A federal judge in Texas has ruled the all-male military draft unconstitutional, a move that some Baptist leaders say is a blow to gender equality, not a win for it.
Judge Gray H. Miller of Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas said earlier this week that the “time has passed” for debate on whether women belong in the military.
In 2015 the Pentagon lifted all restrictions for women in service, making them eligible for combat. It follows that if women are as eligible for combat as men, then legally they are also just as eligible for a draft, Miller ruled.
No one has been conscripted into military service since the draft was discontinued in 1973 – in the time since, military service has been completely voluntary. But draft registration was reinstated in 1981 through Selective Service and, since then, men have been required to register on their 18th birthday or face the possibility of being denied benefits like government jobs or student loans. Once they register, they can be drafted up to age 25.
In Miller’s official opinion, women should be asked to do the same, then called up to fight in the event of a draft.
His ruling in the case – brought by the National Coalition For Men, a men’s rights group, and two men who argued against the fairness of an all-male draft – is declaratory, not an injunction that Selective Service has to follow.
Mike Whitehead, a former captain of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps who serves as general counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said Congress still has time to address the issue and eventually the Supreme Court may have to weigh in.
The American culture has long “valued women for their special roles in society but has not historically compelled them to fight our wars,” Whitehead said. “Treating women differently in ways they are different is not invidious discrimination. Myopic views of sexual equality above all else lose sight of other cultural values we should fight to preserve.”
R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said on his podcast “The Briefing” the Christian worldview is that the genders are equal – equally made in the image of God.
“But equal does not mean same, and when it comes to male and female, it also means different,” he said. “That is why a biblical understanding of the relationship between men and women and the proper roles of men and women is described as complementarianism – complementary roles when you look at men and at women, not sameness.”
Mohler noted that the 2015 decision to allow women to fight voluntarily was “a great blow to human dignity in seeking to erase any distinction between men and women.”
“If equality means sameness, then we will have the absolute meltdown of all moral meaning,” he said.
At the time of Miller’s ruling, an advisory panel – the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service – was in the process of weighing whether or not women should be included in any future drafts.
“Personally, I don’t think we will remain with the status quo,” Joe Heck, the chairman of the commission, told USA Today in January. “But where we end up on the spectrum is yet to be determined.”
Mohler said in any event, “we are about to determine whether the American people are ready, not only for their sons to be registered for the draft, but for their daughters to be equally registered, and if equally registered, then equally ready to be called up for involuntary combat duty.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)