The repeal of DADT will have far-reaching repercussions for the military chaplaincy, and makes the only acceptable expressions of morality those which are consistent with the provisions within Uniform Code of Military Justice. Father Steven Clark has an excellent letter in today’s Journal News. He speaks with a unique voice of authority.
As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and now a member of the clergy, in my opinion the striking down of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the Armed Forces will have negative consequences on the free exercise of religion for many members of the military and, more specifically, on the chaplain corps of all services. Our senators, representatives and president in one bill have struck at the very heart of the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion.
What will happen to Christian, Jewish and Muslim chaplains who adhere to traditional moral teaching based on their holy scriptures and teach that homosexual activity is immoral? What will happen to chaplains who are no longer allowed to deliver sermons, homilies and teachings counter to accepted military policy when dealing with homosexual activity of service members? Will they be disciplined, prosecuted or discharged? Will their respective religious authorities call them home in order to protect them from either compromising their beliefs or prosecution by military authorities? Who will then serve the troops in their respective faith groups? This is a potential constitutional disaster the magnitude of which the members of Congress and our president seem to have not considered — or did they and just don’t care?
This does not bode well for our constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion and specifically for a chaplain corps whose active duty numbers have shrunk to a point that present-day billets go unfilled.
The Rev. Steven Clark
The writer is pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Mount Kisco.