Tag Archives: dadt

The Journey: Padre Steve and Gay Rights

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I hope that you are having a good New Year. I am having power fights with my blind nearly 14 year old Papillon-Dachshund mix Molly. It seems that she has decided that she no longer likes here special kidney diet dog food and resists eating it until she can’t stand it any longer. I even heat it in the microwave to get it to room temperature and sometimes she eats it like there is no tomorrow other times she looks at it, looks up where I am and seems to be asking “this shit again?” Tonight after refusing to eat I was getting some iced tea for my wife Judy and she was trying to get in the refrigerator. Power fights with Dachshunds are one thing. Power fights with Papillons another, but power fights with a mix… well what can I say? But I digress…

What I am writing about tonight is a subject that has become increasingly important to me, and a subject that probably makes some of my more conservative Christian friends really wonder about me.

The past couple of nights I have written about historic  discrimination against Gays and Lesbians, as well as what Gays suffered in the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. I do hope that you take time to read them and share them both if you haven’t already done so.

But anyway. I have been in the military coming up on 34 years between the Army and the Navy. When I enlisted and through the first two thirds of my career I can safely say that I fell rather strongly on the conservative-Christian side of the social issues debates. Over the years, especially the last seven since I returned a changed many from my time in Iraq, I have evolved significantly on most of these issues where although I while consider myself to be rather moderate I now fall decidedly on the liberal side of most social issues.

A lot of this has to do with the attitudes that I saw in churches that I was associated. Many people in my former denominations endorsed policies of the Christian Dominionist or Reconstruction movements, that basically upended First and Fourteenth Amendment protections and if enacted would basically turn the country into a theocracy. I have written about those things time and time again so I won’t elaborate on them now.

It was not only the policies, it was the attitude towards the LGBT community that really bothered me. For some reason it seemed that to many of my friends and colleagues that homosexuality was the only unforgivable sin, and not only that that homosexuals were somehow less than human and not entitled to the same rights as any other American citizen. Not only that they were blamed for every economic, social, foreign policy or natural disaster. Hurricane, blame the gays. Stock market crash, blame the gays, the 9-11 attacks, God’s judgement on the United States because of the gays. You name it, blame the gays, and that my friends still happens every day.

But my journey to accepting and fighting for Gays and Lesbians began a lot earlier.

When I first enlisted in the Army in 1981 it was not uncommon for gay slurs to be hurled at soldiers as a matter of course, especially at young men who did not appear manly enough or women who wouldn’t put out sexually when it was demanded of the. They were queers, fags, dykes and worse. There is a scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket where R. Lee Ermey, a man who actually was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor berates one of his recruits:

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Where the hell are you from anyway, private?
Private Cowboy: Sir, Texas, sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Holy dog shit! Texas? Only steers and queers come from Texas, Private Cowboy, and you don’t look much like a steer to me, so that kinda narrows it down. Do you suck dicks?
Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Are you a peter puffer?
Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: I bet you’re the kind of guy who would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you!

The sad thing is that such behavior was still common even in the 1990s and though not nearly so pervasive still happened on occasion in after the 9-11 attacks. But those taunts really bothered me and when I was commissioned as a Medical Service Corps Officer in 1983 I met gays in my officer training, they were closeted but they were targets. When I served as a company commander in 1985-1986 I had a number of gays and lesbians in my unit. As I mentioned before they were among my best and most trustworthy soldiers, always going the extra mile.

Meanwhile the unit had the highest drug positive rate in Europe when I took command and had so many real disciplinary and criminal cases on the docket I was told by the Group Commander to “clean that company up.” But when I got down to It I realized that I was so overwhelmed with the real criminals that I didn’t want to harass or prosecute my best soldiers, including those gays and lesbians. That was a watershed. While other commanders sought out gays in order to prosecute them and throw them out of the military I was protecting and promoting them, not because they were gay, but because they were excellent soldiers.

