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Associated Press/Photo by Christopher Berkey

Ready or not

The military may be "certified" but questions about gays in the military remain

Issue: "Face-off," Aug. 13, 2011

Long before the lame duck Congress voted to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy last fall, a chaplain at a briefing asked a senior Pentagon official if a biblical worldview on homosexuality would be protected in the post-DADT military. The reply he received was chilling: If you cannot come in line with this policy, then resign your commission.

Such stories worry Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty: "We must continue to have soldiers of faith in the military," he said.

President Barack Obama on July 22 certified that ending the 18-year-old ban on homosexuals serving openly in the armed forces would not harm military readiness. This long expected final step means that repeal will take effect in 60 days.

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The military has used the first half of 2011 to conduct training seminars for soldiers of all ranks on what to expect, taking soldiers out of combat zones to receive instruction on the new policy permitting openly gay personnel. Crews said these seminars highlight how many unanswered questions remain-like what to do when a heterosexual soldier unwillingly gets assigned a homosexual roommate. For now those will be determined on a case-by-case basis by commanders on the ground. "So a solider at Fort Bragg will get a different answer than a solider at Fort Knox who will get a different answer from a soldier in Afghanistan," said Crews, a retired chaplain. "This is being pushed by a political agenda from the president on down at the cost of good military order and discipline."

Conservative denominations that endorse chaplains already are giving out their own parameters: Do not share a pulpit with a chaplain who supports homosexuality; do not conduct the military's "strong bonds" marital counseling program with homosexual couples; and be upfront with soldiers who seek counseling that the chaplain's advice will be from a biblical perspective. But with so many variables left to commanders' discretion, the chaplaincy groups trying to navigate the post-DADT military are on a collision course with homosexual lobbyists.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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