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May 27th, 2010
08:31 PM ET

Tony Perkins: Repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' threatens military chaplains

From CNN's Kelly Marshall: Hours before the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a measure Thursday that would repeal "don't ask, don't tell," a group of pastors, priests and rabbis gathered in the Capitol to encourage lawmakers to retain the ban on gays in the military.

The group opened the press conference with prayer, asking for God to bless their efforts and to soften the hearts of senators and congressmen to their position.


Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who co-sponsored the presser, said repealing "don't ask, don't tell" could undermine the religious liberties of those serving in the military, particularly military chaplains.

“You have over 200 sponsoring organizations that may be prevented from sponsoring chaplains because they hold orthodox Christian views that will be in conflict with what the military says is stated policy,” said Perkins.

“Most people don’t understand the military environment," said Perkins, a retired Marine. "It’s not like going to work at 8 o’clock in the morning, it’s 24-7. The strains - especially right now where you have people in one enlistment doing multiple tours of duty overseas - the strain on the family, the strain on the marriages... those chaplains don’t just preach, they counsel as well and we may see them forced out of the military, then who is going to be there to help those men and women who are sacrificing so much.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Gay rights • Military • Politics

soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    The Military is government, and religion is religion. The two shall NOT merge.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  2. brad

    Who cares what a chaplain thinks anyway. I havent met one yet that was worth my time. I will take a good First Sergeant over a chaplain any day if I need to talk to someone.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • lakisha38

      Brad I agree with you. I am active duty and I have served my country for 12 years and I don't like Chaplains at all. I have never gone to one for anything and I never will. I have my own Pastor from my church and I trust him and my 1SG more than a chaplain. It seems as though Mr. Perkins is misguided cause nobody talks to Chaplains, they just hold a position and give classes

      May 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
    • BrianCNN

      I'd disagree here. In my experience, chaplains have been vital members of the units with which I've served. Perhaps it's because of the nature of operations we were involved. We had many casualties, both killed in action and wounded. The chaplains were very helpful in not only consoling the Marines after their colleagues were killed or wounded, but also were key in notifying the parents and families and helping them through their issues. Furthermore, they assisted in many cases of Marines who were considering suicide and are directly responsible for preventing this. They provided an outlet for Marines who felt that they had no one else to turn to. Sure, a first sergeant can do a great job; however, a first sergeant also brings with him the fear of God and a mighty hammer. Finally, the chaplains with which I served also served as counselors to the commander–you'd be surprised at how well they have a feel on the pulse of the Marines' morale.

      The military needs chaplains! That being said, I don't agree with the author of the article. Again, the need for chaplains isn't solely because of religious reasons, it is because of their positions as counselors and advisors.

      May 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  3. Joey

    Is he serious? He speaks as though "don't ask, don't tell" has kept gay men and women out of the military. We all know it hasn't. Its time that the military join the modernized world where discrimination against people because of this or any other protected status is not allowed. Retaining "don't ask, don't tell" based off the arguments I've heard so far is about as ridiculous as allowing a company like Ford to not hire people of color because they're an old company and they're not sure how their machienery would react to being handled by someone who isn't white.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  4. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    What ever. If Christians are doing their job, it shouldn't matter what the policy is of the military. I don't remember Jesus picking and choosing the people he helped. Gay rights are inevitable. Get over it.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  5. Brendan

    Undermining the misguided beliefs of some orthodox religious leaders is a far smaller price to pay than the discrimination endured by lgbtq soldiers.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  6. jeff

    I spent twenty years in the Navy and I think It's time military chaplins put down their magic books and got a real jobs.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  7. Texas Pete

    No it does not ... you could only imagine how many gay active duty parties I have gone too... their were always chaplins at there. Not all chaplins are straight.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  8. Punctus

    My guess is that some of these same organizations were against integrating the services back in the 50's. Bigotry is never pretty and the military would be better off without chaplains from groups that support bigotry.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • JLP

      The military was integrated by executive order of Pres. Truman in 1948. Now there was a man with guts. To bad we dont have any like him today.

      May 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  9. Justin

    Does allowing atheists and non-Christians to serve in the military also threaten the religious liberty of other soldiers? When did religious freedom come down to imposing your doctrine on everyone else?

    May 28, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
    • navyboy

      You can be a wicken or witch, even a devil worshiper and be in the military. I have met some while in the Navy. Freedom of religion allows them to serve.

      May 28, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • steven

      Good post. Real God loving Christians would not be worried about gays in the military. Too many judge when they should not.

      May 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  10. aughra

    I think chaplains should be happy to go from "don't ask, don't tell" to "don't judge." It's more in line with Christ's teachings. Otherwise, they're free to become consciencious objectors, leave the military, and find their own ministry.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • navyboy

      Ouch with that first stone! Good point.

      May 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  11. NikEstep

    Is there anything stopping a chaplain from refusing to talk to a soldier? I'm with Marie, the good ones will stay and be open to counseling whoever needs it, but I am curious to know.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Rob C

      Me too! But that is what happens when the decisions are given to politicians and not actually people in the military. Why don't we take a vote among active personnel with more than 5 years service?????

      May 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • NikEstep

      Because the ones who are most affected may not feel they can voice their opinion without being thrown out. Congress in in control of the military, so congress has every right to decide how it operates.

      May 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  12. opus

    Wait, so priests and chaplains can't administer to gay people now? How would ministering to one in the military be any different than ministering one in their own church? And how do the reconcile mutli faith chaplains that administer other rites than their own faiths? Tony Perkins is a hateful man, and will have to answer to Christ in his own way.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  13. Seattle

    @ Marie: I could not agree w/ you more. Thank you for such a thoughtful blog.

    It's high time we all drop the hate and forgive each other.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  14. Lindsay

    This is the logical fallacy known as the slippery-slope and therefore not a sound argument. There is no evidence saying that repealing "don't ask, don't tell" will lead to ousting any chaplains. We "may see" a lot of things as a result of the appeal, but that doesn't mean any of the conjectures will come to pass.

    May 28, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  15. Mykelb

    The only thing DADT repeal threatens are the dominionist christofascists in the Military.

    May 28, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  16. Marie

    Perkins "who is going to be there to help those men and women who are sacrificing so much?" Answer: those chaplains who are true Christians and live by Christ's teachings of love, tolerance and hoh-judgment: "Judge not lest ye shall be judged" "Treat others as you want to be treated" "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" "Do not point out the splinter in your neigbor's eye and miss the beam in your own." Chaplains who live by Christ's words, not just those in Leviticus will step up to serve, and our service men and women of all faiths and stripes will be better served for that.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  17. mrrealtime

    Reason, science, and sound logic threatens chaplains. By basing their career on the existence of an imaginary being, they cannot cope with the reality that god does not actually exist thus they cannot possibly "intercede" on his behalf.

    As our civilization evolves beyond religious delusion, chaplains, priests, churches, etc. are threatened by progress like any other outmoded, outdated product or service. A smart chaplain will go get a councelling or psychology degree and become qualified to continue as a professional.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:41 am |
    • jeff

      I totaily agree

      May 28, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • JLP

      If you are right and there is no God,when you are dead you are dead, no harm no foul. However if I am right and there is a God and you have shined him and his son Jesus on, then you are in deep doo doo. I think I would rethink my position if I were you.

      May 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • James Kelly

      Mr reat time, All Chaplains across all military branches are required to complete 72 hours of graduate studies, to include courses such as Counseling, etc. Chaplains are "professionals" as traditionally, Pastors, Priests, and Rabbis have been included in the pantheon of "professionals." I will admit, some have not adopted the education, intellectual rigor, or moral choices to live up to that distinction, but then again, what of any group of professionals has satisfied all these points?

      May 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • skeptic56

      Is that all you've got, JLP? Empty threats? You do realize that waving hellfire and damnation around to someone who doesn't buy all that nonsense really amounts to blowing around a lot of hot air.

      June 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  18. jeff

    Good get rid of chaplins they are a violation of the seperation of church and state.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:03 am |
    • James

      Jeff, have you served in the military? I ask, not to attempt to invalidate your right to engage in this discourse, but to ask you to consider the perspective you may or may not have into military life. I am currently still active duty, and preparing to become a Chaplain someday. My political views are fairly moderate, and in situations where I have been invited to pray at ceremonial occasions, I have attempted to respect the beliefs of all attending, and even those who had no theistic belief. I think the two are possible, and as stated, there is a component to the "chaplaincy" that is emotional and psychological as well as "spiritual." I am on active duty...I have done two deployments, I do need a religious/spiritual framework to be the best I can be, and no one has ever been "strong armed" into attending any services of which I have been a part.

      May 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
    • Sergeant G.

      Agreed. Remove Chaplains and religion from the military.

      – Still enlisted.

      I am anti-religion. So sue me.

      May 28, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • SSG B

      Four tours, Infantry. Deployed right now. If chaplains won't serve the servicemembers because they are gay or because the military doesn't discriminate against them, then we are better off without them. My soldiers go through enough crap without having to justify their faith to anybody. I for one am glad that the military will not tolerate bigotry. Who are we kidding? these kids are already here fighting alongside the rest of the "regular men". Shame on you for even trying to make this about the soldiers. You preach about caring for the suffering? Then care for everyone or get the hell out. Don't discriminate amongst my soldiers because of their beliefs or sexual preference. I still have to lead them into combat and I don't need your baggage. Hypocrites!

      May 28, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
    • george

      ssgb..

      I applaud you for your stance. If the military felt the way you do I would have joined years ago. As an openly gay person I have been disturbed by the fact that I am unable to serve the great nation that gives me the freedoms I enjoy. I hope they repeal this within the next couple years so I may enlist and do what I feel to be my duty.

      – Geo

      May 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Sgt F. / USMC

      Active duty here. Two infantry combat deployments and one attached to Army SF. Chaplains are a waste. We would be better served by secular counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists; people who are actually schooled and trained to handle the kinds of situations for which people usually go see the chaplain. Keep the religious mumbo-jumbo out of it!

      May 30, 2010 at 8:54 am |
    • Fred

      As an Atheist, I wouldn't deprive our military men and women of spiritual aid, comfort and guidance under serious duress. No way, never. The clergy are entitled to their positions - they're fallible humans like anyone else - however wrong and discriminatory they might be. The spiritual needs of the military personnel supersede the separation of church and state; as an Atheist, this is plain as day for me.

      June 4, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  19. Paul DeMotte

    I wish I could believe that Tony believes his message–but I don't. He surely knows that military chaplains are never forced to go against their particular tradition. You'll never see a Baptist chaplain being forced to baptize the infant granddaughter of a general.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  20. Sgstuck

    Am I the only one who sees this as an issue with the chaplains and not the gay community?

    May 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
    • clogan78

      yeah the problem is with the chaplains and all the conservative, religious right fanatics who think we all should be living our lives by some book written in ancient times

      May 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.