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 It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.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

Letting it REGISTER • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Gift registries can be intimidating. Dean Driver makes them easy

FASHION. PLATE. | Dean Driver knows how to make a tabletop pop — and how to make it easy on you to choose your gifts. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

BY RICH LOPEZ

Perhaps the one wedding tradition same-sex couples might waffle on is signing up for that beg-a-thon, the gift registry. Forget whether to do so (you should); the real question is, where can you find that particular china pattern you once saw in a magazine?

The answer to that question is probably Dean Driver. With his new company, Consilium Lifestyle Collections, Driver makes what could be a daunting (even intimidating) task for same-sex couples possibly the easiest  job out of all the wedding planning.

“I don’t know if the average gay couple feels comfortable going into stores,” Driver says. “They may, but many retailers just aren’t reaching out to gay couples.”

Teaming up with Consilium Creative Marketing, Driver created what may be the first by-appointment source of its kind in Dallas to provide a wedding gift registry for same-sex couples. While the services are for everyone, Driver believes that this personal touch can bring comfort to any gay newlyweds hesitant about how to sign up for gifts. It also gives them a home field advantage when looking for fine tabletop products and more.

“The way we do business is changing, and this has afforded me the ability to do in-home consultations and also wedding registries,” Driver says. “I come to the client with samples to get an idea of their lifestyle and suggest products and can see what will work with what’s already in the home.”

The affable Driver knows his stuff. After working with tabletop industries for years in large markets like New York, he has access to many luxury brands and even unique home products. The usual china and crystal items are no problem, but items like linens and household accessories are more easily available through him.

Driver’s first piece of advice on getting started with a registry: Don’t be intimidated.

“I demystify all that for you,” he says. “That’s what I’m here for. I’ll make it easier for you. And people shouldn’t think that everything offered in a registry costs so much. We do have some unique options that are moderately priced.”

Consilium has only been around for a few months, but it has burst out of the gate with a selection of up to 50 brands, some exclusive to them. And with Driver’s knowledge and background, he can pretty much get anybody anything they want.

“I’m a sort of an expert in tabletops, and I have my finger on the pulse of the industry,” he says. “I go to Paris, to Milan and see all the new patterns. And if you saw a plate in a magazine and brought it to me,  I could pinpoint what it is. When I say anything, I mean anything — and you may be only person in the country to have it.”

Something his company can guarantee is the death of that most dreaded wedding tradition: The return. Once items are selected for the registry, gift givers don’t have to worry about buying an item that’s already been purchased. Instead, the company does gift cards only, which are beautifully packaged for the giver to present.

“This prevents exchanges or duplicates,” he says. “Plus, clients may change their minds and gift cards give them an opportunity to get something else. And it’s a little more green without all that wrapping paper and shipping to worry about.”

Driver and company seems to have gotten rid of all the excuses couples can make to partake in registering for gifts. Being that a wedding is a life-changing event, Driver mostly wonders why not go all out?

“Couples shouldn’t shy away from getting nice things,” he says. “This is the one time to get the nice stuff, so why not? Anything you want, I can get.”

The only caveat — Driver encourages people to use the nice stuff everyday.

“Yeah, don’t pack it away in a cabinet like our parents did,” he says.

Of course, if there’s one thing gays know how to do it’s merchandise.

For more information, visit ConsiliumLifestyleCollections.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

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

S.D. Gay Paper May Be on Last Legs

GAY AND LESBIAN TIMES DISPENSERS X390 (FAIR) | ADVOCATE.COMSan Diego’s 23-year-old Gay & Lesbian Times may have delivered its last edition.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Rutgers school paper is pissed off that Tyler Clementi’s death actually meant something

It’s attitudes like the one in this editorial that lead gay youth to not feel secure. Yes, God forbid that one young man’s death actually leads to a push for a more gay-inclusive, gay-accepting, society.

Big ass editorial in the Rutgers school paper, the Daily Targum, about how upset the paper is that Tyler Clementi’s recent decent has to led to an outcry about the recent spate of gay youth suicides nationwide. Here’s a taste of the editorial:

The death of University student Tyler Clementi might have been properly mourned if it were not for the massive rallies and aggressive news coverage that altered the nature of the situation. The truth is that an 18-year-old boy killed himself – he was a student just like the rest of us, someone just trying to receive an education. Yet people’s relentless agendas took his death and turned it into a cause based on false pretenses.

We did not know Tyler. It was barely three weeks into his first year at the University, and most of his neighbors in his residence hall barely knew him. Turning his death into a push for gay rights is a fallacy. Homosexuality is not the only reason for which people kill themselves. In this case, it might have pushed Clementi over the edge, but the fact that he was gay should by no means turn his death into a march for safe spaces. These groups want to be heard. They want the attention. They want their agendas to shine in the limelight.

Let me take a wild guess. The editorial writer is a conservative, straight, and a guy.

As for those horrible activists “wanting their agendas to shine in the limelight”… man what an asshole.  I nearly forgot what it was like to be in college, and to have a Republican man-child writing for the school paper.

What Republican man-child doesn’t get is that had Tyler been straight, had he been filmed having sex with a girl, and had that film made its way online, he might have been freaked, he might have even still committed suicide – maybe.  But the chances are much greater of all that happening when the victim is gay.

When you’re straight and the boys in college see a vid of you screwing a girl, you’re the BMOC.  When you’re a fag and it happens, the entire school mocks you, points at you, and laughs.  It’s just not funny when a guy f-cks a girl.  It’s funny as hell when a dude does it to another dude and the entire world gets to watch, and laugh.

And what about your parents?  Has GOP man-child come out to his parents as straight?  How about to his aunts and uncles, to his cousins, to his childhood friends, to the people on his floor, to the lady at the front desk of his dorm, and to the guy he buys his coffee from on the way to class (let alone every single stranger he sees on his way to class)?  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that after having been filmed having sex, straight kids don’t need to worry about coming out as “straight” to every single human being they’re going to see for the next few months, if not years.  Gay kids do.  And while straight kids won’t be berated, beaten up, killed, and disowned for being straight – gay kids will.

That’s why what happened to Tyler was such a big deal to so many people across the country.  They could relate.  They could relate to the shame, the embarrassment, the mockery, and ultimately the feeling that you just can’t go on.  Those feelings don’t usually come from being straight.  They come far too often from being gay.

What a lame ass editorial for a school paper to be writing at a school where a kid just killed himself.  How about welcoming the awareness that’s been raised as a result of this death?  The small good that might come from something so bad.

And finally, if the jerk who wrote this editorial thinks that the national attention, sorrow, and rage has been orchestrated by organizations with an agenda, well, then he’s not a very good reporter either.  123,959 people haven’t joined this Facebook page because some activist organization told them to.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Charlie Crist’s New Position Paper on LGBT Rights

Hot off the press courtesy of Equality Florida, Charlie Crist has issued a new position paper on LGBT rights. It’s not bad. It says that Crist is for civil unions, ENDA, the repeal of DADT and the UAFA, too. Here are some excerpts:

Civil Unions
I believe that the government should not make it harder for people to take care of their loved ones. I believe civil unions that provide the full range of legal protections should be available to gay couples. That includes access to a loved one in the hospital, inheritance rights, the fundamental things people need to take care of their families.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
I support strong anti-discrimination laws including ENDA. Employment and advancement should be based on skill and merit, not hindered by prejudice of any kind.

Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
I’m a strong supporter of the men and women of our military. Those willing to risk their lives to defend our country should not be compelled to lie to do so. I support the current efforts by Congress and military leadership to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hold every member of the military to the same standard of professionalism that has made our military the greatest force for good in the world.

Uniting American Families Act
Family reunification has been the foundation of U.S. immigration law but U.S. citizens who are gay cannot sponsor their partners for family-based immigration. As a consequence, many same-sex, bi-national couples are kept apart or torn apart sometimes even separating parents from their children. This bill, which I support, humanely addresses a problem that disproportionately impacts Floridians.

It seems like Crist is engaging in some damage control and needle-threading after expressing support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Video: Paper, personal objections, and fear = non-binding anti-equality

It turns out that we shouldn’t marry, fellow gays. Ya know, because one Judge Executive in Whitley County, KY, has “moral objections” that he wishes to codify into law, starting with a completely time-wasting, wholly non-binding resolution:



Whitley County Fiscal Court passes resolution aimed at banning same-sex marriage [WYMT]

Okay, kids, we have a project for you:

STEP1: Get a piece of paper. It can be a sticky note. Or a scrap piece. Or a gum wrapper. Anything, really.

STEP2: Write a personal whim on said paper. One than bans some group from doing something. It can be faith-based, like if you have some dietary commandment you follow. Or it can be about whatever you personally dislike. For me, it’s ketchup. For you, who knows?

STEP3: Smugly look at what you wrote. Even pat yourself on the back, if you feel so inclined. Go ahead. Superiority = America.

STEP4: Call local TV crews. Talk about how you’d like to take your ideas national. Bonus points if you can find some sort of public opinion polling that helps make your whim sound like a majority consensus, independent from constitutionality.

STEP5: Congratulate yourself once more. For you have just created a personally-motivated document and news story with as much legal power as the Whitley Court, KY, Fiscal Court.

STEP6: Count up the minutes that you could have instead been dedicating to actual problems. Continue to ignore them in favor of baseless discrimination.

Repeat whenever some other group you don’t support gets “radical” and/or “uppity” enough to seek basic peace and fairness.

***

*SEE ALSO: Meet the panel who gave unanimous approval to this resolution: Elected officials [Whitley County]




Good As You

—  John Wright

More info on Saturday’s Prop 8 protest in Dallas

If you’re interested in helping out with Saturday’s Prop 8 protest in Dallas but couldn’t make last night’s organizational meeting, there’s plenty of contact info and volunteer opportunities after the jump.

—  John Wright