When I went to my next assignment as a personnel officer at the Academy of Health Sciences discharges of trainees for being gay was common. I know because I had to sign off on every discharge packet before it was sent for approval. Since we had five to seven thousand students at any time, both officers and enlisted I did not know the details of most of the stories nor meet the individuals concerned.

However, in 1987 I was given the responsibility of helping soldiers diagnosed as HIV positive with their career options. I also helped officers from the Army Medical Department draft the Army’s policies for those infected with the AIDS virus. At the time many of the Christians that I went to church with believed the myths and lies being promoted by leading Evangelicals about AIDS and displayed a tremendous amount of distain and even hatred towards gays and others infected or dying of that disease. I was dumbfounded that people who preached the love of God had neither compassion nor empathy for those suffering.

I left active duty to attend seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. There I knew a few closeted homosexuals and lesbians who had deep faith in Jesus, were outstanding students and potentially outstanding pastors or chaplains but who had to remain closeted. After I graduated when I was going through my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency one of the men I graduate with did a one unit internship. During that time he made the agonizing decision to come out as Gay. For him there was much to lose, but his example was inspiring and I still stay in touch with him. I also met a chaplain from the Metropolitan Community Church who had been raised in a Black Pentecostal church. He was an amazing and compassionate minister.

In the hospital setting I worked with a lot of homosexuals, of which many were Christians who suffered in their churches as their pastors and friends railed against homosexuals. When I served as the installation chaplain of an Army base I hired an organist who was gay. He worked for the National Guard as a civilian and was a Log Cabin Republican. He grew up in a very conservative church and though he had deep faith was not welcome in most civilian churches. At the time I was a fairly new  in a very conservative denomination and my bishops held that giving communion to Gays was forbidden, in fact they called it a sin. However, when he presented himself for communion, knowing his faith I took the advice of a conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran chaplain, don’t ask, just trust the grace of God in the Sacrament. That became my model of ministry from then on. I never mentioned it to my bishop. Thankfully he never asked or I would have had to be honest. This encounter brought more homosexuals to the chapel, and the chapel community which was composed mainly of military retirees and National Guard personnel welcomed them.

In civilian churches of my old denominations I knew Gays and Lesbians who struggled and tried to do everything they could to change, but no-matter how hard they tried, how hard they prayed, how many times well meaning friends attempted to cast out their demons in rituals similar to exorcisms they struggled and suffered. Most eventually drifted away because they knew that they would not be accepted.  I have had friends in church whose children came out as gay or lesbian. Some loved and accepted them, others turned them away. Judy and I have always done what we can to support them as we would the children of any friend.

That understanding of God’s grace as well as what I believed were the fundamental Constitutional and human rights of Gays and Lesbians brought me to where I am today.

I know that a lot of conservative Christians have and will condemn me for these beliefs and actions, but for me honesty, integrity, empathy and love have to take precedence over hate, blame and prejudice, even when that prejudice is clothed in the words or faith and righteousness. I just figure that once we begin to use religion to condemn others and bolster our own political power that we are no better than people like Al Qaeda, ISIL or the Taliban. We are no better than the Inquisitors or others who destroyed cities and massacred people, even other Christians because they didn’t believe the right way.

I believe that it is just a small step from hateful thoughts and words to actions that end up in genocide. The “German Christians” of the Nazi era demonstrated that to a fine degree. The authors of the Bethel Confession, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer who protested the German Christian alliance with the Nazis noting:

“every attempt to establish a visible theocracy on earth by the church as a infraction in the order of secular authority. This makes the gospel into a law. The church cannot protect or sustain life on earth. This remains the office of secular authority.

That I believe with all my heart and that is why I will support and fight for the rights of the LGBT community in order to ensure that they have the same rights and privileges of any citizen. Otherwise what does the rule of law mean? What does the Constitution mean? What does that sentence in the Declaration of Independence that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” 

Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1854 concerning the rights of Blacks, something that is certainly applicable as well to homosexuals: “the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.” 

