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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 8, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 14
Military chaplains group supports lawsuit against DADT
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Military chaplains group supports lawsuit against DADT

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On April 4, The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, a group led by retired military chaplains, filed an amicus curiae brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the Log Cabin Republican's position in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT).

The Forum is joined in the brief by the general synod of the United Church of Christ; the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Metropolitan Community Churches; Unitarian Universalist Association; California Council of Churches; California Faith for Equality; and nine retired senior military Chaplains.

A trial federal court in California found the law unconstitutional in 2010.

According to news reports, The Forum has worked for several years, mostly behind the scenes, to fight the DADT policy they consider harmful to the military, and is now taking a public stance to support this lawsuit. In the brief, the Forum argues that DADT 'represents no threat to the religious liberty of anti-Gay clergy' who will continue to be able to preach their beliefs within their congregations. However, retaining the policy is a threat to religious liberty of all service members 'by imposing anti-Gay dogma offensive to many religious organizations, [and] by preventing military chaplains from ministering to the needs of service members whose faith communities are welcoming and affirming to Gays and Lesbians,' among other things.

'The right of anti-Gay chaplains to preach their beliefs within their denominations is not being abridged,' said Chaplain Paul Dodd, founder and co-chair of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy. Dodd served 31 years in the Army Chaplaincy, including a tour as command chaplain for the Army Medical Command. 'But more importantly, military chaplains are trained to be pluralistic. They must respect the rights of others to hold and practice religious and moral values different from their own.'

Chaplain John Gundlach, who served 27 years in the Navy and now serves as minister for government and professional chaplaincies for the United Church of Christ, said, 'Chaplains understand when they are commissioned that they are entering a ministry environment that is religiously pluralistic and culturally diverse. While chaplains have the right to perform their religious duties according to the tenets of their faith groups, they are there to serve all military members without discrimination. For chaplains and faith groups who opposed the repeal of the military's discriminatory DADT policy to now claim they will be victims of discrimination themselves is at best questionable. What these religious groups are trying to preserve is their right to discriminate on the basis of their theological beliefs against Gay and Lesbian service members who will now be able to serve openly. This is not a principle that deserves legal protection.'

The case is pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with no hearing date set.

The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy is a group of retired chaplains, clergy, and military veterans, advocating for a military chaplaincy committed to free and diverse religious expression, and to the sacred values of personal integrity, selfless compassion, respect for others, and excellence in leadership.

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