A new organization claiming to represent 2,000 evangelical chaplains in the U.S. military calls itself the Military Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. What threat to religious liberty does it discern? That would be Pentagon’s recent memo declaring that military chaplains can participate in private marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in jurisdictions that recognize SSM.
To be sure, the memo explicitly says that a chaplain cannot be required to participate in such ceremonies “if doing so would be in variance with his or her religious or personal beliefs.” But the leader of the group, retired Army chaplain Ron Crews, claims that pressure will be put on chaplains to perform same-sex marriages on pain of not being considered “a team player.” Just imagine the scene in Congress when the first chaplain complains of being pressured to perform a same-sex marriage.
If any religious liberty issue was at stake for the military chaplaincy in the wake of the end of DADT, it was that a chaplain whose personal and religious beliefs include the right of same-sex couples to marry would be prevented from participating in a private ceremony. The Pentagon memo made clear that the chaplain would be able to follow the dictates of his or her conscience.
In other contexts–most recently regarding the New York State clerk who doesn’t want to issue same-sex marriage contracts–conservative Christians enthusiastically support “conscience clauses” giving public employees the right to refuse to perform official duties. But when the shoe is on the other foot, official duties trump consciences.
Thus, Rep. Todd Akin, (R-Mo.), who belongs to the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America, asserts, “The use of federal property or federal employees to perform gay marriage ceremonies is a clear contravention of the law.” Not only is it not a contravention of the law, but for a member of Congress who claims to have “consistently opposed infringement” of religious liberty, it’s hypocritical to insist that it is.