That my friends, especially my conservative Christian friends who do not understand why I would speak up for the LGBT community, is why I do it. So in the words of my favorite heretic Martin Luther I state today: “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, LGBT issues, Political Commentary

Conduct Unbecoming II: Tell the Story of DADT Discrimination

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Those of you who follow this blog or know me understand that I have served in the military since 1981. In that time I have served as an enlisted man, a Medical Service Corps Officer and Chaplain in the Army and a Navy Chaplain. I am coming up on 34 years service. In that time I have had a chance to see the military justice system up close and personal, when I was a company commander and later a brigade Adjutant the military prosecutors were my best friends, defense attorneys, not so much.

Sometimes, the military judicial system is better than the civilian system, but other times it is hopelessly prejudiced, especially against Gays and Lesbians.

This was especially true when I first entered the Army in 1981 before the implementation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, as well as after that policy was enacted during the Clinton Administration. I cannot tell you how many men and women that I saw, or heard about being railroaded out of the military simply because they were gay.

Before DADT the process was incredibly brutal. Gays and lesbian could simply be accused of being such, even with no corroborating evidence and put out of the military with a discharge that ensured that they would have difficulty finding employment when they were thrown out of the military. Military officials of the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) and Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) had free reign to use all means, fair and unfair to ferret out and prosecute anyone suspected of being gay.

I never was a fan of such tactics even though at the time I would have considered myself a Christian conservative who believed that gays were sinners and if they did not repent would go to Hell. But that being said, I never believed that gays were un-patriotic or unworthy of serving in the military so long as they conducted themselves in a manner that heterosexual service members should. Since I knew that homosexuals could not legally marry I figured that their sex life, so long as it did not interfere with their duties was not my concern.

When I was a company commander I knew that I had a number of gays and lesbians in my unit. They were all outstanding soldiers and unlike many of my heterosexual soldiers were never on the military police blotter. You see when I was made a company commander the unit I took command of had the highest drug positive rate in Europe and so many un-adjudicated criminal cases that I spent countless hours after normal duty hours do dealing with them. I had no reason to go after people who were not causing problems and who always could be counted on to go beyond what was required to accomplish the mission. The were great and it would make me proud to hear from them again.

That being said, one could December day the CID came knocking. The two special agents said that they wanted to put an undercover investigator in my company, allegedly to uncover someone suspected of trafficking American cigarettes that they had obtained with their ration cards on the local economy. I asked if they had a warrant or even probable cause for their action. They could produce neither. So I told them that I would not consent because a “spy” in the unit would destroy moral and esprit that I had been working to restore and told them if they could not show me a good reason why I should allow them to do this to get out of my company. After threatening me with investigation for harboring “black marketers” they never came back, so I doubt that they had anything.

However, when they left I wondered if there were any other motives, especially since they had no warrant and no probable cause. I wondered if they were fishing. Since medical units were known to have more homosexuals than other units I wondered if this was a reason, after all I wasn’t kicking anyone out for being homosexual, which back in those days was pretty big business.

When AIDS was finally recognized as a problem, long after it had already killed over 20,000 people, I helped develop some of the Army’s personnel policies for those infected with HIV, and did the counseling and support from an personnel point of view for officers who were infected. I also reviewed

After DADT was passed I was a Chaplain, first in the Army and then the Navy. Sadly, though over-zealous commanders and investigators no longer had carte-blanche to investigate suspected homosexuals, Gays and Lesbians still had to live under-cover. They could serve, but they could not admit that they were homosexual. As such they lived constantly under threat that the slightest mistake could cost them their military careers. I provided pastoral care for a number of those service men and women.

During the DATD era, thousands of Gay and Lesbian service members were drummed out of the service. Others, including a young man who had come to me for counsel, could not handle the pressure or the shame of losing their careers because of being identified as Gay killed themselves.

Even after the end of DADT the stigma of being homosexual has resulted in the prosecution of personnel who were guilty of nothing. I had to testify at the court-martial of a Marine Corps Officer who was the target of one of these witch hunts. I testified during his sentencing that the only reason that he had been prosecuted was because he was Gay. That made it into the record of the trial and I am proud that I could testify on his behalf. It was a travesty of justice engineered by the policies of the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos. It was a shame and dishonor to the Marine Corps that a distinguished combat veteran be tried and convicted even though every command and civil police authority up to the Commandant refused to charge him of any crime.

