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 It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.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

Starvoice • 05.27.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Heidi Klum turns 38 on Wednesday. The model turned TV host and producer changed the way we look at the fashion world with her very popular Project Runway. Because of the show, some gay designers have gone to be stars of their own like Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice and season four winner Christian Siriano. A Runway all-stars is apparently in the works.

…………………….

THIS WEEK

Mercury squaring Neptune in Pisces while entering Gemini inflates wonderfully imaginative notions. Jupiter entering Taurus could ground them and find profitable applications. Jupiter in Taurus for the next year should_ be good for the economy. It will be good for bankers at least.

…………………….

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Get creative. You have big challenges in the next year. Your intuition is now unusually sharp to see how you can turn those into opportunities. Spiritual guidance can be especially helpful now.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Dreams lure you too easily into never-never-lands of fantasy and escape. Sharing some of those phantasmagorical reveries with friends can help you find some practical outlet for them.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Remember the difference between dreams and goals. Friends encouraging you to chase after your dreams offer helpful inspiration, but don’t let them distract you from practical aims.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your brain is buzzing with schemes for success. Your partner encourages all your wildest ideas. Not. You need a leveler head with a bit of critical distance to give you pragmatic advice.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Expansive, fortunate Jupiter is starting a year in your house of sex. The deeper you go the greater the rewards. Don’t be shy. Neither is without risks, but Jupiter is good to have on your side.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You and your sweetie are due for some frolic. That could open up some questions and confusion. Keeping communications clear is a small challenge. The rewards are well worth it.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Job opportunities open up for you. Have faith in yourself. If familial encouragement is unrealistic, don’t worry about letting them down for what’s in the real world. If you’re happy, they are too.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You’re way too open to distractions and thus, accidents. Mediation, poetry, music or art will get you back in balance. Take classes in any of those . You need new ways of seeing the world.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Struggle between your deepest desires and economic necessity feels brutal. A light, playful conversation with your partner  can help you find a way to afford your dreams, or find reconciliation.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Whatever you have to offer, make it heard and known. Your family will back you up in your endeavors, but you really need to be very clear on who you are and what it is you’ve got.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Your recent lucky spree will focus more on financial fortune. Mad dreams and inspirations offer some clues. Talk out your crazy notions with friends and find a way to bring them to the bank.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Recent hard times turn around. Cash in on your good fortune. Turn your friends’ suggestions into practical ideas. Inspirations now point the way to future fulfillment of your dreams.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 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

Map: Snow Covers Ground in 49 of 50 States

Snow

Wake up to snow this morning? You're not alone. Florida is currently the only state, including Hawaii, without snow on the ground:

"…snow is present in 69.4 percent of the lower 48, which is more than double than December.  This is extremely unusual, though it's hard to put a date on when this last happened because records aren't kept on this kind of event."


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

HRC Field Team Hits the Ground in Alaska for DADT Repeal

Long known as the last frontier due to its vast expanse of wilderness, Alaska may now become the new frontier in our efforts to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

Senator Lisa Murkowski has the opportunity to prove once again that she represents all Alaskans. In 2009, she voted for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  Now, she can again vote for that same bill which funds our military and will also repeal DADT.  That’s why I’m here on the ground in Alaska

I landed yesterday afternoon after nearly 12 hours in transit and immediately began the work that needs to be done.  Meetings with the ACLU of Alaska, which funds the only organizer in the state dedicated to LGBT equality, and the Board President of Alaskans Together, the all-volunteer statewide LGBT advocacy group, set the stage for what should be a fruitful organizing effort.  I’ll continue meeting with representatives of the LGBT community and engaging them with our work, but this fight is about more than just DADT repeal and all Alaskans have reason to care about the issue at hand.

The NDAA also provides many appropriations near and dear to Alaskans’ hearts.  The bill includes a .2 billion allocation for Missile Defense programs that is important to many Alaskans – along with troop pay raises, funding for IED countermeasures and mine resistant/better armored vehicles. Alaskans know funding these programs saves lives.

With support for DADT repeal growing nationally, locally and within the military itself, and with the state’s penchant for Libertarian ideals, it’s time for Alaskans to make their voice heard and speak out for treating all of our service members with equal dignity and respect and provide them with the tools they need to get the job done.

