In the lead up to Congress’ repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, right-wing types argued that allowing gays to serve openly would of course mean the end of religious freedoms for military chaplains. This was, of course, a scare tactic intended to drum up opposition to repeal: you can’t legislate away religious freedoms without repealing the First Amendment. But that doesn’t matter to folks like MassResistance, who have interpreted the Pentagon’s instructions for anti-gay chaplains as an attempt to kick them out of the military: “US Army now warning Chaplains: If you don’t like the homosexual agenda, get out!,” reads the headline. Actually, that’s not true at all.
What the DADT repeal training actually tells chaplains is that if they cannot reconcile their beliefs about homosexuality with the new policy allowing gays to serve openly, they can volunteer to leave. There is no mandate. There is no requirement. They are being offered an out.
What’s more telling, though, is how many chaplains have accepted the offer. Last we heard just a single chaplain, from the Navy, had taken off because of DADT’s impending repeal. Lt. Col. Carleton Birch, a spokesman for the Army chief of chaplains, says one chaplain from the Army has left also. That’s one out of 2,900, which means 99.965 percent have opted to remain.Maj. Joel Harper, an Air Force spokesman, says exactly zero of its 520 active-duty chaplains have asked to take off. That’s 100 percent choosing to stay.
But don’t let that stop Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness (and secret email advocate), from readying the fearmongering: “The training is engaging in a form of strategic deception. I think active-duty people are being reassured nothing will change. That is an unrealistic expectation. … Many [chaplains] may be saying that now they will not leave voluntarily but that doesn’t account for those who would be forced out involuntarily when all of these conflicts become more apparent.”
To be clear, no chaplains will be “forced out involuntarily” for merely sticking to their Bible-based beliefs that being gay is a sin. If they use the Bible, however, to harass a gay soldier? Yeah, that would be grounds for dismissal.
So, as it stands, one chaplain from the Navy has left, and one from the Army did also. That brings the total number of military chaplains who cannot stomach the idea of homosexual soldiers being honest about their sexuality to … two.