Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


BOB ABERNETHY, host: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the Associated Press this week that if the top military officer recommends an end to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy relating to homosexuals he will okay the new rules before he retires the end of June. Gates also said he sees no barrier to that happening. Since Congress repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell last December, more than a million US troops have taken instruction in the new policy. Gates says that training has gone well. Still, there are concerns, especially among some military chaplains. Betty Rollin reports.

Gunnery Sergeant Taylor conducting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell training: Lance Corporal A, he’s gay. Lance Corporal B and Lance Corporal C are his roommates. They know he’s gay, or they think he’s gay, but due to the fact that he dresses in a certain way they request to move out of their room. Do they have that right?

BETTY ROLLIN, correspondent: Here at the Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia, as well as at other military bases, they’ve been holding voluntary training sessions on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: What does it mean? What changes? What doesn’t change?

Training session slide presentation with narration: You are not expected to change your personal, religious, or moral beliefs; however, you are expected to treat all others with dignity and respect consistent with the core values that already exist within the Marine Corps.

ROLLIN: The Marines in this group didn’t seem to have any trouble with these instructions.

post01-dadtCORPORAL JASMINE CASTENADA: The most important thing we are still Marines in the end. We sign a contract, and we are still going to follow orders. We are still going to wear the same uniform. So when we go into combat it’s not going to matter if a Marine is straight or gay.

SERGEANT CRAIG TAYLOR:: I’m a Baptist, but the role that my religion plays is not really important because I have to adhere to the rules and regulations that are governed over me.

ROLLIN: A Pentagon study released last fall showed that a majority of US forces, 70 percent, said that serving with gays or lesbians would have no negative effect on them. But there was a very different response from forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fifty-eight percent of combat Marines said they would prefer not to serve with gays. Another group that has voiced concerns about the repeal are chaplains. Of the 3,000 active-duty chaplains, a majority are conservative Christians. Brigadier General Douglas Lee has served over 31 years as both a reserve and active duty chaplain and now heads the joint commission that represents Presbyterian and Reformed chaplains. He is one of 66 retired chaplains who wrote a letter to President Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates urging them not to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

post02-dadtCHAPLAIN DOUGLAS LEE: Homosexuality is one of a multitude of sins. Chaplains essentially help people wrestle with the sins that beset them in their lives and try and give them encourage and hope and a way out of all that, and for the Christian the way out is Jesus Christ. For another religion it might be some other means. The problem with this repeal is that this particular sin is being legitimized as being normal and okay.

ROLLIN: Whereas some chaplains support the repeal, and all chaplains accept their obligation to minister to everyone, Chaplain Lee fears the conflict conservative Christian chaplains are bound to have when counseling openly gay service members.

LEE: Chaplains are concerned that when it comes to the bold preaching, teaching, counseling, marrying, burying, sacramental duties, that there would be challenges to those things if they were decided to speak against homosexuality.

ROLLIN: These chaplains fear that if they express what they really believe they might lose their jobs.

LEE: We believe there needs to be a freedom of conscience clause somewhere Congress has to wrestle with to make sure that chaplains and the troops have freedom of conscience when it comes to proclaiming their own particular faith, and of course they would do that. We would never want that proclamation to be done in a mean-spirited way or hateful way.

ROLLIN: The underlying cause for conservative chaplains’ difficulty with repeal is their belief that homosexuality, like all the other sins in the Bible, is a choice.

LEE: Just to say they can easily choose to get out of this, I wouldn’t say that. I would say it’d probably be a struggle for many. But I know people who have come out of the homosexual community and basically through Christ have actually changed their choices.

post04-dadtJONATHAN HOPKINS: My parents were devout Christians. My values are pretty consistent with theirs. I grew up in a town of 1,000 people, and within my parents’ view that didn’t fit with being gay, so of course I was straight. You had to be straight to be successful. But that was a lie. It was a lie to myself. I told my Mom for the first time when I was 30 or 31 years old and I said, Mom, I spent 20, nearly 20 years of my 30-year existence trying to fight this everywhere I could, or find some way around it, or finding, okay, maybe if I just find the right girl I won’t be gay. But that’s just impossible. It’s a lie.

ROLLIN: Jonathan Hopkins graduated fourth in his class at West Point and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded three bronze stars and was promoted unusually early in his career to Major. And then, last August, it was all over. Although he says many of his fellow soldiers knew he was gay and accepted him, a few didn’t and reported him to the commander. After a 14-month investigation, he was honorably discharged. Hopkins says throughout his military service he was afraid of this happening.

HOPKINS: Sometimes you might be scared of getting shot at, but you shouldn’t have to be scared of your own fellow service members turning you in for something that you can’t change.

post05-dadtROLLIN: Hopkins is now a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and a spokesman for Outserve, an organization representing active-duty gays in the military. He says he is optimistic about the repeal and its future.

