‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

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CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

ilume for sale — presumably to raise equity for second phase of Cedar Springs development

An artist’s rendering of ilume when it was in the planning stages

The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that the ilume building on Cedar Springs Road is for sale. A brief story in the newspaper mentioned this fact without much supporting information, merely that another company had it listed for sale.

This would be surprising, though there may be an explanation. On Wednesday night, I spoke with Luke Crosland, owner of the property. Crosland has long promised Phase II of the ilume development, slotted to go up on the lot catty corner from the current building (across Wycliff from the Kroger).

Crosland told me that they would be breaking ground “soon” on the new development. I had previously heard as early as May. Crosland said he was in the process of arranging the equity financing — in the more than $100 million range — for a series of ilume developments across the country. Perhaps sale of the building is part of the package raising that equity?

We have left messages with Crosland seeking more info and will update this post as soon as we have more information.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

MASSACHUSETTS: NOM Files DOMA Amicus Brief With Federal Appeals Court

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

GLAD’s Bonauto on DOJ’s DOMA brief: ‘We’re prepared to meet these arguments head-on’

I’m so glad we have Mary Bonauto on our side.

Via press release from GLAD:

The government’s appeal follows a decision issued on July 8, 2010 by federal District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro in favor of GLAD’s plaintiffs, seven married couples and three widowers, who have been denied access to federal programs because of DOMA. In that decision, Judge Tauro concluded that DOMA is unconstitutional.

“We see nothing really new in this brief, which reiterates many of the same arguments the government made in the District Court,” said Mary L. Bonauto, who is leading the DOMA team for GLAD. “We’re prepared to meet these arguments head-on, and bring to an end the discrimination that is suffered by married same-sex couples like our plaintiffs and that DOJ has admitted is caused by DOMA.”

You can read a copy of the brief by clicking here.

The next step in the case is for GLAD to file its response brief, which is due March 1, 2011.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Obama DOJ files DOMA defense brief in First Circuit cases

This is no surprise, as the Obama administration announced last year it would defend the Defense of Marriage Act in regards to Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. United States, which addresses section of the DOMA regarding federal benefits to same-sex married couples. The brief is here. (The Wonk Room):

The Obama administration announced its intention to defend DOMA in October of 2010 and today filed a brief arguing that “DOMA is rationally related to legitimate governmental interests.” The government maintained that Congress enacted the law during an era of upheaval to maintain “uniformity on the federal level” and allow states the flexibility to expand the definition of marriage as they see fit:
By passing DOMA, Congress sought to preserve the status quo understanding of marriage in federal law as limited to opposite-sex couples while preserving the authority of individual states to engage in a period of evaluation of and experience with a new definition of marriage that is open to same-sex couples. Congress could rationally conclude that maintaining the status quo at the federal level during a period of change would allow states that wish to make changes in the legal definition of marriage to retain their inherent prerogative to do so, while permitting others to maintain their existing view, both by declining to authorize same-sex marriages in the first instance under their own laws and by declining to recognize such marriages that are approved under the laws of other states.

At MetroWeekly, Chris Geidner has more.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Excellent analysis of Log Cabin’s DADT brief to the Supreme Court

Via TowleRoad:

At the center of LCR’s argument to the Supreme Court is that the Ninth Circuit “abused its discretion” when it granted a stay based on incorrect reasoning and a refusal to use the proper legal test for stays. An “abuse of discretion” is a tough standard to meet simply because appellate courts have discretion to issue stays. But what they don’t have discretion to do is to grant stays without requiring the party seeking the stay to prove, among other things, a “likelihood of success on the merits.” All that means is that in order to properly get the stay at the Ninth Circuit, the government had to prove that it was likely to win its appeal on the merits, likely to keep DADT as good law. The Ninth Circuit, LCR argues, didn’t really do that. Nor did the Ninth Circuit engage in the required balancing of harms. Before getting a stay, the government was also supposed to show that any hardship to the military or the government if there were no stay would outweigh any hardship to LCR with a stay. Finally, LCR points out that the Ninth Circuit accepted the government’s injury argument based on mere speculation rather than actual evidence.

LCR’s argument makes a lot of sense to me, especially since the Ninth Circuit apparently justified its stay on Judge Phillips’s decision being at odds with other court decisions on DADT and generally failed to require the government to justify a stay. A stay is an example of “extraordinary relief,” meaning that you don’t get it just because you want it, you have to prove a lot — meet a “heavy burden” — to get it. At the Ninth Circuit, the government arguably did not meet that burden.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Gay Marriage Opposition Brief Filed

GAY MARRIAGE X390 (ISTOCKPHOTO) | ADVOCATE.COMA gay marriage opposition brief has been filed to a federal appeals court in California by 10 states.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Nine States File Brief With Federal Court Opposing Marriage Equality

It happened late in the day yesterday in what seems to be a clear reaction to last month's Prop 8 ruling. According to the Associated Press:

Tr Wyoming and nine other states have filed a gay marriage opposition brief to a federal appeals court in California.
The amicus brief sent Friday to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said that the Constitution does not require marriage to include same-sex couples. The 39-page brief also said that states, not federal courts, have final say in whether to allow same-sex marriages.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported that other states who joined the brief against gay marriage are Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. They argued that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right.

"If public affirmation of anyone and everyone's personal love and commitment is the single purpose of marriage, a limitless number of rights claims could be set up that evacuate the term marriage of any meaning," the brief said. The amicus brief was criticized by Jason Marsden, of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a Denver-based gay-rights organization. He told the newspaper it was "very puzzling" that Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg joined given that he Wyoming Legislature last year defeated a resolution to ban recognition of gay marriages performed in other states.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

DOJ Files Brief in Sexual Orientation Harassment Case

Thursday, the Justice Department filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit against the Indian River Central School District in New York. The suit was initially filed in April 2009 on behalf of Charles Pratt, a student in the Indian River Central School District.  Pratt alleges he endured a decade of sexual harassment, while school employees — ignoring multiple pleas from his parents — allowed the hostility to intensify. Students attacked Pratt with impunity, using slurs like “faggot,” “sissy” and “queer” in the presence of teachers with no repercussions.  They also engaged in physical and sexual assaults against Pratt.  The school district was aware of the countless incidents and did nothing.  Perhaps more egregiously, the complaint alleges, the teachers and administrators in the school district also mocked Pratt themselves.  Ultimately, Pratt’s parents withdrew him from the school, as they saw it as the only means to prevent continued harassment.

The Justice Department’s brief argues that Pratt faced violations on the part of the School District of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, both of which prohibit discrimination based on sex, including discrimination based on gender stereotypes. They further argue that discrimination based on sexual orientation – such as the use of slurs – does not itself defeat a Title IX claim for discrimination based on sex.

In 2009, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department reestablished its GLBT Working Group, which, among other things, focuses on identifying ways to protect the rights of LGBT individuals. This motion marks the second time that the Justice Department moved to intervene in a harassment case involving gender stereotypes since 2000.

Thanks to HRC Law Fellow Adam Thomas for this post.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright