‘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 It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.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

Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Radio Show

Our guests this week were Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans Dallas; and Dru Rivera, 2011 Voice of Pride winner. Tune in live next Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. at RationalBroadcasting.com. You can also subscribe to Pink Noise on iTunes, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. The video version of the show is below.

—  John Wright

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Log Cabin Republicans Ask John McCain To Change His Mind On DADT

Chris Matthews calls out LCR head R. Clark Cooper for being a gay Republican, what with their pesky anti-gay platform. Cooper: “Something, something, work from the inside, something something.”

Joe. My. God.

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Log Cabin Republican Clarke Cooper: “McCain Will Do The Right Thing.”

Lawrence O’Donnell invited Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans, Clarke Cooper on his show to discuss prospects for legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the lame duck. In brief, possible, but there’s very little time on the clock.

(Don’t you wish you could just go home, whether the job was done or not? That hasn’t been MY employment experiences over the years. Senator Reid seems like a great boss.)

Lawrence frames his questioning by calling McCain’s position “transparently fraudulently,” a bait that Cooper declines to take, breezing right past it. Cooper expresses his confidence that, if the leaks of the Pentagon report prove to be true:

“…once the comprehensive review is published and shared with members of congress, I do believe that he will come around and do the right thing.”

My faith in the good will of John McCain and of Republicans in general, is perhaps, substantially less than that of Cooper. But let’s hope he’s right. The fate of legislative repeal pretty much rests in them being complicit or Harry Reid playing some serious hardball, like keep Senate in session right through Christmas if necessary. They can filibuster their bigotry right through the Baby Jesus’ birthday if Reid wants to take a stand.

Another interesting question O’Donnell brings up is:

“Is there any Democrat who’s willing to filibuster the bill if it does not have a repeal of don’t ask don’t tell in it?”

Cooper appropriately doesn’t comment, because, well, he’s a Republican, and likely doesn’t have any insight into what Democratic strategies exist.

It does seem like a good question to put to our Democratic leaders: Will you use the filibuster on any NDAA bill that does not include repeal?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Log Cabin seeks vacation (*and not like the way they helped vacate DADT hero Patrick Murphy by endorsing his opponent)

Screen Shot 2010-11-05 At 4.56.43 PmThe Log Cabin Republicans have filed with SCOTUS, seeking to vacate the Ninth Circuit Court order staying Judge Phillips’s injunction pending appeal. Translation: The gay GOP group thinks the stay stinks, so they want it go the way midwestern Democrats did on Tuesday night:

If the Court vacates the stay order, DADT is dead pending the appeal, and we have for all intents and purposes won. If it doesn’t, we will next move in the Ninth Circuit to expedite the Judge Phillips’s decision.

Log Cabin Republicans File U.S. Supreme Court Appeal Of DADT Overturn Stay [J.M.G]

We’ll have to wait and see if this goes anywhere. You DADT watchers are used to that by now, yes?




Good As You

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Breaking: Log Cabin Republicans Asks Supreme Court To Toss Out 9th Circuit’s DADT Stay, Immediately Halt Discharges

In an emergency request to reverse the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' 2-1 decision to grant a stay, thus blocking Judge Virginia Phillips' injunction of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Log Cabin Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to toss out the stay and keep DADT from being enforced while the government appeals the decision. The option to act falls to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles the Ninth Circuit's appeals, and who "will likely ask his eight colleagues to help him decide and order the federal government to weigh in with its views before a decision is made," says CNN. LCR's chief R. Clarke Cooper says, "It is unfortunate the Obama Justice Department has forced the Log Cabin Republicans to go to the Supreme Court." The group writes in its filing, called an "application," "Unless the court of appeals stay is vacated, the respondents will be free to continue to investigate and discharge American service members for no reason other than their homosexuality, in violation of their due process and First Amendment rights."


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Queerty

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Log Cabin Republicans take DADT fight to the SCOTUS

Wow.

Didn't see this coming. Dan Woods, partner at White & Case, the firm representing the Log Cabin Republicans have asked the Supreme Court of the United States to consider reversing the stay imposed on Judge Virginia Field's worldwide injunction of the military's implementation of the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” law.

