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Chaplains voice ‘intense’ views on gay ban
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
December 03, 2010
4 MIN READ TIME

Chaplains voice ‘intense’ views on gay ban

Chaplains voice ‘intense’ views on gay ban
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
December 03, 2010

WASHINGTON — A long-awaited

report on the possible repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay members says

the chaplains corps has “some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of

views” on the issue.

The comprehensive review,

issued Nov. 30, concluded that “special attention” should be given to the

concerns among the approximately 3,000 chaplains in the military services when

and if a repeal is implemented.

The report said some

chaplains condemned homosexuality as a sin and said they could not support

homosexuals, while others said “we are all sinners” and chaplains should care

for everyone.

Nevertheless, the report

concluded that existing regulations protecting chaplains’ First Amendment

rights are “adequate” for the ban’s repeal.

“Service members will not be

required to change their personal views and religious beliefs,” the report

said. “They must, however, continue to respect and co-exist with others who may

hold different views and beliefs.”

Some retired chaplains and

leaders of agencies that endorse chaplains have been outspoken against a

repeal, with some predicting it could prompt an exodus of chaplains from the

military.

The report said the military

heard from 77 of 200 endorsing agencies, and none said they would withdraw

endorsements of chaplains if a repeal occurred. It said just three of about 145

chaplains who took part in focus groups said they would seek to leave the

military if there was a repeal.

Officials of some chaplains’

organizations that have opposed the repeal questioned the report’s claims of

sufficient protections for chaplains who oppose homosexuality.

“I do not expect that anyone

who holds fast with the truth as it is in the word of God … to be allowed to

continue on and to advance in their career as I did,” said James Poe, a retired

Navy captain and former secretary of the International Conference of

Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers.

Other retired chaplains seem

unwilling to suggest that chaplains should walk out on the troops if the ban is

repealed.

“I have said, ‘Before you

consider resigning and leaving, recognize that you are there for your people in

the positive and the negative,’” said Paul Vicalvi, a retired Army chaplain who

directs the Chaplains Commission for the National Association of Evangelicals.

“I’m telling them not to

retire. … Now some of them may say, ‘I just can’t operate in this environment,’

but that’s not coming from me.”

But with the release of the

report, Vicalvi remains concerned that chaplains will be prevented from

counseling military members about their biblical interpretations on

homosexuality.

As the Senate began hearings

Dec. 2 to consider the repeal, other chaplains’ endorsers voiced skepticism.

Ron Crews, a retired Army

chaplain and an endorser for Grace Churches International, an evangelical

network based in Fayetteville, hopes Congress will consider language to ensure

that the religious rights of all military members — not just chaplains — are

protected.

“There needs to be a

strengthening, some addition to the code that would provide a religious

exemption clause,” he said.

Other religious leaders say

they will wait until a repeal is enacted — which is far from a certainty — to

determine their next steps.

“We’re all going to wait to

see what actually transpires,” said retired Chaplain Douglas Lee, a retired

U.S. Army brigadier general, who endorses chaplains for several denominations,

including the Presbyterian Church in America.

“Will there be able to be

open and free pluralism?”