The Rights of Military Chaplains

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Yesterday a bunch of pastors, priests, and rabbis led by the Family Research Council held a press conference in the Capitol at which they begged the Lord to soften the hearts of lawmakers. Didn’t happen.  Both the House of Representatives and the Senate
Armed Services Committee voted to permit the repeal of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell.

The burden of the group’s complaint was that permitting gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military would undermine the religious liberties of military chaplains–who as members of the officer corps would have to accept, well, the right of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The answer to that is: too bad.

Clergy serving in the military do not have the same religious
rights as they do in civilian life. They are hired by the government only to provide religious services to military personnel under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. They are there to do their own thing only up to a point. As with Michele Bachmann’s abortive effort to get a law passed that
would allow military chaplains to close prayers at public events
“according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience” (i.e. “in
Jesus’ name”), the FRC’s little protest refuses to recognize that military chaplains must be prepared to serve Caesar as well as God.