HOPKINS: Will repeal go through? Yes. And once that happens and nothing substantive goes wrong, then it’ll be a done deal.

ROLLIN: So the war is won, in effect?

HOPKINS: It’s not a war. It’s not a war.

ROLLIN: What is it?

HOPKINS: It’s just people trying to serve their country. It’s just people trying to be treated as people, as upstanding Americans. It’s the most American of things there is.

ROLLIN: Under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, 13,000 gay and lesbian members of the military were dismissed. The military plans to finish training for the repeal this summer. After that, if the president, secretary of defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the military is ready for this change, 60 days later the repeal becomes official.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Betty Rollin in Quantico, Virginia.

ABERNETHY: The answer to that question about whether Marines can ask not to share a room with another Marine just because they say he’s gay is no.

  • Chuck Anziulewicz

    WOW, so much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” All these tough, studly soldiers who would otherwise be willing to die in the fight against terrorism are just going to fall to pieces at the thought of sharing a foxhole with a Gay man.

    Everyone in the military knows that Gay soldiers have always been there. Everyone in the military knows that Gay and Straight soldiers have always showered together and bunked together. None of that was ever going to change whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was kept or repealed. I don’t know why people are getting all bent out of shape about it now.

    For what it’s worth, I really don’t care if any soldier, Gay OR Straight, is disciplined or booted out of the military because of inappropriate conduct when on-duty. That’s not what’s at issue here. A qualified soldier should not be at risk for losing his career simply because of who he’s dating on his own time.

    Hold all soldiers to the same standards of professional behavior, regardless of their sexual orientation, and the military will be able to do its job just fine. We don’t need DADT to accomplish that goal.

    As for the fears of a few chaplains, they are in a unique situation, in that they are SUPPOSED to provide spiritual comfort and support to soldiers of ANY faith, not just their own. I would fully expect a Jewish chaplain to have enough understanding of the Christian or Muslims faiths that he would be able to provide a mortally wounded Christian or Muslim soldier spiritual comfort, without necessarily compromising his own beliefs. It would not be appropriate for a Christian chaplain to tell a mortally-wounded Jewish or Hindu soldier, “You’re going to HELL if you don’t accept Jesus as your Savior!”

    Chaplains are supposed to be ecumenical than that. Frankly I wouldn’t want any chaplain, whose position is funded by taxpayers, to be preaching against Gay soldiers any more than they should be preaching against Muslim soldiers.

  • John McKinnon

    Interesting story. FYI – Regarding DADT, is providing a supportive environment for friending, sharing and networking between Gay active-duty military, vets and supporters.

  • Putt

    Chaplain Douglas Lee speaks as if he holds a patent on Jesus and Christianity. Is he aware that there are many gay-affirming Christian Churches in existence? The Bible is open for interpretation, and being that there is nowhere in the Ten Commandments God singled out Homosexuals, OR anywhere in the Commandments of Jesus you can find Him attacking Homosexuals, Chaplain Lee is just being mischievous in speaking about Homosexuality is a sin with an air of authority. His mannerism would make you believe he had just finished having tea with Jesus.

    Well I pray to God, Chaplain Lee will be around when the Scientific community pinpoints the actual biological cause for Homosexuality. Will Lee suggest that it’s the Devil that causes some people to be born INNATELY gay, or will he do the right thing and admit that the popular interpretation of the bible pushed by Mainstream Christian Institutions, was WRONG all these centuries? On that note I URGE all well thinking Christian bodies to speak out and condemn people like Chaplain Lee, so that there will not be great repercussions when the Truth about Homosexuality being innate, is finally established!

  • William Holahan

    Your treatment of military training was excellent. The religious priests should not be having a problem with the repeal of the ban. All they have to do is teach the Christian principle of respecting people who are different from you. Gay people have to respect the sensibilities of their straight counterparts and vice-versa. Once we abandon our preconceived prejudice and communite with the person, all the fears and hostilities will subside.

    My golden rule number six: Don’t do to others as you know or perceive they would not wand done to them.

    William Holahan

  • Henry

    Thank goodness for the fair-minded, INTELLECTUAL comments on here about this story. I watched that chaplain Lee (lowercase deliberate), and just oscillated between cringing and feeling sorry for him and the likes of him. Actually, to Mr. Holahan, all gay people have done is have respect for the uniform and the men and women they have been fighting alongside ever since there was a U.S military (newsflash: there have been gays serving in the armed forces for quite some time now). Now, it is high time that gays be shown the respect due them as soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen and women, and not be judged on their personal lives based on some fallacious twisting of religious beliefs and dogma. The time is long overdue to treat, not just gays, but as it refers to this story, anyone who has earned the right to wear that uniform (this excludes convicts, by the way), as PEOPLE. Oh, and all this diatribe has come to you from a former Marine, who is gay.

