WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land has joined other conservative leaders in calling for a congressional effort to protect the U.S. military as repeal of the ban on open homosexuality in the Armed Forces nears implementation.
President Obama signed into law in December legislation repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. Final revocation of the policy, however, will not take effect until Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen certify the reversal will not harm the military. That seems to be a given, since all three supported the bill. Even then, a 60-day waiting period is required until the new policy becomes effective.
In a letter to Republican leaders of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Land and other members of the Freedom Federation coalition said, “[T]here is still time to save our military, and especially our service members with sincerely held religious beliefs that will, inevitably, be silenced by non-discrimination policies that elevate and favor sexual minorities.”
Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The coalition urged Reps. Buck McKeon, R.-Calif., the committee’s chairman, and Joe Wilson, R.-S.C., the Military Personnel Subcommittee’s chairman, to hold hearings regarding what they described as “flaws” in the Pentagon report on overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as well as the “negative effects of a full repeal” on military effectiveness.
The letter’s 32 signers also called for the congressmen to promote a vote on the Restore Military Readiness Act, H.R. 337, which would amend the repeal measure enacted in December. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R.-Calif., would require that — in addition to Obama, Gates and Mullen — each military chief of staff be required to certify that repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not undermine his branch’s combat readiness and effectiveness. Some of the military chiefs did not support the repeal.
Other signers of the Feb. 3 letter included Mathew Staver, Freedom Foundation’s chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law; Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Penny Nance, chief executive office of Concerned Women for America; Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council Action, and Tom Minnery, senior vice president of CitizenLink.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – enacted in 1993 — barred homosexuals from serving openly in the military but also prohibited commanders from asking service members if they are homosexual or about their “sexual orientation.”
Congress’ December approval of the repeal proposal occurred during a lame-duck session. The Senate voted 65-31 for repeal, while the House roll call was 250-175 in favor.
Land appealed to Obama in a December letter not to sign the repeal measure, urging him to be guided by his Christian faith. After the signing ceremony, Land described it as a “very, very sad day for America” and expressed concern the change would “significantly degrade” military effectiveness.
Opponents of repeal especially expressed concern about religious liberty protections. More than 60 retired chaplains had signed a letter to Obama and Gates warning that a repeal would marginalize “deeply held” religious beliefs of military personnel and present a conflict when some chaplains, while preaching, “present religious teachings that identify homosexual behavior as immoral.” They warned that changing the policy could influence chaplains not only in what they could preach but in what they could say in a counseling session.
Though the Pentagon said its study showed that a repeal’s risks to the military would be low, its survey of military personnel found significant resistance to a reversal from those serving on the front lines. For example, among those in the Marine combat arms and Army combat arms, 57 percent and 47 percent, respectively, said having an openly homosexual person would negatively impact “how service members in your immediate unit work together to get the job done.”
More than a third of Marines (38.1 percent) and nearly a fourth of all personnel (23.7) said they would either leave the military or think about doing so earlier than planned if the policy is reversed. That number jumped to 48 percent for Marines on the front lines.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. With reporting by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.