June 1st, 2010
03:22 AM ET

My Take: Ending 'don't ask, don't tell' would undermine religious liberty

Editor's Note: Tony Perkins is President of the Family Research Council and a Marine veteran.

By Tony Perkins, Special to CNN

Some people think allowing open homosexuality in the military means nothing more than opening a door that was previously closed. It means much more than that. It would mean simultaneously ushering out the back door anyone who disapproves of homosexual conduct, whether because of legitimate privacy and health concerns or because of moral or religious convictions.

This outcome is almost inevitable, because pro-homosexual activists have made it clear that merely lifting the “ban” on openly homosexual military personnel will not satisfy them.

The stand-alone bills that have been introduced to overturn the 1993 law, such as S. 3065, call explicitly for:

Revision of all equal opportunity and human relations regulations, directives, and instructions to add sexual orientation nondiscrimination to the Department of Defense Equal Opportunity policy and to related human relations training programs.

While not in the defense authorization bill amendment approved by the House of Representatives and a Senate committee last week, this goal will undoubtedly be accomplished administratively as part of the “necessary policies and regulations” mandated by that amendment.

This means that all 1.4 million members of the U.S. military will be subject to sensitivity training intended to indoctrinate them into the myths of the homosexual movement: that people are born “gay” and cannot change and that homosexual conduct does no harm to the individual or to society.

Anyone who points to the mountain of evidence to the contrary - or merely expresses the personal conviction that sex should be reserved for marriage between one man and one woman - runs the risk of receiving a negative performance evaluation for failing to support the military’s “equal opportunity policy” regarding “sexual orientation.”

For no other offense than believing what all the great monotheistic religions have believed for all of history, some service members will be denied promotion, will be forced out of the service altogether, or will simply choose not to reenlist. Other citizens will choose not to join the military in the first place. The numbers lost will dwarf the numbers gained by opening the ranks to practicing homosexuals.

This pro-homosexual political correctness has already begun to infect the military.

As an ordained minister and a Marine Corps veteran, I was invited to speak at a prayer event at Andrews Air Force Base earlier this year. I had every intention of delivering a spiritual message, not a political one.

But the invitation was withdrawn after I criticized President Barack Obama’s call to open the military to homosexuality in his State of the Union address. The base chaplain told me they had received some complaints - about a dozen. I pointed out that orchestrating a handful of calls was a simple task for homosexual activist groups.

If I was blacklisted merely for supporting existing law, what will happen to those who oppose the new, politically correct law?

Those most likely to suffer are military chaplains. While some in the ranks will simply choose not to exercise their First Amendment rights in order to preserve their careers, this is not an option for chaplains. Their ministry is to proclaim the moral and theological teachings of their faith.

But under the new regulations, will they be free to preach from the entire Bible? Or will they be forced to excise the many passages declaring homosexual conduct to be a sin?

In their counseling role, military chaplains assist all service members who come to them, even if they are of other faith traditions. But if a homosexual seeks counseling regarding his personal relationships, will the chaplain be free to recommend therapy to overcome homosexual attractions? Or will he be forced to affirm a lifestyle that his faith condemns?

While chaplains are members of the military, they must be “endorsed” by a sponsoring religious body. Denominations that are unequivocal in holding to a biblical standard of sexual morality may stop endorsing military chaplains rather than allow them to compromise their principles.

This may result in a chaplain corps that has plenty of Unitarian ministers and homosexual Episcopal priests, but a shortage of clergy to minister to the largest religious groups in America, such as Roman Catholics (whose catechism declares that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”) or Southern Baptists (whose Baptist Faith and Message declares that “Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography”).

It was religious liberty that drew the Pilgrims to America and it is religious liberty that leads off our Bill of Rights. But overturning the American military’s centuries-old ban on homosexual conduct, codified in a 1993 law, would mean placing sexual libertinism - a destructive left-wing social dogma found nowhere in the Constitution - above religious liberty, our nation’s first freedom.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Perkins.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Culture & Science • Homosexuality • Military • Opinion

soundoff (1,287 Responses)
  1. Graham Martin-Royle

    Why does the military have chaplains? If people want to profess their faith surely there are enough churches etc. in the U.S. of A. for them to go to? The military should be providing weapons of war, not sermons.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • BrianCNN

      Chaplains in the military play a vital role to the morale and welfare of the service men and women. And their role is not solely for that of providing religious services and the Sacraments. In my experience, military chaplains served as advisors to commanders regarding the morale of the service members. He has a unique role in that he provides a non-attributional environment for the service members to vent or to discuss moral dilemmas, whereas company commanders and first sergeants might provide a more threatening counsel. They are successful because they are certified counselors in most cases.

