White House aide in Dallas to encourage LGBT community to sign up for health insurance

Get Covered

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell and Cece Cox flank White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan at Interfaith Peace Chapel Get Covered event

The biggest misconception in the LGBT community about the Affordable Care Act is that many people still don’t realize that subsidies are available to make coverage affordable, according to White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan.

Raghavan was in Dallas Sunday with Kellan Baker and Katie Keith from the group Out2Enroll.

“People are so used to healthcare that is unaffordable,” Raghavan said, although most know they can no longer be denied because of pre-existing conditions and can stay on their parent’s policy until the age of 26.

He said one of the most important policies in the new law is no one can be denied coverage because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Just what constitutes discrimination, however, is still being studied.

Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson brought up the cost of HIV medication on all plans that are available in this area. The best coverage he could find offered a $100 copay for HIV meds. That’s higher than the cost of other expensive drugs.

Raghavan said that was the sort of thing the Department of Health and Human Services is examining to determine if this amounts to discrimination against people with HIV.

Those on HIV medications should make sure the policy they get includes coverage for the medications they’re taking, Henderson said.

Keith said one of the new rights people with insurance now have is the ability to appeal if a claim is denied.

“The appeals process is so important,” she said.

In the past, when a claim was denied, the insurance company didn’t have to reveal whether it was a doctor or a clerk who denied the claim. Now, insurance companies will have to be more transparent.

“Being transgender is no longer a pre-existing condition,” Baker said.

He said in some cases, insurance companies in the past would simply deny coverage to trans people, claiming their entire lives were pre-existing conditions, and they were ineligible for coverage at all.

“The ACA is one of the most important things we’ve done for our community,” Baker said. “Health is a fundamental right.”

The deadline to sign up for insurance is March 31. About half of those who are uninsured can find coverage that includes essential health benefits for under $100 with the available subsidies.

Those who do not have coverage by the deadline will pay a $95 penalty on their taxes next year. That penalty increases in future years. However, those who remain uninsured because Texas did not expand Medicaid and would have qualified for insurance under that program will be exempt from the penalty.

For those who need help, call 800-318-2596. Navigators are working at Parkland and AIDS Arms to help people sign up for coverage.

—  David Taffet

Cathedral to hold ‘Service of Healing and Prayer’ after Hudson’s resignation

The Rev. Jo Hudson

The Rev. Jo Hudson

The Cathedral of Hope will hold a “Service of Healing and Prayer” tonight in the wake of the resignation of the Rev. Jo Hudson, who has served as senior pastor for the last nine years.

Hudson announced her resignation at the 11 a.m. service on Sunday. The board sent an emergency email on Sunday afternoon to the congregation because the announcement had not been made to people who attended the 9 a.m. service.

The Rev. Alejandro de la Torre, who headed the Cathedral’s Latino ministry, resigned as well. His resignation was expected. He will be leaving to take care of his elderly mother in Mexico. Rachael Sandifer, the Cathedral’s executive director, resigned earlier this month.

The service of healing will be held in the peace chapel and the announcement was sent to members Wednesday by Cathedral member Ferrell Drum and Anita Haddy, the church’s coordinator for ministry development. The announcement stated:

“The recent announcement of the resignation of Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson has stirred a deeply emotional response for members of the congregation. At a time like this, quiet reflection can help heal the raw emotions being experienced.

“A Service of Healing and Prayer is planned for Thursday, April 25, at 6 p.m. in the Interfaith Peace Chapel. You are invited to attend and encouraged to invite those you know who may benefit from this service so they can attend.”

—  David Taffet

‘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

BREAKING: Man found dead in pile of storm debris in Oak Lawn

Oak Lawn, at least the northern part of it, appears to have been one of the hardest hit areas in Tuesday night’s storms. As I mentioned earlier, many of us took cover in the basement of the Interfaith Peace Chapel at the Cathedral of Hope following a mayoral forum. This decision was made by the folks in charge at the Cathedral when sirens went off and TV reports said a tornado was moving into Dallas from Irving. When I emerged from the basement, I found my windshield shattered by a chunk of hail that was at least as large as a baseball. This morning, the Dallas Morning News reports that there was probably good reason for us to take cover. A man was found dead beside a pile of storm debris early this morning near an apartment complex in the 5000 block of Lahoma Drive, near Lemmon Avenue and the Tollway. He was found by an apartment manager assessing damage from the storms, and his cause of death hasn’t been determined. Elsewhere, part of the roof was ripped off an apartment complex on Cedar Plaza Lane, which is in the same general area. Hail damage to vehicles has also been reported at Love Field.  Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  John Wright

Topping off ceremony at Cathedral of Hope for new chapel

On Wednesday, April 14, Cathedral of Hope celebrated the topping off of the new Interfaith Peace Chapel designed by Philip Johnson. A full story appears in this Friday’s Dallas Voice. Here’s video if the event.

Part 1:

Part 2:

—  David Taffet