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Speaking out

"Speaking out" Continued...

Issue: "Tilting at turbines," July 17, 2010

"What if a homosexual couple comes to the chaplain and wants to be married?" Young asked.

Marriage counseling is a bedrock duty for chaplains, especially with the current strain on unions caused by ongoing deployments. Chaplains head the military's "Strong Bonds" marriage program. Young predicts gay couples will start to come to these sessions, putting many chaplains in difficult positions.

Would the military order the chaplains to work to improve such a union? Or would the military replace them with counselors who condone homosexuality, risking the rejection of such programs by conservative military families?

Currently, conservative evangelicals form the core of the chaplaincy. But these chaplains must also answer to endorsing denominations that likely would not support chaplains in a military that condones homosexuality.

"The conservative, Bible-believing chaplain is going to be marginalized," Young says. "We want to minister to everybody, but we want to do it according to the truth of Scripture, not political correctness."

More than 40 retired chaplains have signed a letter to President Obama. In it they warn that a repeal would turn "Christians-both chaplains and servicemen-into second-class soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines." Jewish and Catholic groups have also spoken out against repeal.

These are not the only warnings the administration has ignored. More than 1,000 retired military officers from all service branches wrote that the change would "break the all-volunteer force."

In an unprecedented break from Mullen, all four heads of the service branches wrote Congress urging lawmakers to hold off on any votes until after the military completes its review.

Gen. George Casey, the Army's chief of staff, wrote that repealing the rule before the Dec. 1 review "will be seen by men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views."

And it is not just top officers: For four years in a row, a Military Times poll of active duty troops found that a majority opposes the repeal. Ten percent of respondents say they would not re-enlist and an additional 14 percent say they would consider ending their military careers. If 10 percent did drop out, that would mean a loss of more than 228,000 troops.

"I suspect many service members, their families, veterans, and citizens are wondering what to do to stop this ill-advised repeal of a policy that has achieved balance between a citizen's desire to serve and acceptable conduct," wrote Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the top commander in the Pacific, in a letter to the military's Stars and Stripes publication. Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman, chastised Mixon for speaking outside the chain of command.

Why have Democrats ignored these pleas and voted anyway before the military has had its say? They are fearful that waiting past the November election means they may not have enough votes to move forward, says Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Daniel Blomberg.

He adds that the homosexual lobby has made ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy a top goal because it understands that the military as an institution exerts an outsized influence on molding American life.

"This is not a narrow fight just about the military," he told me. "This is just step one in achieving the goal of normalizing homosexuality in mainstream America."

Matt Coles, director of the ACLU's Center for Equality, in a recent essay argued that the military could be the engine for even greater changes. "Getting rid of DADT won't be enough," Coles wrote. "There's another little law called the Defense of Marriage Act that will have to go as well."

At a June 22 event at the White House honoring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride month, Obama told activists "we've got a lot of hard work we've still got to do."

In this push, there is one question retired Brig. Gen. James Hutchens says few lawmakers are asking: How will protecting homosexuality enhance the military and help it protect the nation? Hutchens, who testified before Congress on this issue in 1993, says that should be the key to all changes to the military.

He says the social experiment will prove to be an enormous challenge to implement and will create internal conflicts that will hurt morale.

The first chaplain to be wounded in combat during the Vietnam War, Hutchens knows about the heart of a soldier. Hutchens, then a 31-year-old captain, joined a dawn patrol in the jungles north of Saigon in early November 1965. He knew that to have a ministry he had to go with the men.

The company-sized unit marched right into a regiment-sized ambush. The unit's commander ordered the patrol to back into a defensive perimeter. But not before its point man got hit.

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