From the Log Cabin Republican's press release:

Dan Woods, White & Case “We have today filed an application with the United States Supreme Court asking it to vacate the Ninth Circuit's order staying Judge Phillips's injunction pending appeal. We argue in this application that the Ninth Circuit order was arbitrary and an abuse of discretion and should be vacated immediately. We continue to look forward to the day when all Americans can serve in our military without regard to their sexual orientation,” said Dan Woods, White & Case partner who is representing Log Cabin Republicans.

Q: Will the entire Supreme Court be involved in considering whether to vacate the Ninth Circuit order? A: That is up to Justice Kennedy. He may decide himself or he may refer the application to the full court.

Q: How long will the review take? A: That is also up to the court. The Court may allow the government the opportunity to respond to our application.

Q: What are the next steps if the Court vacates the ruling/doesn't vacate the ruling? A: If the Court vacates the stay order, DADT is dead pending the appeal, and we have for all inteappeal from Judgnts and purposes won. If it doesn't, we will next move in the Ninth Circuit to expedite the e Phillips's decision.

Now THAT's Fierce Advocacy.

R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director, Log Cabin Republicans “It is unfortunate the Obama Justice Department has forced the Log Cabin Republicans to go to the Supreme Court.”

Unfortunate indeed.
More from Politico:

The Log Cabin move appears to face long odds at the Supreme Court, at least right now. In major cases, justices usually refer such applications to the full court. In this instance, Justice Elena Kagan would be expected to recuse since she played some role in strategizing about the case. In the eyes of many observers, that would leave four conservative justices (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas) likely hostile to a legal challenge to “don't ask” facing down three liberal justices (Breyer, Sotomayor, Ginsburg) who might be open to it. Supreme Court handicappers consider Kennedy the possible swing vote in such a case, but even if he joined the liberal wing, the Log Cabin application would likely fail on a 4-4 tie vote.

Still, you can never win a battle you never don't show up for. Good luck, Log Cabin Republicans. (I still can't get used to this.) Win or lose, Politico author Josh Gerstein makes an excellent point:

However, filing the application would possibly have the effect of drawing the White House and President Barack Obama further into a fight they don't have their heart in and which has caused strife between the Obama administration and gay activists who traditionally support Democrats.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Log Cabin appeals DADT stay to Supreme Court

From Log Cabin’s lawyers at White and Case.

Attached please find Log Cabin Republicans’ application to vacate the Ninth Circuit order and related papers that were just filed with the US Supreme Court. Also find below a quote from R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, and Dan Woods, White & Case partner who is representing Log Cabin Republicans. Also included below is a short Q&A regarding process moving forward that you may find helpful.

R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director, Log Cabin Republicans
“It is unfortunate the Obama Justice Department has forced the Log Cabin Republicans to go to the Supreme Court.”

Dan Woods, White & Case

“We have today filed an application with the United States Supreme Court asking it to vacate the Ninth Circuit’s order staying Judge Phillips’s injunction pending appeal. We argue in this application that the Ninth Circuit order was arbitrary and an abuse of discretion and should be vacated immediately. We continue to look forward to the day when all Americans can serve in our military without regard to their sexual orientation,” said Dan Woods, White & Case partner who is representing Log Cabin Republicans.

Q: Will the entire Supreme Court be involved in considering whether to vacate the Ninth Circuit order?
A: That is up to Justice Kennedy. He may decide himself or he may refer the application to the full court.

Q: How long will the review take?
A: That is also up to the court. The Court may allow the government the opportunity to respond to our application.

Q: What are the next steps if the Court vacates the ruling/doesn’t vacate the ruling?
A: If the Court vacates the stay order, DADT is dead pending the appeal, and we have for all inteappeal from Judgnts and purposes won. If it doesn’t, we will next move in the Ninth Circuit to expedite the e Phillips’s decision.




AMERICAblog Gay

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President tells Log Cabin to get him 2 to 5 votes for DADT vote, refuses to say if DADT is unconstitutional

I just posted Joe’s report on his meeting with the President. No point in repeating it here. Go over to the main site and check it out.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin