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

Civilian Control and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue

As a military chaplain, the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” does not apply directly to how I relate to soldiers. Any soldier can tell me anything in confidence, and I am bound by a level of confidentiality that is equivalent to the seal of the Catholic Confessional. In other words, regardless of the status of “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” any soldier can tell me that they are Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual and I am required to maintain that confidence.

As a military officer, and a rather junior one at that, I have no official position on whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be repealed, either by the Congress, or by Judicial injunction. Much of that is playing out in the news right now, but I as a military officer took an oath to follow the orders of those lawfully appointed over me. My answer to fellow chaplains and other officers who say that they will resign if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed is “by all means, please do.” If an officer of these United States finds themselves in a place where they can no longer live out the oaths they have taken because they perceive those oaths to be in violation of their core beliefs, then they have no honorable choice but to resign.

So long as they are serious about their belief that they cannot buy imitrex cheap serve as military chaplains in a military where gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve openly, then I salute their willingness to take the honorable path and resign. I have had to wrestle with how I could honorably serve as a military chaplain in a military that did not grant full and equal rights to gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual service members for some time, and I wish them that same kind of moral struggle. My own struggles on this issue led me to the belief that my faith required that I be willing to be a pastor to those who had no one else they could tell their sexual orientation to safely within the military.

Our nation’s military is under civilian control. This means two things. First, it means that we military personnel have to abide by the orders and directives of civilian authority. Secondly, it means that civilian authority must take responsibility for giving us such orders and directives. We who are military officers, and especially military chaplains, must regularly re-assess if our values and beliefs allow us to serve within the military as civilian control directs it to be… not how we would wish it to be. And, if we discover that our values and beliefs are in irreconcilable conflict with the directions of that civilian authority, we have one honorable choice.

To resign.

Yours in Faith,

Rev. David

7 Thoughts on “Civilian Control and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue

  1. So nicely put, David. It’s always good to know what you’re thinking.

  2. Notice that I did not say it was honorable to threaten to resign to try and influence said civilian control…

    Yours in faith,

    Rev. David

  3. A service member gives up a whole bunch of “rights” when they join up, including the right to say no to an order to march into the valley of death so to speak. I’m not sure many UUs quite get that aspect to Military life.

  4. It’s a common misconception that you give up a bunch of “rights” when you join the military. This is not an accurate representation. What happens when you join the military is not that you give up a bunch of “rights”, but rather that you agree to be bound by an additional and different legal code, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

    In some ways, service members gain some additional rights when they join the military over what they enjoyed in civilian life.

    However, for officers (notice the post before refered only to officers, not enlised service members) there is an additional responsibility, in that an officer who finds their core beliefs in conflict with their oaths has the right and responsibility to resign their commission. They may have to pay back training and benefits… and there are regulations about resigning to avoid deploying.

    However, an officer has, in my opinion, the right and responsibility to resign if they can not fully and honorably fulfill their oaths.

    Yours in faith,


  5. I’m so grateful I came across your website. I’m a mainline Protestant cleric who is a Nat’l Guard chaplain and is serving a year on active duty. I know that there are chaplains who have significant doubts about DADT, but most of the time I find myself amongst folk who are inveighing against the “homosexual agenda” (when I ask them precisely what that is, they tend to sputter and become angry) and acting out of a position of real fear. I know I’m angry now and not at my best; I also understand that I could be wrong in my position. And I know that the fear many exhibit is based on the fact that they see the world slipping away from them. I would just feel a whole lot better about things if they were as concerned about the servicemembers who commit adultery and who abuse the women in their command as they are of the matter of homosexuality.

  6. CH Mike,

    Thank you for your comment, and for your service. I, as an “out of the closet” Liberal Christian Chaplain hear some of those same comments from some in our military today. Sometimes the angry muttering starts as soon as they meet me! No need to talk about GLBQ persons at all…

    It is my belief that the fear that is directed at this and a few other issues finds its roots in some much deeper issues, and that it is “attaching” to the issues around DADT because that feels less personal and threatening. Some of those deeper issues relates to the uncertainity many in the military feel right now, to the upended family dynamics that multiple deployments in these recent combat actions have brought, and to some of the uncertainty that is in society at large today.

    We see it in relation to DADT and a few other issues, but that fear has deeper roots.

    I will not speak of all officers, but I pray that all of us Chaplains are always wrestling with such moral struggles, and modeling that struggle for those we serve. However, when we reach a definitive place of our faith/values/beliefs being in conflict with the direction of civilian control, we do have just one choice.

    Yours in faith,

    Rev. David

  7. Re: …agree to be bound by an additional and different legal code…

    Right, for some, that feels like giving up some rights…

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