Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

A Moment of Awe and a Moment of Regret


A few months ago, I sat in awe as I watched a young U.S. Army National Guard Infantry First Lieutenant violate Title 10 of the U.S. Code on the Rachel Maddow Show, by saying three words… “I Am Gay”. He said it knowing full well the consequences of that act, knowing that it would probably end his military career. He chose to violate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue” in about as public a forum as he could find… cable news. You could tell from Rachel’s reaction that she did not know what he was going to do (but she might have suspected).

All military officers have sworn to uphold the Constitution, and to obey the orders of those lawfully appointed over us… including this young First Lieutenant. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is legally binding law, and we all swore an oath to uphold it… even though as a Chaplain and as a Chaplain Candidate (and Chaplain Assistants, as well) confidentiality would bind me from “telling” anyone what a solider tells me, no matter what it is about. Whether or not I agree with a law or a lawful order given by those appointed over me is immaterial. Most of you could probably guess my personal opinion on this issue, but as a military officer I committed, for the privilege of serving, to certain restrictions upon my civil rights… in this case the right of free speech.

Yet there is a part of me that admired the young officer when he took his stand on the issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, knowing full well the consequences of that action. He appeared of the Rachel Maddow show again today, to tell her that the process of his being removed from the military has begun. The segment also carried the text of a note from our Commander-in-Chief stating his intent to work to change the law sent to another officer currently being removed from the military for a similar violation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

One of the things my career soldier father taught me is that there are times a person may feel compelled to break a law, so long as they are willing to pay the price of that action. Now, in his mind this was more in the realm of “exigent circumstances” and not a stand for justice… but the principle applies all the same.

I don’t think I have ever followed my father’s advice, ever publically broken the law as an act of principle. Reaction to the idea of breaking the law for the excuse “exigent circumstances” was one of the seeds that eventually led me from being a conservative to the flaming liberal I am today… but I recognize someone who does follow this principle on issues of justice that they care passionately about.

As a military officer, I regret that this young man felt he had to end his military career by violating a direct order on national television.  As a UU Ministerial Candidate and the boy who learned at my father’s knee… I am in awe.

Yours in Faith,


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