I know several who managed to make it through their career until they could retire. They included distinguished combat veterans and senior officers and non-commissioned officers. One Chief Petty Officer I knew came out at his retirement ceremony, he was so nondescript in his behavior that no-one ever suspected that he was Gay. I do have to admit that coming out at his retirement ceremony had a certain amount of panache which I admired. I have a friend who spent eighteen of 21 years of service before DADT was overturned under constant threat. She gets to retire this summer. I hope to do the invocation and benediction at her retirement.

But I digress…

I have been reading Randy Shilts’ book Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military. The book came out the month that Shilts, who had written the book that defined the tragedy of the AIDS crisis in its first years died of AIDS. The book is the most comprehensive treatment of the persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the military ever written. However, the book, published shortly after the establishment of DADT when Shilts was dying does not deal with what the Gays and Lesbians who served under DADT went through.

I want to write that book.

If you or anyone you know served in the military after DADT experienced the persecution that still occurred during that time I would like to hear from you. You can contact me by e-mail. I will maintain your confidentiality, after all, I am a priest.

That being said, the story of the Gays and Lesbian patriots who served during the DADT era needs to be told. That era encompassed more deployments and combat than any time since the Vietnam War. Many homosexuals put their lives on the line and even so still suffered great stigma and sometimes persecution. Under DATD 14,346 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen were thrown out of the military. 

You may e-mail me, contact me through this site, Facebook or Twitter and I will contact you. Please spread the word. This part of history should not be forgotten, otherwise it may be repeated.

Peace and blessings

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under civil rights, History, LGBT issues, Military

Spreading Fear in the Name of Righteousness

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I said that my New Year’s resolution was going to be the passionate pursuit of truth and here the the first volley in that. It deals with the very real agenda of some leaders of the Christian Right and their leaders in the Republican Party against the LGBT community.

So I want you to imagine what it was like in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s for gays, and imagine something that is  a core part of your personality, belief system or lifestyle was criminalized. So let’s go back to those days:

Imagine if your activities were monitored, catalogued and reported by local, state and Federal police agencies.

Imagine that police detectives and informants were allowed to spy on your activities.

Imagine that police, acting in the “name of the law” under the merest pretense or spurious accusation could invade your home, business or institution and use physical violence to subdue you, even if you had done nothing wrong.

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The Stonewall Riot 1969

Imagine if a business rival or a spurned lover desired to ruin you with only an accusation.

Imagine if the price of your freedom was to name names and condemn others.

Imagine if even suspicion of your activities was considered as grounds for termination of your employment, or prevent you from receiving a promotion.

Imagine if those same suspicions could brand you as a felon with the results of being forbidden to vote, the loss of property and employment rights. 

Imagine that if you went to a bar that if you looked in any direction but straight ahead that you could be charged with accosting others.

Imagine that anyone, anywhere who had knowledge of your behaviors could use that knowledge to have you kicked out of the military, law enforcement or government employment, usually with a felony conviction. 

Imagine that your behavior, even discrete behavior in your own residence could get you locked in a psychiatric hospital and quite possibly the use of drugs and surgery to “correct your illness” without your consent. 

Imagine if you were a faithful member of your church, were conservative in your theology and politics and supported all the causes of that body, but one aspect of your behavior could lead to your excommunication and banishment from that community. 

I guess if it was your behavior or your beliefs that led to such treatment you would cry foul, you would protest, that you would claim that you were the victim of discrimination; and my friend I say that you would be correct.

That my friends was the America and Great Britain that Gays lived in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, portions of which remained enshrined in law until very recently and which a number of high powered and influential politicians, pundits and preachers of the Christian Right would like to go again. One of them, Gordon Klingenschmitt, is a criminal. He was tried and convicted by court-martial for disobedience of a lawful order not to protest outside White House in his uniform  at a political rally, while George W. Bush was President.   After the conviction Klingenschmitt was separated from the the Navy when his denomination, the Evangelical Episcopal Church defrocked him and pulled his endorsement to be a chaplain. On his Pray in Jesus Name radio program Klingenschmitt said that it is his “goal to push gays back in the closet.” Klingenschmitt has made his living since claiming all sorts of things on that program following his conviction and discharge and now is a newly elected State Senator in Colorado.

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Sadly there are those among the Christian Right in a number of states, as well as Conservative Christian politicians at the State and Federal level, to include Senators, members of the House of Representatives and prominent potential Presidential Candidates who advocate bringing all of these measures back. These include Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour who when in the run up to the GOP 2012 primaries both told hate-ideologue Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association that they would reinstitute the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Fischer, as well as numerous others, including the head of the Heritage Foundation, former Senator Jim DeMint suggest barring Gays from teaching, the judiciary and other forums of public service. Anti-Gay Evangelist Scott Lively worked actively to help pass a “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, while many other prominent preachers of the Christian right praise the persecution of Gays in Russia by Vladimir Putin.

Gays have been blamed for the spread of Ebola and other diseases and about every social ill in the world, even if there is no evidence to support the claims of those making  the accusations.

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Bryan Fischer, a failed pastor is not a failed propagandist of anti-Gay zealotry and he attracts a fair number of prominent Republican politicians to his radio program, including:

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, of Mississippi and Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. Among the major conservative activists who have appeared on Focal Point are Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, David Barton of WallBuilders, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum and Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express. Fischer, whose group was a co-sponsor of the Value Voters summit back in 2010 was joined by even bigger names including Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, former Virginia Governor and convicted felon Bob McDonnell Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

Fischer and others claim gays to be terrorists, criminals and compare them to the Nazis which is ironic since the Nazis outlawed homosexuality and sent homosexuals to the Concentration camps. But then truth is not an obstacle for this bunch. In Arizona and Kansas “Jim Crow” measures to legalize religious discrimination against homosexuals nearly became law with their proponents claiming to be protecting the rights of people to discriminate against gays solely based on religious their religious liberty.

There are prominent Evangelical preachers, media personalities and pundits who go to extremes in their description of Gays, Lesbians, and for that matter anyone in the LGBT community. Some of those include Pat Robertson and others have made incredulous statements about Gays.

While I do not think that the truly extreme measures will ever be passed or upheld once they hit the courts, the danger of this anti-Gay propaganda and continued efforts of some will continue to punish gays for nothing more than wanting to live a normal life with people they love. There is a secondary danger, that danger is that the constant drumbeat of hate will motivate some to violence against the LGBT community. Such has happened too many times, one cannot forget the brutal murder of young Matthew Shepard.

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Matthew Shepard

It is something that all of us who truly value liberty must be on constant guard against. I cannot imagine a society that would want any portion of it to have to deal with the legalized hate, persecution and discrimination that gays went through long after it was made illegal to do to others.  There are some who earnestly desire a return to such persecution of Gay people and their supporters, and they wait for the chance to implement their agenda.

There is a scene at the end of the Star Trek the Next Generation episode The Drumhead. In the episode a deranged and paranoid ideologue comes aboard the Enterprise to conduct an investigation of possible sabotage. The investigation becomes a witch hunt in which she accuses Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) of treason. Her case collapses and afterward Lt. Worf, the Klingon Security Officer of the Enterprise, who initially supported her visits Captain Picard. Their dialogue is pertinent to today.

“Am I bothering you, Captain?”
“No, please Mr. Worf, come in.”
“It is over. Admiral Henry has called an end to any more hearings on this matter.”
“That’s good.”
“Admiral Satie has left the Enterprise.”
“We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it’s all ancient history. And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again.”
“I believed her. I-I HELPED her! I did not see what she was.”
“Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.”
“I think, after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her.”
“Maybe. But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish–spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay.”