To get involved in our efforts in Alaska, please email me at Tony.Wagner@hrc.org and stop by HRC’s online Action Center to make your voice heard.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

On the Ground in New York on Election Day

The following post comes from  HRC Field Fellow Errin E. Doyle. Errin is just one of 30 HRC staff that are on the ground fighting in elections accross the country, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the today’s elections:

It’s Election Day, and western New York is full of buzz about the Democratic candidate for the 58th senate district, Tim Kennedy. Tim is offering Buffalo constituents a new face in Albany; ready to change the way business is done and be the voice of communities that have been forgotten. Being distinct from his opposition, Tim is the only candidate in this district who supports marriage equality. Tim’s candidacy is a grassroots effort, powered by community volunteers. HRC members have played a key role in the campaign, organizing voter contact and coordinating volunteers. Recent recruits include members of the University at Buffalo’s College Democrats, who joined us last night eager to help reach voters. As a student at Buffalo State College, I am always excited to see other students getting involved in government. Working alongside other young activists is a great reminder that we can all make a difference by being informed and by getting involved.

All of the campaign’s work throughout the year is coming to fruition. The field office is bustling with Tim and his supporters, making thousands of phone calls and knocking on hundreds of doors. We are reminding the 58th district to vote tomorrow for a candidate that will follow through on their word to support equal rights for all of New York’s citizens.

Keep checking on HRC Back Story all evening long, and into tomorrow, as we bring you result from around the country on elections that matter to LGBT people, our families and our allies.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

On the Ground to Help Reelect Patrick Murphy

The following comes from HRC Regional Field Director Sultan Shakir:

Today, I met with staff from Congressman Patrick Murphy’s re-election campaign to go over our efforts to turn out our members in this critically close election.  As we move to the Get Out the Vote stage of this campaign, we’re shifting our focus from persuading voters to turning out voters.  Recent polling has Patrick Murphy holding a three-point lead over his opponent, 46 percent to 43, with 10 percent of likely voters undecided in The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll; this race may be won by whichever side can get their voters to the polls.

In addition to engaging our members, we’re also adding to our support for Patrick Murphy by sending a staffer to his campaign.  With repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on the line, we want to make sure that Patrick, one of the repeal movement’s strongest supporters, gets back to Congress to help finish the job.  Our members are excited to be a part of this effort and getting ready for Election Day!

Paid for by Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by Patrick Murphy for Congress


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

On the Ground in Las Vegas to Reelect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus

After Senate Republicans blocked the motion to proceed on the National Defense Authorization Act, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal supporters here in Las Vegas were even more fired up to get involved. Two of our community’s biggest allies are up for reelection and both are facing tough battles. Both Senator Reid and Rep. Titus have been strong supporters of the LGBT community, voting in favor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill and being committed to making sure DADT repeal happens this year. After Tuesday’s partisan vote, Senator Reid voted ‘no’ on the cloture vote, procedurally, to be able to bring up the motion to recommit and allow the Senate to reconsider the bill containing, DADT Repeal.

I’ve been on the campaigns for the last two weeks, reaching out to LGBT allies and HRC members, reminding them of the importance of this year’s election and how much Sen. Reid and Rep. Titus have done for the community. It’s important to reelect the two to make sure that we continue our fight to pass fair-minded legislation.

Last night, the HRC Las Vegas steering committee joined me in calling Nevada voters, reminding them that this is an important election that no one should sit out of. They mentioned that no one could do more for Las Vegas and the rest of Nevada than Sen. Reid and Rep. Titus. Both have represented the state well and will continue to once we work our hardest to get them reelected.

As the weather in Las Vegas is cooling down, the race to November is just starting to heat up. To join us for our weekly LGBT and ally phonebank, contact Regional Field Organizer Adrian Matanza at Adrian.Matanza@hrc.org.

Paid for Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by Friends of Harry Reid and Dina Titus for Congress.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

NC GOP Congressional candidate Renee Ellmers rails about Ground Zero ‘Victory Mosque

I don’t know Renee Elmers, but whoever is advising her that running an ad about a ‘Victory Mosque’ at Ground Zero is a useful ad for people she intends to serve in the 2nd District is a dumbass. All we’re talking about here are jobs, health care — you know, reality-based needs of the people. We’re 500 miles away from Ground Zero for crying out loud.

Apologies in advance for wasting 30 seconds of your time, but the drama-filled ad is so craptacularly inflammatory — and says nothing about what Elmers brings to the table. How on earth is she supposed to unseat Dem. Bob Ethridge with this drivel? If I were Elmers, I’d want my money back on this one.


Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright