‘Perform or provide’

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

IMG_5132

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 It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.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

A velvety smooth Suede

Out jazz singer Suede combines standards, trumpet and comedy for Fort Worth show

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

SUEDE IN SILVER  |  The queer singer’s tour, which comes to Fort Worth Nov. 6, celebrates 25 years as well as her new CD, ‘Dangerous Mood.’
SUEDE IN SILVER | The queer singer’s tour, which comes to Fort Worth Nov. 6, celebrates 25 years as well as her new CD, ‘Dangerous Mood.’

SUEDE
With Julie Bonk.
Youth Orchestra Hall,  4401 Trail Lake Drive, Fort Worth.
Nov. 6. 8 p.m. $20–$40.
OpenDoorProductionsTx.com.

……………………………………….

When jazz singer Suede hits the stage in Fort Worth next weekend, the audience will be in for a show where just about anything can happen. After all, what other lesbian do you know that can quickly shift from singing a beautiful ballad, to crooning a sassy jazz number to breaking out with a raucous trumpet solo? (Yes, trumpet.) Throw in some comedy and you get a pretty good idea of what this singular sensation is all about.

Simply put, Suede delivers a show as unique as her name.

“Suede is actually my middle name. It found me when I was in third grade. My last name is one of those that starts with a small ‘de’ and the rest of it is one of those where you want to cry out, ‘May I buy a vowel please?’” she laughs. “I haven’t used my last name in forever. My given first name is Suzanne, which got shortened to Sue. It got too close to the small ‘de’ at the beginning of my last name on a reading paper in third grade and my teacher started calling me Suede and I’ve been going by that ever since.”

She even had the foresight to copyright it, which came in handy in the early ’90s when Sony tried to bring a band over from England called Suede.

“We asked them nicely to stop using my trademarked name, but they sort of looked at me like, ‘What is she really going to do? We’re Sony Corporation,’” she says deepening her voice into a threatening tone. “We ended up suing them and won the case, but it took two years. So yes, there’s a great deal of integrity and importance with this little name of mine.”

After nearly 30 years in show business, she has had the good fortune to make music a full-time career — “No waiting tables, no giving guitar lessons. Just touring and performing,” she says. “It’s such a cliché but I absolutely owe it to my fans. They keep showing up and bringing new people and I’m just astounded by their loyalty.”

Suede started her own record label 26 years ago and released her latest of four solo albums, Dangerous Mood, to celebrate her 25th anniversary of performing professionally.

“Since I was a little kid, I had a dream of performing with a big band and I just went for it. It was an insane project. I recorded it in Tony Bennett’s studio and it was just amazing,” she says.

Many of those songs will be in her show. And just because she’s gay, don’t expect it to be a totally queer affair.

“I have a mainstream jazz following, but I’ve also been an out lesbian performer since the beginning of my career. That was a choice of mine long before it became a good boost for a career like those coming out late in the game today. Having done this for so long, it absolutely was not safe, let alone a good career move, when I made that choice. It was kind of interesting because that certainly had an impact with me trying to get mainstream gigs.”

Ironically, it was the gay community that stereotyped her.

“They’d say, ‘Oh she’s a lesbian folk singer and we know what that means.’ And that’s just not true. I’m a popular jazz singer — always have been. So I really didn’t fit any place, but my fans kept showing up and none of them cared about categorization.”

The formula of jazz meets pop meets big, bawdy trumpet solos, however strange it may sound, has worked and she’s so confident people will love it, she’s got a money-back guarantee.

“I’ll even go so far as to say, take the chance. No questions asked, if you want your money back at the end of it, I’ll personally give it back. I really think you’ll love it because it’s just a whole lot of fun,” she says with a laugh.

And I tend to think she’s telling the truth.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

To Counterprotest or Not To Counterprotest: Courage, Integrity, Tact, and Cowardice

Crossposted on ZackFord Blogs

Ryan Crane participating in One Iowa's counterprotest of NOM in Des Moines on August 1. (Photo courtesy Prop 8 Trial Tracker

In many conversations and writings lately, I've heard myself emphasizing the need for the LGBT movement to be more proactive. We do a whole lot better when we're trying to get people to say "Yes!" (like in DC or Washington state) than when we are trying to get them not say "No" (like in Maine and California). At first, when I started making this point, I framed it as "more proactive and less reactive," but the more I've thought about it, I really just mean more proactive.

You see, I think there is incredible importance in reacting. We need to stand up for ourselves. We need to create visibility for ourselves. We need to counter our opponents and their lie-riddled fear-mongering rhetoric at every turn. It's a matter of integrity—a demonstration of our courage and our stamina. Alone, it's not a winning strategy; you don't win a game of chess if you only defend your own pieces. Still, it's a vital part of our movement and our social well-being.

That's why I am incredibly disappointed in Equality Pennsylvania's cowardice in deciding not to counterprotest the NOM tour stop this Friday in Harrisburg.

The National Organization for Marriage has been driving around the US, rallying tens of people at their events, and then creating "breaking news" propaganda videos about how aggressive the counterprotesters are. It's a devious tactic. Freedom to Marry and the Prop 8 Trial Tracker ("NOM Tour Tracker"), as well as bloggers like Jeremy Hooper at Good As You have been countering them at every turn, revealing the truths of their claims. They only have a few stops left, and on Friday they will be here in little ol' Harrisburg, PA (it's the capital!).

Equality PA released a statement explaining why they were not counterprotesting (emphasis in original):

Equality Pennsylvania

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) kicked off their "One Man, One Woman" tour on July 14th. At each stop where there have been counter protests or attendance by pro-equality supporters, they have disrespected or mocked them and attempted to provoke them into screaming or yelling. Their goal in doing this is to make our side look foolish and hostile. We have also seen that they like to play a numbers game where if we have even a few less attendees than at their event, they will claim that the momentum is moving in their direction. We know from the recent polling numbers and the pathetic turnout their rallies have been recording, that this simply isn't the case.

We are working hard to advance equality and will continue to do so long after they leave town. While we may be upset by their rhetoric, we can't get caught up in retaliation when we need to remain focused on what needs to get done to win! Putting our energy into showing up at their event does not help to move us forward. What will help to advance equality in Pennsylvania is if we use them coming to town as an excuse to mobilize local activists and build our network.

So after NOM finishes their ranting and heads to the next town, we will be out there getting it done! We are holding a terrific event in Harrisburg on August 12, the night before they arrive, around a special showing of the movie "Stonewall Uprising" with a panel on youth activism afterward. We encourage everyone who can, to attend.

Click here for more information!

Not only is this a great movie, but this public conversation will increase our network and identify new volunteers and supporters. Please do what you can…attend, make a donation or just plain follow our activities. But please, ignore NOM when they come to town and don't interact. Attention is exactly what they want, and why should honest people who hold equality close to their hearts be tricked into supporting their sad little charade.

This is an expression of cowardice. It buys into a "fight or flight" dichotomy that doesn't reflect the reality of potential responses. The assumption is that we cannot respond to NOM's rally without looking "foolish," "hostile," or retaliatory, ignoring the notion and potential of tact.

Is it possible to counterprotest NOM in a peaceful way? A way that creates visibility and builds unity for our community and our families? A way that makes sure that any media coverage includes stories of our experiences and our truths? A way that overshadows NOM's message of discrimination without fueling their propaganda machine? It's not easy to pull off, but such a way exists.

That's why EQPA's decision amounts to cowardice. Rather than take a risk, they'd rather not try at all. Maybe they should be ashamed, but maybe not. If they don't think they have the resources or capacity to pull it off, I can totally understand why they wouldn't want their stamp of approval on it. However, I resent the smugness with which they claim to rise above, ignoring the important catharsis achieved when our community rejects its own condemnation.

That's not to say that EQPA doesn't make some good points in their statement. It is true that NOM has been using their tour to paint a negative picture of activists, but it's NOM. They'll find a way to spin it their way regardless. Given that Harrisburg is the only stop that hasn't had a major organization planning a counter response, I'd hate to see Central Pennsylvania spun as a bastion of anti-gay hate. I think EQPA is onto something with using NOM to mobilize local activists, and I think the film screening is a great idea. Educating about the movement's history and raising the voices of queer youth is amazing, but it doesn't undo the hurt NOM causes many by rolling into town to spout their incendiary drivel.

We have a serious problem if our movement isn't willing to stand up to our opponents. I don't think anything has been more compelling than the media appearances Olson and Boies have been making since last week's Prop 8 ruling, unabashedly defending the truths of our lives and obliterating our opponents. That sort of visibility and education is exactly what many of the counterprotests have accomplished with their truth squads. It's the kind of work an organization like Equality Pennsylvania should be prepared to handle without compromising their other proactive work.

Standing up for equality means standing up for equality whether it's convenient or not. Even if it's not on our playing field, we have to show.

That's why I will be participating in a counterprotest on Friday at noon being organized by a group called Justice League – Activate. I will stand against NOM with my family, document their efforts, and speak on behalf of Pennsylvania gays and lesbians who still are subject to state-sponsored discrimination. If none of my friends will stand with me out of solidarity with Equality Pennsylvania, that's their choice. However, I will not let preachers of discrimination control the media for the day without some visibility from the people they unflinchingly discriminate against.

While I still argue that proactive activism demands greater priority, reactive activism is important for our community's maintenance. We have to be strong enough to rebuff our opponents AND push forward in spite of them. To ignore them is forfeit and I'm already tired of feeling like I"m on a losing team.

I hope you'll join me Friday to show Central Pennsylvania that we are here, we are queer, and we care about marriage too. We want the same safety and security that marriage provides. We are proudly standing up for all families who just want to live their lives as happy members of their Pennsylvania communities.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

To Counterprotest or Not To Counterprotest: Courage, Integrity, Tact, and Cowardice

Crossposted on ZackFord Blogs

Ryan Crane participating in One Iowa's counterprotest of NOM in Des Moines on August 1. (Photo courtesy Prop 8 Trial Tracker

In many conversations and writings lately, I've heard myself emphasizing the need for the LGBT movement to be more proactive. We do a whole lot better when we're trying to get people to say "Yes!" (like in DC or Washington state) than when we are trying to get them not say "No" (like in Maine and California). At first, when I started making this point, I framed it as "more proactive and less reactive," but the more I've thought about it, I really just mean more proactive.

You see, I think there is incredible importance in reacting. We need to stand up for ourselves. We need to create visibility for ourselves. We need to counter our opponents and their lie-riddled fear-mongering rhetoric at every turn. It's a matter of integrity—a demonstration of our courage and our stamina. Alone, it's not a winning strategy; you don't win a game of chess if you only defend your own pieces. Still, it's a vital part of our movement and our social well-being.

That's why I am incredibly disappointed in Equality Pennsylvania's cowardice in deciding not to counterprotest the NOM tour stop this Friday in Harrisburg.

The National Organization for Marriage has been driving around the US, rallying tens of people at their events, and then creating "breaking news" propaganda videos about how aggressive the counterprotesters are. It's a devious tactic. Freedom to Marry and the Prop 8 Trial Tracker ("NOM Tour Tracker"), as well as bloggers like Jeremy Hooper at Good As You have been countering them at every turn, revealing the truths of their claims. They only have a few stops left, and on Friday they will be here in little ol' Harrisburg, PA (it's the capital!).

Equality PA released a statement explaining why they were not counterprotesting (emphasis in original):

Equality Pennsylvania

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) kicked off their "One Man, One Woman" tour on July 14th. At each stop where there have been counter protests or attendance by pro-equality supporters, they have disrespected or mocked them and attempted to provoke them into screaming or yelling. Their goal in doing this is to make our side look foolish and hostile. We have also seen that they like to play a numbers game where if we have even a few less attendees than at their event, they will claim that the momentum is moving in their direction. We know from the recent polling numbers and the pathetic turnout their rallies have been recording, that this simply isn't the case.