      Chaplains are also vital members of operationally deployed units. They provide non-denominational memorial services after a soldier, Marine, sailor, or airman has fallen and comfort to the close friends and platoon and squad mates after a death or severe wounding of a friend. It should be noted that they are also vital to family readiness, assisting the spouses and families when units prepare for or are on combat deployments, assisting in the notification of families after tragic events. They are ever-present amongst the members of whichever unit they serve.

      Not all chaplains are perfect–but then again, no one really is. However, in my experience on two combat deployments to Iraq, I would not want to go back without a chaplain on the team.

      That being said–the guy who wrote this article does not speak for the military, for the chaplains, or for Christians in general. He speaks for himself.

      June 1, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
    • Dave in Arizona


      That's the thing, though. What they do could largely be done by certified counselors with religion not a factor, and I think that would be a better solution. The power of religion comes in two parts: personal belief for which you need nobody else, and the community that tends to grow around common beliefs. Such communities, tailored to a religion, might include related rituals, etc., but the most important part for our troops is the moral guidance and spiritual support they offer. These can be offered by non-denominational communities, as well.

      I understand the importance of chaplains today, but I'd prefer counselors in that role.

      June 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • BrianCNN

      Dave, thank you for your reply. You make some very good points. However, the Chaplains also do provide religious services and the Sacraments for the service members while in garrison and on deployments. This does not mean that "Catholic Chaplain Y" only preaches to his own unit, many of whom may not be Catholic. Instead, these Chaplains are managed at a higher echelon of command so that they rotate through the chapels, affording members of the entire force the opportunity to worship according to their needs/desires. For example, in Iraq at Camp Fallujah, Catholic services for the base were held twice weekly, Protestant services a few times more than that. For those units that don't have access to those services because of operational commitments, either Chaplains were sent forward to them to hold a service or a lay minister was trained to meet the spiritual needs of those in the unit. We had only one Orthodox Christian at Camp Fallujah. They'd actually fly an Orthodox priest in on occasion so that he could worship.

      The bottom line is that many service members want to worship, so the Chaplains must be available for them. It's simple to say, "Let them go out in town to church if they want to." But you can't do that while deployed. And, as you know, deployment for most service members is quite regular. I will stick with the Chaplains!

      Again, thanks for your feedback.

      June 1, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  2. Malcolm

    The real majority in this country needs to wake up before it is too late and take this country back.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • Natalie

      Is our country gone? It is still here. But it has been taken over by ignorance, hubris and fear. The "Family Research Council" and other faith based propaganda machines are one of the big culprits. The other ignorance generator is the almighty dollar and the farce of the American Dream.

      June 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  3. David

    It appears that Tony Perkins has no concept of Christianity. If a person is really sincere in their religious beliefs they aren't going to be swayed by things like this. Tony seems to think that Christianity is so fragile that the slightest threat can destroy it. Of course, he isn't capable of understanding what I just said. Come on, Tony, lets try and be honest. You aren't a Christian, you're a lobbyist. And if you can't admit that, you're a fraud.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  4. righteous-in-Christ

    @ Observer – AND WHAT EXCUSE DO WE HAVE TO KEEP SINNING? We are still in slaves to sin....spiritual slavery because of "SINS". There is not big difference back than that what it is today, we are still doing the same evil things that were done in the Old Testament and for that reason, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because there were not enough decent people living decent lives.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      I meant to say, Some people are still slaves to Sin....

      June 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  5. AthensGuy

    Per haps this guy's opinion might be taken into account if his organization and chur ch paid taxes. People (not all admittedly) are more and more getting sick and tired of these religious zeal ots telling us what to do and what to think. If I wanted to live in a t heocracy, I'd move to Ira n. If I wanted military and religious principles to commingle, I'd move to Pa kistan.
    If this guy's point of view is to be considered then we should also ask the Cath olic church about child rearing and s3x education.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • FootyP

      food for thought, don't you think that almost everything and everyone tells us how we should think?

      June 1, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  6. Josh

    As clergy I am wondering where we are going as a country. I have family and friends that are gay and I love spending time with them. I am concerned that I will not be able to preach what the Bible teaches, what I believe on this topic.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  7. Alan

    WHY does CNN continue to give voice to these idiots? Their arcane theories have been disproven over and over again. Every other civilized country in the world allows gay servicemembers to serve openly. This is not the end of the world, but Tony Perkins needs you to keep sending him a dollar or two so he continues to hate and to get the right wing riled up about something.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  8. gwriter

    It is astonishing that we are discussing this in 2010 in America. This is the kind of fodder that makes our sworn enemies into even worse brutes–the Islamists.

    Religion is once again the culprit. If anyone reads the First Epistle to the Corinthians, it should be easy to deduce that the author of that most unholy Book written by men (not women) was either a closet gay and terrified to admit it, or so mentally deranged that if you were to encounter him today, it would most likely be in an insane asylum...or at the Vatican or one of its subsidiaries.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  9. Ritz

    I have a question. What's more important to a military? A military chaplain or someone who can carry a rifle or fix a tank? Exactly, you're supposed "religious liberty" is putting my ass in danger so get lost.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • Dave in Arizona

      I do think spiritual support is important for morale and to keep the troops founded, and lessons of morality would certainly help prevent atrocities in war zones. However, I do think lessons of fire and brimstone should be completely left at home. Our troops need reassurance and support–the good of religion–not lessons of bigotry and fear of God's wrath.

      June 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  10. Mike

    I love how these people from the Family Research Council are only concerned with families that fit their definition of what a family is. If you have a gay/lesbian son, daughter, brother, sister, etc. and you haven't disowned them, then you are lower than dirt in the eyes of these people. It's also not hard to read between the lines of what this man is saying... he is afraid that the "right" to hate gay people will be taken away. Well, if "Don't ask/don't tell" is repealed, those military members who hate gay folks will still be able to hate gays in their private lives, but must treat them civilly in their professional lives. And even that is too much to ask in the eyes of this SUPPOSEDLY Christian man.

    June 1, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  11. MarkInPDX

    So this is really about Tony Perkins being uninvited to speak. I get it now.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm |

    You seem to think gay people somehow CHOOSE to be gay, Airman. I guess you had your choice to be an ignorant cretin. But why?

    June 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  13. kb

    Isn't one of his commandments " thou shall not kill " ?

    June 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • David

      Actually, it's Thou shalt not murder. But, you and I are on the same page with the selective moral objections with regard to military service.

      June 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  14. Job

    The right wing zealots, like this holier than thou jerk, are the problem by preaching hate or contempt for others who do not follow their dogma or conform to their values. It is fine that a belief system does not condone a behavior, however, is has gone far beyond differing belief to a tacit allowance of hate. It is acceptable oThe clever and educated use laws and the legal system to attack the others while the uneducated use violence. It is not acceptable to have a different belief or value as the zealots will persecute you for it.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  15. Dan Jeffers

    So, if your religion believed that, say, white people are superior to other races, you'd consider the integration of the military to be a form of religious intolerance? Or that if the military, through "sensitivity training" taught service people to respect the religious beliefs of others, then any religion that considers itself to be the one true way would be the victim of religious intolerance?

    In fact, the military is quite good at teaching young people to live among, work with, and even respect others who come from different cultures, backgrounds, and religions. You can do this without losing your own values, at least if there is any value in them worth keeping. I served, and saw it work quite well.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  16. Eric

    So the author is concerned that repealing DADT would put people at risk of having their careers harmed by their bigotry? You're free to pray for them all you want, think it's a sin, not approve, etc etc– you're just not allowed to discriminate against people because they're gay. Is that really so awful?

    June 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  17. Jim

    I'm an atheist, but have read the bible several times. It's a good read as fiction goes. But even I get the meaning behind: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God that which is God's." To put it in a modern vernacular, DON'T MIX RELIGION AND POLITICS.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
    • John

      Takes a lot of faith to be an atheist. It is just plain stupid for anyone to believe a bible reading atheist. You are not believable. I believe God, but I do not believe you. Sorry.

      June 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • Mark

      John, many atheists have read the bible. Just to turn your argument around here, I'd imagine you don't believe in Mormonism but haven't read the writings of Joseph Smith either. I'll bet you don't believe in Islam but haven't read the Quran either.

      June 1, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • martha

      I am also an atheist and have read the bible. It is interesting that John believes you are lying just because you are an atheist. Weird, eh?

      June 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  18. Brian

    If your religion makes you intolerant, we don't want you in our Military.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  19. Casey

    I would hope that in the end the fact that you are willing to put your life on the line is reason enough to be able to be who you are freely. One day we will look back and wonder how people could be so small minded as to fight the idea that someone can be honest about who and what they are when they are serving their country. The Gay men and women who wish to serve are not looking to impose religion (btw... that is the pot calling the kettle black) they are trying to get a little of that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness without having to hide what they are.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  20. John

    Can thieves serve openly in the military? What about child molesters, why can't they serve? Same difference here...but you cannot see that. As I sound like a freak to you now.

    June 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
    • matt

      Nah, freaks are usually somewhat intelligent.
      You DO sound like an ignorant bigot though....

      June 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      Very good point!

      June 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      The answer is yes, yes they can serve. The army can grant waivers to allow convicted felons, including child molesters, into the army, and has greatly increased the amount of waivers granted in the last few years.
      So the answer to your question is yes they can. Now, what was the point you were trying to make?

      June 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
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About this blog

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.