input. The letter specifically cites a recent Navy chaplaincy directive that would allow same-sex “marriage” ceremonies at Navy chapels in some states even though doing so would be illegal under the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“Though this revision is now temporarily suspended pending further review, we are genuinely concerned that this might be a sign of things to come,” the letter states. “We are likewise concerned that endorsers and faith communities had no voice in the formulation of such a significant policy change. DOMA remains the law of the land. There is no clear reason why it does not apply to Federal military facilities, particularly base chapels…. Since the current administration has publicly stated that it will no longer support and defend DOMA, this action has every appearance of selective disregard for the law and raises significant concerns.”

“It is not sufficient to posit, as the CRWG report did, that chaplains and service members remain free to exercise their faith in chapel services,” the letter continues. “Service members should know that chaplains’ ministry and their own rights of conscience remain protected everywhere military necessity has placed them. We hope that you will join us in urging the DoD and Congress to adopt such specific and intentional conscience protections.”

This is the letter:

May 23, 2011

Chaplain Douglas L. Carver, Major General
Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Army
1500 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310

Chaplain Cecil R. Richardson, Major General
Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Air Force
1690 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330

Chaplain Mark L. Tidd, Rear Admiral
Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Navy
2 Navy Annex
Washington, DC 20370

Dear Chiefs,

Thank you for your service to our country and our chaplains at this critical time in our nation’s history. We, the undersigned endorsing agents, represent faith groups that have tens of millions of members and who endorse over a thousand military chaplains to provide for the spiritual and moral needs of both the hundreds of thousands of service members who share our faith and those who do not. We know that you are collectively facing many difficult decisions, especially in light of the repeal of DADT. Because these decisions have such potentially far-reaching consequences, both intended and unintended, we desire to make our concerns known to you in light of the recently published Navy Chief of Chaplains revised directive regarding the use of base chapels for same-sex unions and the recent memo of suspension. We have been informed that the Navy’s action was based on legal advice from DoD that was also provided to the other Chief of Chaplains’ offices.

In January 2011, the intent of the repeal of DADT was explained to the entire endorsing community as being to remove the prohibition on homosexual behavior for those in military service. It is our strong belief that the letter of revision as released by Chaplain (RADM) Tidd’s office goes beyond this stated intent of DADT repeal by sanctioning and normalizing the use of base chapels for same-sex unions. Though this revision is now temporarily suspended pending further review, we are genuinely concerned that this might be a sign of things to come. We are likewise concerned that endorsers and faith communities had no voice in the formulation of such a significant policy change.

DOMA remains the law of the land. There is no clear reason why it does not apply to Federal military facilities, particularly base chapels. We were not privy to the legal advice that your offices received, nor have we received any satisfactory explanation for why DOMA is not fully applicable to federal facility use. Since the current administration has publicly stated that it will no longer support and defend DOMA, this action has every appearance of selective disregard for the law and raises significant concerns. Issues which were heretofore clear have now become unnecessarily clouded.

Of equally grave concern is the fact that 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 and normalizes same-sex unions in base chapels, any outside observer would conclude that both homosexuality and homosexual unions officiated as marriages in base chapels are normative. 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.

For this reason, and particularly in light of the growing confusion regarding how DADT repeal will play out—indeed, we were told that issues like same-sex weddings were not a concern because of DOMA just months ago—we strongly encourage the adoption of broad, clear, and strong protections for conscience. No American, especially those serving in the armed forces, should be forced to abandon their religious beliefs or be marginalized for holding to those beliefs. It is not sufficient to posit, as the CRWG report did, that chaplains and service members remain free to exercise their faith in chapel services. Service members should know that chaplains’ ministry and their own rights of conscience remain protected everywhere military necessity has placed them. We hope that you will join us in urging DoD and Congress to adopt such specific and intentional conscience protections.

We fervently pray that you stand strong in support of the laws of the land and that God would grant you His wisdom for sound moral guidance for the future health and prosperity of the entire chaplain body. In the spirit of cooperation without compromise, let us work together, for the good of all, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance for all our brave men and women in uniform.

For God and Country.

Chaplain (BG) Douglas E. Lee, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Presbyterian & Reformed Joint Commission

Chaplain (COL) Brandon Keith Travis, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention)

CAPT Mark J. Schreiber, CHC, USN, (Ret.)
Endorsing Agent, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Chaplain (COL) Paul L. Vicalvi, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, National Association of Evangelicals Chaplains Commission

The Right Reverend Derek LS Jones (USAF—Ret.)
Endorsing Agent, The Convocation of Anglicans in North America
The Anglican Church in North America

CAPT Roy Bebee, CHC, USN, (Ret.)
Endorsing Agent, Evangelical Free Church of America

CAPT David Starkey, CHC, USN, (Ret.)
Endorsing Agent, Calvary Chapel

Chaplain (COL) Ronald A. Crews, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Grace Churches International

Chaplain (COL) Daniel A. Miller, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Foursquare Church

Chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel, Hugh H. Moran, U.S. Air Force, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Pentecostal Holiness Church

Chaplain (LTC) Douglas R. Stephenson, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Church of God of Prophecy

Chaplain (LTC) Klon K. Kitchen, Jr., U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches

Chaplain (LTC) Allen E. Russell, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Conservative Baptist America

LCDR Kenneth V. Botton, CHC, USN, (Ret.)
Endorsing Agent, Plymouth Brethren

LCDR David E. Mullis, CHC, USN, (Ret.)
Chaplaincy Coordinator, North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention)

Chaplain (LTC) Robert W. Collins, II, U.S. Army, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Christian and Missionary Alliance

Chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel, Rex Carpenter, U.S. Air Force, Retired
Endorsing Agent, Free Methodist Church of North America

Dr. Jeff Jeremiah
Stated Clerk & Endorsing Agent, Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Dr. Larry N. Chamberlain
Assistant Endorsing Agent, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches

Dr. Robert E. Steinke (USMC-Ret.)
Endorsing Agent, Conservative Congregational Christian Conference

Rev. Ron Brovold
Endorsing Agent, International Ministerial Fellowship

Archbishop John T. Kelly
Endorsing Agent, Holy Orthodox Catholic Church

cc:

John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-101

Ray Mabus
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-1000

Michael B. Donley
Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1670

Chaplain John B. Ellington, Jr., Major General
Director of the National Guard Chaplain Corps
1636 Defense Pentagon 1B157
Washington DC 23201

Chaplain Margaret G. Kibben, RDML
Chaplain of the Marine Corps
2 Navy Annex
Washington, DC 20370-0400

Chaplain Gregory Horn, RADM
U.S. Naval Reserve
2 Navy Annex
Washington, DC 20370-0400

Chaplain Donald Rutherford, Brigadier General
Deputy Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Army
1500 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310

Chaplain Ray Woolridge, Brigadier General
U.S. Army Reserve
1500 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310

Chaplain Pat Dolan, Brigadier General
U.S. Army National Guard
1500 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310

Chaplain Howard Stendhal, Brigadier General
Deputy Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Air Force
1690 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330

Chaplain Jack Sewell, Brigadier General
U.S. Air Force Reserve
1690 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330

Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
U.S. House of Representatives
2184 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Joe Wilson
2229 Rayburn House Office Building,
Washington, DC 20515

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler
1023 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Todd Akin
117 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Duncan Hunter
223 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Mike Coffman
1222 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Steve Palazzo
331 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Allen West
1708 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congresswoman Martha Roby
414 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Trent Franks
2435 Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Senator John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Jeff Sessions
326 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 -0104

Senator Roger Wicker
555 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Lindsey Graham
290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator David Vitter
516 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510


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