  • Freddy Loveland

    Chuck Anziulewicz’s take is a little far off. To make the comparative analogy between homosexuality and the Muslim, Jewish or Christian faith is to dilute the issue enough to shift the real focus. A more appropriate comparative analogy would be to place homosexuality with adultery, incest and polygamy. It’s strained logic to include gay activity as the moral equivalent to heterosexual union in the confines of marriage. This just doesn’t flow. How can the military justify adultery as punishable under the UCMJ without being able to justify it? Chuck just misses the point altogether. Chaplains are expected to preach according to their moral beliefs, not just to give spiritual comfort to dying soldiers. Can the chaplains be disciplined for preaching homosexuality as a moral evil??? The inevitable comes when trying to discipline chaplains under new and unknown guidelines which by design will lead to vague and overly broad laws. This will definitely have a chilling effect on 1st amendment considerations. But then again, Chuck and others never look into the issue deeply enough to recognize the fallout.

    @Henry. Yes you are gay and also a one time marine. I assume that there have always been gays who served well in the military. There have also been marines who have committed adultery, incest, and probably abuse farm animals but we don’t promote those habits.., do we??? Polygamy is still punishable but under your logic, there would be nothing wrong with that either. Please enlighten me as to why you are normal but polygamy is wrong. Newsflash: there is no rational basis for claiming homosexuality as a moral equivalent.

  • Phillip Marsh

    Okay, tell me this. If homosexuality is so wrong then why did Christ never mention it? Why is it not one of the ten commandments?

    Are the Ten Commandments not the highest of all christian laws? If so, how to army chaplains reconcile “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” – sort of hard to do in a conflict with weapons. [...]

    When was the last time a thief’s hand was cut off? That is in the bible.

    When was the last time an army chaplain stood up for the right of a husband to beat his wife? That is in the bible as well.

    Or when was the last time an army chaplain promoted the idea that we could keep slaves? Again, it is in the bible.

    When was the last time an army chaplain had a military member kicked out for pre-marital sex? How about the last time an army chaplain refused to marry an interracial couple? Again, its in the bible.

    When was the last time an army chaplain spoke out against those military haircuts or soldiers having to shave their beards? “Thou shalt not cut or mar thy beard”.

    Why are army chaplains not screaming out against pork? It is a cloven hoofed animal you know. And Jesus cast the devil into a herd of swine (that’s pigs for y’all that don’t know) thus condemning the entire species for eternity. And yet I don’t remember any chaplain going crazy against pork being served.

    Oh, speaking of polygamy just about every old testament figure had multiple wives – it is definitely in the bible.

    You know what, there are a LOT of sins in the bible that are not railed against by the military code or the chaplains.

    For those younger folk you may not remember the outrage when the military was finally integrated … that means that blacks and whites served in the same company. There were people claiming that blacks were inferior, less intelligent, did not have morals or ethics, that it would ruin military efficiency, that it would lead to the collapse of the military, that white guys would not serve along black guys, that white guys would not follow a black commander, that black men would be raping white female military personnel – the list goes on and on. There were military chaplains speaking out against this also … they used all sorts of biblical arguments to support their beliefs – it wasn’t right then and it isn’t right now.

  • Natalie

    Marsh: 1) About the Ten Commandments. The Hebrew language states that the commandment is “Thou shall not murder. There’s a difference between murdering and killing (you would have learned that if you had continued to the third book of the Bible, which includes more laws recorded by Moses. The commandments were elaborated on here). This exchange in the words murdering and killing is a common mistake in many translations of the Bible. 2) In the New Testament it says you should cut off your handf it causes you to steal, but it doesn’t mean I should cut off someone elses hand. In the old Testament, the law was different. It was before Jesus came and taught about forgiveness. 3) Some men may have beaten their wives in the Bible, but it was never condoned. In Corinthians it says to love your wife. 4) In Matt 15 Jesus negated the laws of unclean meat (pork), saying what you eat isn’t important. 5) Polygamy changed in New Testament as well.
    There is a huge difference in racial prejudice, and not condoning sexual orientation. I don’t see how they compare. There is nothing in the Bible speaking about black people in any negative way. One is who you are (race), and another is how you act (the act of homosexuality).
    About the chaplains. They speak against all sins. They usually won’t kick you out of the church for any of them, but they are still sins. Chaplains want the right to speak about all sins, and not have to accept one as ok.
    I usually won’t bring the Bible into arguments about stuff like this, but since you did, I thought I’d counter in the same manner. I think you missed the point of the entire book, just like you missed the chaplains point. He will love and accept gays, but he doesn’t want to have to accept the act of homosexuality (just like any other sin).