Muzzling Military Chaplains

One of the items on Obama’s second term agenda is to root out traditionally Christian chaplains from the military. He sees them as bigots unworthy of conscience protections. Like Chick-fil-A, they don’t uphold Obama’s “values.”

Obama’s mouthpieces in the military have already blurted this out. In 2010, Admiral Michael Mullen told a Christian chaplain who opposed the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that “If you cannot get in line, resign your commission.” That same year Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s deputy chief of staff in charge of personnel, said military members who dissent from Obama’s gay rights agenda should “get out.”

“Unfortunately, we have a minority of service members who are still racists and bigoted and you will never be able to get rid of all of them,” he said, as reported by the Washington Times. “But these people opposing this new policy will need to get with the program, and if they can’t, they need to get out.”

Pentagon officials go through the motions of saying that military chaplains still enjoy religious freedom. But this claim grows ever more lawyerly and narrow. When Defense Department Counsel Jeh C. Johnson testified before Congress about the implications of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy’s collapse for religious freedom, he said that it would not affect what a chaplain said in “the religious context.” In other words, chaplains would be punished for objecting to Obama’s gay rights agenda anywhere outside of a pulpit.

But even that feeble promise isn’t worth taking seriously, since Obama’s military officials have already regulated sermons from the pulpit. Last year they forbade Catholics chaplains from orally criticizing the HHS mandate, permitting only a printed objection to it. How long before the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains requires vetting of all sermons on homosexuality?

At Maoist-style reeducation sessions, soldiers and chaplains have already been told that “You remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are homosexual even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held moral or religious beliefs.”

Also, it is not even clear if military chaplains control who speaks from their pulpits. It is likely that they will have to turn them over to other ministers preaching at gay nuptials whenever the Pentagon so decrees . A September 2011 memo from DOD general counsel Johnson indicates that any chapel space on a military base can be appropriated for gay weddings, which is a blatant violation of the Defense of Marriage Act. “Determinations” of chapel space, he wrote, “should be made on a sexual-orientation neutral basis.” By 2011, in open defiance of DOMA, the military authorized ministerial training for gay marriage ceremonies on military bases.

Considering himself very generous and tolerant, Obama has said that he would never force a priest or minister to preside at a gay wedding. This is an absurdly low guarantee of religious freedom. But there is no reason to suppose that he will even honor that low standard, given that he sees such a stance as discriminatory. In time, pressure, both direct and indirect, will be brought to bear on non-participating ministers. Even their silence will be seen as a hate crime. Careers will rise or fall depending upon the level of one’s participation in the promotion of gay rights.

The “LGBT” community will no doubt frame the issue as one of “access”: How can a gay soldier have a right to marry on a military base if military chaplains are free to refuse to marry them? At last year’s first gay wedding at West Point, the lesbian couple complained to the press that none of the ministers on campus agreed to marry them, so they had to fly a chaplain in from elsewhere.

Using the “access” argument, Obama scotched Bush-era conscience protections for pro-life Christian doctors working at federal hospitals. They are required to distribute abortifacients whether they like it or not. When the time is right, Obama will use the same “access” argument to require ministerial participation in gay weddings.

Keeping this option open, Obama last week announced that he will disobey a provision protecting chaplains which Republicans included in the national defense authorization bill he signed. The provision states that the religious views of a soldier cannot be “the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination or denial of promotion, schooling, training or assignment,” and that chaplains cannot be forced “to perform any rite, ritual or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs of the chaplain.”

Just as Obama refuses to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, so he promises to ignore this provision, as he said in his signing statement, calling it “unnecessary and ill-advised.” He added that he will not let it slow down his gay-rights agenda: “My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that.”

Obama won’t promise to protect these military chaplains for the simple reason that he views them as the moral equivalent of segregationists. Chai Feldblum, one of Obama’s commissioners on the EEOC, has written that the state, acting in the name of nondiscrimination, enjoys an absolute right to violate the religious freedom of Christians: “Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT people.”

That’s the essential view animating all of Obama’s policies related to Christianity. Under this secularist dogmatism, Christianity has no public rights. Freedom, as Feldblum puts it, is a “zero sum game” in which the religious deserve to lose.

This column first appeared January 9, 2013 in The American Spectator and is reprinted with permission.

George Neumayr


George Neumayr is a contributing editor to The American Spectator, and a weekly columnist for Crisis Magazine. He is also co-author (with Phyllis Schlafly) of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.

  • Tim S.

    I haven’t yet seen a discussion in orthodox Catholic circles whether the time has come to start discouraging our youth from joining the military. When the push came to end “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was underway- one of the strongest arguments was “No one really cares, it won’t affect the military mission”. As a former military man myself I know that there is no selective conscientious objection option- once you sign on the dotted line you are obliged to follow all orders- you can’t opt out unless you want to face legal consequences. So, if tradional Christian chaplains are no longer welcome in the military, why should traditional Christians sign on to become the weapons in the hands of the political order? I think Obama is banking on the fact that no one in their right mind wants to be perceived as unpatriotic- so he isn’t worried that conservative Catholics or other trad Christians will start calling for young people to avoid volunteering for military service to ensure that their consciences will have a chance of being followed without legal ramifications. I wonder if Obama is right in his strategic thinking?

    • Kitty

      However, at what point does one’s duty to family, home, and country override political issues in the military, even if the issue is a very important moral one? Presuming a just war, is it still preferable that Christians refrain from service because of the issue of gay marriage? My first thought is that the need to stop an aggressor would outrank the potential moral issue of possibly appearing to condone gay marriage.

      On a slightly different note, I think that Christians need to stay where they are, if there’s any hope of evangelizing the culture. There is so much goodness in military culture because of the strong Christian presence, and I don’t think it would help if we all just withdrew. Already we send our men and women into wars that no one is sure if it’s actually just to be fighting; if we remove all Christian influence, what horrors will ensue?

      • SteveM

        Re: “so much goodness in military culture”

        Have you seen “Collateral Murder”?

        Rancid slaughter enthusiastically enabled by the “strong Christian presence” of the American military.

        The faster Christians withdrew from the American War Machine as it is currently employed, the better.

      • Theorist

        I can only see the first part becoming a practical worry if some huge army bent on genocidal extermination were approaching our shores. Aside from that, why be a defender of an America with no values left to defend?

      • gerbilcrusader

        we’ll just shoot obama’s officers and leaders when they aren’t looking and all the fags. what will happen is the MILITARY will end up rebelling by at least 70%. those loyal to obama will go in one direction, the rest will fight them. it’s already happening. OBAMA is a domestic enemy and those of us who aren’t afraid of his dumbass are preparing. WE WILL NEVER LOSE THIS COMING WAR.

    • Gary

      As a Catholic pacifist, I’m all for this idea. We shouldn’t ever whore ourselves out to Caesar in the first place!

      • Ray Olson

        Dear Gary–In sentiment and often principle, I’m with you. Then, of course, I am a Quaker, so what would you expect? There does remain for me one huge reason for military service, and that is defense against immediate violent attack. If people are killing you and yours, you ought to stop them. The Quaker testimony of peace is that, in any conflict, peaceful resolution is always preferable and to be earnestly sought–peaceably. Moreover, even after fighting has begun, peace is to be sought–peaceably.

        • poetcomic1

          Friends Service Committee! That is pacifism in action. What a history of toadying to liars, dictators, traitors and monstrous tyrants. Peace!

      • poetcomic1

        Pacifism is repulsive to me. It reeks in so many ways. Don’t expect ME to sigh and say “Gee, I wish I could be as noble and pure as you.”

    • b.

      The Left would like to end the military. That is Obama’s strategic thinking. Declining numbers of volunteers will be helpful. Amoral and irreligious recruits will serve as well or better, for the purposes of the Left.

  • Ray Olson

    Dear Mr. Neumayr–Perhaps what you fear is a blessing in disguise. The theologian Stanley Hauerwas has argued–this is MY version of what he argues–that, because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, homosexuals had been declared to be nonviolent, a people of peace such as Christianity has always envisioned the church could produce through its ministry. If Catholics are forced out of the military, perhaps that would be a profound step forward to the Kingdom of God, indeed, for Catholics outnumber homosexuals exponentially.

