During the Congressional debate over repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, opponents of repeal alleged that a change in the policy would lead to an infringement of military chaplains’ religious freedom.
In his testimony to the Senate before the final vote last year, Defense Department Counsel Jeh C. Johnson reiterated that this would not be the case and repeal “would not require a chaplain to change what he preaches–what he counsels in the religious context.”
Last week, the Obama administration revisited this topic by issuing a new directive that allows military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages at military facilities in states where such unions are legal.
Keeping the administration’s promise, the ruling continues to protect the conscience rights of military chaplains. No chaplain is required to perform marriages if they choose not to, and the onus is on the service members to find a chaplain who will perform the ceremony. And as Mr. Johnson predicted, this distinction is well understood by the chaplains themselves:
The Pentagon can issue a policy change concerning the performance of same-gender ceremonies by chaplains. However, the Pentagon doesn’t generate religion as such,” says Gary Pollitt, a spokesman for the Military Chaplains Association, which represents 1,600 current and retired military chaplains.
In an e-mail statement he adds, “A military chaplain conducts religious ceremonies and rites in keeping with the canons [or beliefs, doctrine, policies] of the religious faith group that endorses that chaplain. Each faith group defines the parameters for religious rites and the clergyperson’s individual discretion [if any] with those rites.
Even conservative chaplains who are upset about the change had to admit there was no explicit violation of their religious liberty.
H/T Think Progress
Photo credit: expertinfantry, Flickr
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Today is National Coming Out Day, encouraging LGBT people to live openly and initiate conversations with their friends and families about their experiences.
Along with their general resources, Human Rights Campaign has a guide on coming out in your place of worship for LGBT people of faith.
And over at the Center for American Progress, Eleni Townes tracks some of the changes in policies regarding LGBT people in various faith traditions over the past few years.
In particular, Townes notes faith participation in the “It Gets Better” project. Earlier this year, FPL joined in with our “Faith Gets Better” series. Here’s former Faith in Public Life board chair Meg Riley introducing the project. You can see all of the videos we solicited and curated here.
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Two weeks ago, Jerry Pittman Jr. and his boyfriend Dustin Lee tried to attend services at Grace Fellowship Church in their town of Fruitland, Tennessee. They didn’t make it through the front door.
On instructions from the church pastor–Jerry’s father–church deacons attacked Jerry and Dustin in the parking lot while shouting homophobic slurs to prevent them from entering.
This kind of hate and violence has no place in our society, particularly in our churches. Not only does this assault directly harm Jerry and Dustin, it reinforces the lie that all religion is hostile to LGBT people.
Faithful America is fighting that myth by standing up for Jerry and Dustin and demanding an apology. Thousands of people are adding their names to a simple petition to church leadership:
To the leadership of Grace Fellowship Church,
Your actions against Jerry and Dustin are appalling and in no way faithful to the Christian Gospel. Such hate and violence are never acceptable.
As people of faith, we call on you to apologize immediately.
Join them by signing your name to the petition here.
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Repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which Congress passed and President Obama signed in December, was officially implemented yesterday. Gay and lesbian veterans and military personnel, along with allies who fought to end discrimination against them, rejoiced. Among the most moving reactions was a gay service member coming out to his father and posting the video:
On the other hand, those who fought tooth and nail to preserve the military’s policy of discrimination against LGBT people marked the occasion by doubling down on the misinformation they used to oppose repeal during the Congressional debate last year. The Family Research Council responded with a litany of incendiary charges (and nary a link or footnote to back them up):
Expect to see celebrations from homosexual groups and fawning stories in the media about how “the sky has not fallen.” That’s only because there will be no press releases from the new victims of sexual harassment or assault, the soldiers exposed to HIV-tainted blood, the thousands of servicemembers who choose not to reenlist rather than forfeit their freedom of speech and religion, and the untold number of citizens who choose never to join the military. It’s clear this President is more interested in appeasing sexual revolutionaries than in fighting America’s enemies.
And the Religious Right doesn’t have public opinion on their side — people of faith overwhelmingly supported ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
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The muslimahMERICAN blog featured a guest post from Chris Stedman earlier this week that’s a great example of the principles we highlighted earlier — personal stories are one of the most effective ways to fight stereotypes.
Chris’s story highlights how he discovered that his identity as a queer atheist actually gave him some insight and opportunity to connect with and learn from the Muslim-Americans he worked with. An excerpt:
Working with the Muslim community in Chicago, I realized how problematic my “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to working with the Muslim community in Minneapolis had been; how my refusal to engage the religious identities of those I worked with at [a local community center] closed me off from countless opportunities to build bridges of understanding and respect with a community I honestly knew very little about, aside from my academic study of Islam. And how, by refusing to open up to them about my own beliefs and experiences, I denied them the opportunity to learn about me–to really know me and understand the challenges that I faced.
Religious and LGBTQ identities are important, and when we try to tuck them away in some dark and dusty corner we lose something integral. When open discussion about essential aspects of our identity becomes taboo–when we are forced to silence the stories of who we are and what matters to us–intolerance goes unchallenged and we are its accomplices, complicit in allowing others to be cast aside. When we see the other as so different that we think we can find no common ground, we allow others to see them as not-quite-human, too.
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