Military chaplains and service members opposed to same-sex marriage are coming under attack in the military, according to Republican lawmakers and a chaplain advocacy group.
The Chaplain Alliance For Religious Liberty said there is an effort under way to silence, and in some cases punish, those opposed to gay marriage. The allegations surfaced after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“If you are supportive of same sex marriage, you can speak boldly,” said Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance. “But if you are opposed, you are silenced.”
Crews is one of 19 individuals to write a letter to the House Armed Services Committee urging lawmakers to protect the religious liberties of chaplains and service members.
“Until Congress acts decisively, efforts to silence the voices of our military chaplains of all faiths and backgrounds will likely continue well into the future,” the letter read. “It is time that Congress secures the rights of all chaplains, once and for all, instead of allowing those that do not subscribe to the orthodoxy of the day to be unconstitutionally silenced.”
The Pentagon disputed those assertions. In a statement to Fox News they said chaplains are not required to participate or officiate in any private ceremony that might conflict with their religious or personal beliefs. They also denied any service members have been punished for opposing gay marriage.
“In general, as we have reinforced in training across the force, DADT Repeal is not about changing attitudes but rather about reinforcing behavior that treats everyone with dignity and respect,” the spokesman said.
George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said in a statement to Fox News “the religious freedoms of Army chaplains are already well protected in Army policy and regulations.”
Crews said they know of dozens of instances where military personnel have come under fire. He said one chaplain was told that if he could not support DADT he should resign his commission.
“Some of these chaplains have in fact had their careers impacted,” he told Fox News. “They’ve been punished. Right now, if you are opposed to this policy you’re not seen as a team player.
An amendment to the 2013 defense authorization bill could change that. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), protects religious freedom of military chaplains and service members opposed to same-sex marriage.
Akin said he’s received a number of complaints about people of religious faith concerned about what they perceive to be attacks on Christianity.
“There is a war on religious belief in the military,” Akin told Fox News.
Akin said he was aware of chaplains who’ve come under fire for their opposition.
“That’s the point (of the amendment),” he said. “To prevent further reprisals in the future.”
“It’s frightening,” Crews said. “This is just another example of this administration’s push against religious liberty.”