  • John

    This insight, “Obama won’t promise to protect these military chaplains for the simple
    reason that he views them as the moral equivalent of segregationists” gets right to the heart of the matter. That is why it is essential that chaplains, all our clergy, our bishops, and the Catholic faithful make clear why we are NOT–that is, what is different about our argument. We must clearly call sin, sin, and articulate a moral order that refuses to celebrate sexual sin. Chaplains can and, under the proper circumstances, should, preach that premarital sex, divorce, pornography, or patronizing strip clubs is sinful–yet all these things are perfectly legal. The same applies for homosexual sex. We must be clearer about what it is Catholicism rejects (that is, the sin itself) and why. From there, it might be considerably easier to defend the more complex points about what we do not reject (that is, the sinner). It only SEEMS that rejecting “gay marriage” equals rejecting gay people, and therefore it SEEMS like segregation in its awful form. But if we change the subject to gay sex, and defend the Church’s ancient, clear, inspired, reasonable, and tremendously practical teaching on the proper place of human sexuality, it is much easier to affirm that we cannot celebrate any union that places a grave sin as its center but instead offer mercy, grace, and support for all men and women striving to be holy.

  • Danielck

    Why can it not be seen that homosexuality is defined by sex, and heterosexuality is defined by God. Homosexuality cannot be “defined” by love, children, or marriage. It is defined WHEN a perverted sexual act is consummated. Were sex not involved, how could the relationship be homo-sexual? And am I afraid to be called a bigot? NO! Homosexuality is defined by sex. Heterosexuality is defined by God.

  • wva88

    So i assume you would also have criticized General Pershing’s prohibition on military chaplains (primarily evangelical protestants) attacking and proselytizing Catholic soldiers?

    • T. B.

      Yes, I would. Telling an Evangelical it’s okay for them to be Evangelical but don’t evangelize, is like telling a Catholic, it’s okay for them to be Catholic but they can’t attend Mass. And this is a real issue we have to be concerned with if we believe in the First Amendment, because Evangelicals are often told exactly this. The Catholics in Pershing’s command needed to be stong enough in the Faith to resist the evangelizers’ efforts. If they indeed have freedom to practice their beliefs, Evangelicals will try to bring anyone they can to be “born again”, it’s what they believe in.

      • Adam Baum

        Telling an Evangelical it’s okay for them to be Evangelical but don’t
        evangelize, is like telling a Catholic, it’s okay for them to be

        Actually, Catholics have the same mandate to evangelize, even preacging the gospel to those people who’s rock solid faith in the ascriptural tradition of Sola Scriptura provides them with doctrinal certainty with regard to merely one thing-they aren’t Catholic.

  • John Francis Borra

    This is exactly why I have adopted St. George as yet another of my patron saints. A professional soldier in an army of a pagan-led government, he is a prime example of Christian virtue. He willingly served his country, but that was not enough for Diocletian, who demanded he deny Christ and the holy Catholic faith. This is precisely what Obama and his party of fellow pagans demand of our chaplains. May God have mercy on their wretched souls.

  • Joe

    Where do you people get your information about obama kicking out christan chaplins. If you cant report the truth then do not write anything!!!!

    • Augustus

      You are being hysterical. Calm down and read the article again. Let the facts sink in. Why is it so difficult for you to believe a radical secularist president, who is beholden to the Gay Lobby for his political fortune, would do their bidding on military policy? This is not your grandfather’s Democratic party.

    • John Francis Borra

      So, Joe, what in your opinion IS the truth?

      It’s high time we Americans stop kidding ourselves that “it can’t happen here.” That’s exactly what Germans said in 1933. The ongoing assaults against the natural moral law that brought us contraception, then abortion, now deny us the free exercise of our faith. It’s obvious what’s at stake if Obama and the Democrat party are allowed to continue: our very lives.

      • Adam Baum

        More to the point, IT IS happening here. You will note that “Joe” makes an ipse dixit assertion of falsity, not with a presentation of facts to the contrary, but visceral indignation. Like the horse in Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, he resorts to close-minded self assurance. If Napoleon (Obama) says it is says it it must be right.

        The next time you speak with an Obama supporter, notice how many times they begin an argument with “I feel” and how much they want to be part of a group.

        Obama may end up being a tyrant of the soft variety, (and if so, only because the pusillanimous Republicans get a sudden hardening of their spines) but the group swaying in unison in Grant Park in 2008 may have been more benign, but the mechanics-a cult of personality-aren’t all that much different than what animated the legions in Nuremberg in the 1930’s.

    • J G

      I was in the military. When an order like this comes down they push everyone to get on board. If you don’t then your evaluations suffer and you are discharged. That’s how it works. Soon enough there will be no chaplain who does not agree with gay marriage.

  • WRBaker

    At Maoist-style reeducation sessions, soldiers and chaplains have already been told that “You remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are homosexual even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held moral or religious beliefs.”
    Having been in the military for years, this is precisely how the Army works! Any serious discussion of the topic is not allowed. Any disagreement with the instruction and your name is written down and an attempt at humiliation is attempted. Using the phrase, “Maoist-style reeducation sessions” are exactly what they seem like!

    • gerbilcrusader

      i LIKE to see them try. I already tell them off and they leave me alone because i will kick their ass. we outnumber the morons who support obama and we are far more fearless then obama’s cowards that are running the military to the ground. glad I’m retiring. only cowards don’t fight back. Fools back down to these communist liberals or muslim liberals. Obama is the devil. we should not fear that monkey. I certainly don’t. If I die this human form. I’ll come back and haunt them as a ghost.

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  • OldFatAssMan

    If you try and get rid of everyone who disagrees with homosexuality, we are not going to have very man military men.

    • In that case, Mr. Obama would be forced to change his agenda, wouldn’t he?

      • Ray Olson

        Dear Ms. or Mrs. DiDonato–Isn’t it pretty to think so? Yet on the one hand, it’s people of enlistment age who are increasingly accepting homosexuality as no big deal. On the other hand, the high percentage of recruits who are recent immigrants from less tolerant cultures may do the trick by not enlisting. Anything that can get U.S. forces out of the Middle East (and Africa and elsewhere) would be, to the extent that it does, a blessing.

  • Ronald

    My questions in reading this were: What does the Church itself do to protect its chaplains? Does the Church order them to follow the guidelines of the Church? What does the Episcopate do when a faithful chaplain is punished? Do the Church authorities have the courage to sue the Administration on this or/and to cause a diplomatic crisis between the Holy See and the US? Do faithful chaplains indeed have the back of their Church? And what about that softsawder Cardinal Dolan, who is constantly busy with cozying up to the Administration? Does he have the balls to resist Obama openly and to order his chaplains to keep in line with the unchangeable doctrine and practice of the Church? In short: Where is the Church in all this? Where are the bishops, the cardinals, all the prelates, and — last but not least — the Vatican? Where are they? Where are all these dispicably tolerant clerics of today when it comes to the fundamental rights and obligations of the Church?

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    We must distinguish between privileges and rights.

    It is, surely, obvious that the army can prescribe the conditions under which a commission is held and pay received. Any chaplain who fails to comply may, quite properly, be dismissed the service and deprived of his commission.

    But if, instead of stripping him of his privileges and emoluments, which he holds subject to a condition he will not comply with, the army were to insist on positive obedience and seek to compel a chaplain to perform a wedding against his conscience, or to punish him for refusal, that would, indeed, be an act of persecution.

  • Susan

    Machiavelli stated it was absolutely necessary to form a strong military to keep power–by promoting Virtue–which is crucial, not only in Republics, but particularly the military. Obviously, the present Marxists want to destroy the military because they are forcing Vice as “Good” into the military—and changing the “Laws of Nature and nature’s God” to the sodomy morality of Afghanis. Mao’s brainwashing and conditioning of “moral ethics”. Isn’t Bestiality ok, now, too? Justice is a Virtue—government has to promote “Virtue”, otherwise it is unconstitutional by definition of Rule of Law based on a Higher Power (God, not Satan). Sodomy can never be anything, but a vile, dehumanizing Vice. Can’t glorify dysfunction and evil and be Justice.

  • poetcomic1

    There is a certain type of restless and ‘trouble-prone’ young male who has always found his salvation in the military and its discipline. America itself has benefited enormously from these young men serving their country. They are now quietly turning away from the last refuge of maleness and affirmation as it is transformed into a Government Gay Reeducation Camp.

  • Questioning

    “Last year they forbade Catholics chaplains from orally criticizing the HHS mandate, permitting only a printed objection to it.” Not true. The Army Chief of Chaplains–A ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST–suggested a letter from the bishops opposing the president’s policies be mentioned by Catholic chaplains, and distributed afterwards, instead of being read from the pulpit, to protect the chaplains from the charge of public criticism of the president. This instruction went to senior chaplains, but the Archbishop of the Military Archdiocese got wind of it and, apparently going over the head of his own most senior priest, complained to the administration and got it rescinded. I notice that this author has not bothered to contact the Army Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Major General) Donald Rutherford–the senior Catholic priest in the military–about any of his accusations. Why not?

  • You are immoral to take money from all tax-payers and use it to discriminate against persons with whom you disagree. The Samaritan is called ‘good’ not because of his right theology but because he treated compassionately a Jewish neighbor in need.

  • The military is an arm of the government. The separation of church and state applies here. There are public defenders who are required by their job to give a credible defense to murders, rapists and child molesters. Military chaplains are employed by the US Government. They’re free to believe whatever they want. That’s really what religious freedom is. Nobody can come into your home and say you can’t worship a goat if you so choose.

    In the Bible, jesus said “render unto caesar that which is caesars”, The underlying meaning is that simply believing in god does not exempt someone from being a law-abiding citizen. Besides, Jesus ministered to anyone and everyone. Just because you don’t like someone or feel what they’re doing is wrong, that doesn’t mean you are exempt from the Christian duty of treating them as a decent human being.

  • John K.

    When I was in the Army, we had a problem with this… for example, right as DADT was dying, one of the pastors threw a little stinger about how gays are abominations into his sermon discussing Paul and how to be a family man. It was entirely unnecessary and detrimental to all of the initiatives and classes the Army was setting up to help smooth over the DADT transition. We had a little discussion in private about it, later, but I don’t think I changed the chaplain’s perspective on the issue any. Here’s the thing about the Army: Every one in that uniform depends on everyone else wearing the same uniform. No one really gives a crap about whether someone is gay or not, as long as they can get the job done. It doesn’t matter to me whether the guy who shot the insurgent ready to kill me was straight or gay or even a dancing circus clown. I’m just grateful he got the guy. There’s no place in the Army for bigotry or hatred, especially not coming from a chaplain. It’s shameful, to try and be a good Christian, when there are chaplains spouting hatred from the pulpit. I will *never* believe that being Christian means hating others. Christ’s message was one of love and welcome compassion. The church may want me to hate people who are different from me, but God and Christ don’t work that way. Gay, straight, black, white, Islamic, Jewish, whatever… When you take that Oath of Enlistment, you signed your life to protect me and mine. I respect that, even if the chaplains don’t.

  • Robert

    Obama will just send more kids to war. He has no intention of closing down the wars or trying to stop them in any form. In the meantime the US will continue to crumble under his influence.

  • gerbilcrusader

    obama is a piece of shit muslim. a lot of blacks are christians and they do not like fags. a lot of asians do not like fags. so he wants to make war with us. we will send his monkey ass back to his muslim world. the race obama better not mess with is us asians. he is living on dangerous grounds to mess with the asian world who do not tolerate fags. even his stupid muslim buddies hate him, they hate fags more then anyone. obama must not like breathing or something. he is making war with everyone. those who follow him are suicidal pricks. those who follow his orders are even more suicidal. HITLER TRIED IT AND WHAT DOES OBAMA THINK WITH HIS SKINNY ASS THAT HE WILL SUCCEED? NO ONE EVER SUCCEEDED AS A TYRRANT. HIS SKINNY ASS is no exception!

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  • Andrew Carlan

    Perhaps the problem goes back to Constantinism, that the Church benefits from the support of the State. What the State can confer it can withdraw or corrupt the Church’s teachings. We are supposed to be in the world but not of it. Suppose the Church refused to participate in the Chaplaincy at all on Obama’s terms? Might that dissuade some Catholics from joining the military as some dioceses have closed their hospitals, which comprise a third of the nation’s health care facilities? Some people, especially those who possess power, need to feel the back blow of their own arrogance. It could cause the dominoes to collapse around their heads, leading to a standstill and subverting the executive and unelected judges as they have too often tried to subverted the Church.