We are working hard to advance equality and will continue to do so long after they leave town. While we may be upset by their rhetoric, we can't get caught up in retaliation when we need to remain focused on what needs to get done to win! Putting our energy into showing up at their event does not help to move us forward. What will help to advance equality in Pennsylvania is if we use them coming to town as an excuse to mobilize local activists and build our network.

So after NOM finishes their ranting and heads to the next town, we will be out there getting it done! We are holding a terrific event in Harrisburg on August 12, the night before they arrive, around a special showing of the movie "Stonewall Uprising" with a panel on youth activism afterward. We encourage everyone who can, to attend.

Click here for more information!

Not only is this a great movie, but this public conversation will increase our network and identify new volunteers and supporters. Please do what you can…attend, make a donation or just plain follow our activities. But please, ignore NOM when they come to town and don't interact. Attention is exactly what they want, and why should honest people who hold equality close to their hearts be tricked into supporting their sad little charade.

This is an expression of cowardice. It buys into a "fight or flight" dichotomy that doesn't reflect the reality of potential responses. The assumption is that we cannot respond to NOM's rally without looking "foolish," "hostile," or retaliatory, ignoring the notion and potential of tact.

Is it possible to counterprotest NOM in a peaceful way? A way that creates visibility and builds unity for our community and our families? A way that makes sure that any media coverage includes stories of our experiences and our truths? A way that overshadows NOM's message of discrimination without fueling their propaganda machine? It's not easy to pull off, but such a way exists.

That's why EQPA's decision amounts to cowardice. Rather than take a risk, they'd rather not try at all. Maybe they should be ashamed, but maybe not. If they don't think they have the resources or capacity to pull it off, I can totally understand why they wouldn't want their stamp of approval on it. However, I resent the smugness with which they claim to rise above, ignoring the important catharsis achieved when our community rejects its own condemnation.

That's not to say that EQPA doesn't make some good points in their statement. It is true that NOM has been using their tour to paint a negative picture of activists, but it's NOM. They'll find a way to spin it their way regardless. Given that Harrisburg is the only stop that hasn't had a major organization planning a counter response, I'd hate to see Central Pennsylvania spun as a bastion of anti-gay hate. I think EQPA is onto something with using NOM to mobilize local activists, and I think the film screening is a great idea. Educating about the movement's history and raising the voices of queer youth is amazing, but it doesn't undo the hurt NOM causes many by rolling into town to spout their incendiary drivel.

We have a serious problem if our movement isn't willing to stand up to our opponents. I don't think anything has been more compelling than the media appearances Olson and Boies have been making since last week's Prop 8 ruling, unabashedly defending the truths of our lives and obliterating our opponents. That sort of visibility and education is exactly what many of the counterprotests have accomplished with their truth squads. It's the kind of work an organization like Equality Pennsylvania should be prepared to handle without compromising their other proactive work.

Standing up for equality means standing up for equality whether it's convenient or not. Even if it's not on our playing field, we have to show.

That's why I will be participating in a counterprotest on Friday at noon being organized by a group called Justice League – Activate. I will stand against NOM with my family, document their efforts, and speak on behalf of Pennsylvania gays and lesbians who still are subject to state-sponsored discrimination. If none of my friends will stand with me out of solidarity with Equality Pennsylvania, that's their choice. However, I will not let preachers of discrimination control the media for the day without some visibility from the people they unflinchingly discriminate against.

While I still argue that proactive activism demands greater priority, reactive activism is important for our community's maintenance. We have to be strong enough to rebuff our opponents AND push forward in spite of them. To ignore them is forfeit and I'm already tired of feeling like I"m on a losing team.

I hope you'll join me Friday to show Central Pennsylvania that we are here, we are queer, and we care about marriage too. We want the same safety and security that marriage provides. We are proudly standing up for all families who just want to live their lives as happy members of their Pennsylvania communities.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright