Chaplains must adapt
Several dozen retired chaplains — all evangelical Christians — have challenged President Barack Obama’s pledge to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Their argument, discussed in a Stars and Stripes article (“Views vary on how gay ban repeal will affect chaplains,” May 1), was that allowing gays to serve openly would unduly interfere with their religious practices, restrict them from proselytizing, and force them to choose between man’s law and God’s law.
This is nonsense.
When I volunteered for the military several decades ago, I agreed to follow the Constitution, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and military regulations. It was no longer about me and my practice of religion as a Catholic priest. It was about the mission of the military. I was free to exercise my religious beliefs, but within the context of my personal ministry. I could not impose them on the entire military community.
For example, while I’m opposed to abortion, I could not impose my beliefs on a soldier I counsel whose wife decided to have an abortion. And I most certainly could not discriminate in any way because the soldier’s actions conflicted with my moral beliefs.
The evangelical chaplains seem to believe they are not volunteers in military service, but God’s personal spokespersons, and they treat the Bible as supreme to the Constitution and military law. Sound familiar?
For too long some evangelical chaplains have sought to impose their religious beliefs upon the whole military. What they presently argue is tantamount to establishing evangelical Christianity as a state religion, which bars any laws that conflict with their particular religious and moral beliefs.
Chaplains are volunteers, and when their religious or moral tenets clash with federal law or their military duties, then they must either adapt or resign.
Chaplain (Col.) Ronald C. Anderson, U.S. Army National Guard (retired)San Antonio