Vigilance against those who cloak themselves in the name of righteousness to discriminate against and persecute others. Is that not the same thing we claim to be fighting the Islamic extremists of ISIL, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and others who in the name of their understanding of righteous do to those that they control?

I personally know too many Gays and Lesbians who have endured such perfection, including witch hunts under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and anti-gay policies that were once enshrined in military law. These men and women were honorable, and many legitimate heroes in combat.

Thus I will fight for the rights of Gay and Lesbians and the LGBT community, the right to enjoy all the privileges that I have as a married, heterosexual, career military officer and Christian. Likewise I will not hesitate to identify those who promote such discrimination.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under faith, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary

I Don’t Like Bullies: The Troubling Trend in Conservative Politics

I don’t like bullies. I didn’t like them as a child and I certainly don’t like them any better now.  Unfortunately the bullying that I address is not the simple schoolyard type, but a kind that has infected our politics and religion to such an extent that I fear the worst for our country.

Last night there was a most troubling moment during the Republican debate.  Fox news anchor Megan Kelly aired a video from a soldier inIraqasking what candidates would do regarding the recent repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.   What followed was shocking. First a number of people in the audience booed the soldier. Second, former Senator Rick Santorum answered Kelly’s question about DADT saying that he would reinstate the policy which he called “social experimentation” which was “detrimental” to gays and lesbians.

Sanorum also mischaracterized the repeal saying that that “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. The fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, and removing don’t ask don’t tell. I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing: to defend our country….”  The repeal didn’t give gays a special privilege but merely allows them to serve as others in the military do without fear of being thrown out if someone discovered that they were gay.

Santorum also showed his ignorance by ending his comments with this “sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.” Well that is the policy that was enacted, except we don’t throw people out because they are homosexual.  The military is built on discipline and professionalism, if heterosexual military personnel cannot do something the same applies to homosexuals. The policy actually makes the case that sexuality is not an issue. It was under DADT and it put honorable men and women that wanted to serve their country under a rule that no-one else in the military had to live with. That policy emphasized that they were different and made their sexual orientation the issue so that they could be prosecuted at any time should a person turn them in or they make any statement that they were gay.

The repeal was voted by congress and DADT has been found unconstitutional by a number of Federal Courts.  It was going to go away one way or another and the way it was done the military had a chance to get ready for it.  Because of this nothing changed on September 20th. The military still continues to do its job without any disruption, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen are being professional and perhaps the one shock will have is when they find out that men and women that they admire and that they have served in close quarters or in combat with are gay. They will adjust and realize that all the hyperbole put out by people like Santorum was politically and sometimes religiously motivated bigotry.  The same happened in 1948 when President Truman integrated the military. Military personnel adjusted over time and now compared to most of society the military stands as a beacon to the rest of the nation.

When Santorum finished his answer he was greeted with thunderous applause and not one candidate stopped during the debate to call out the people that launched the chorus of boos.  A few notably John Huntsman and a spokesman for Rick Perry commented after the debate about how “unfortunate” the incident was, later on Friday candidate Gary Johnson condemned the action. Unfortunately most of the other candidates by their silence showed that they either agreed with the hecklers or that they are too afraid of political retribution to speak out against such behavior.

I was told by a Christian friend whose opinion I value that he thought that I was over-reacting to the actions of a few people.  God how I wish it was just a few knuckleheads doing this.  However I have seen many bloggers and quite a few allegedly “conservative alternative media” sites and “Christian” ministries blasting the same message ever since Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen announced that the military was moving toward the repeal.

The fact that others in the crowd did not challenge the boo-birds and Santorum didn’t censure them was scary. Later Santorum said that he didn’t hear the people that booed but they were loud and I have a hard time believing him. In light of his many other statements on this subject.

Part of the problem is that I am a historian and my focus was on Weimar Germany and the Nazi era. I have studied that period since I was an undergraduate as well as in seminary and for my second Masters in Military History. I talk about this with my German friends and they see parallels to their history. It unnerves them to see it happening here.

The tactics being employed by these “few” are eerily reminiscent of what the Brownshirts did to their opponents. If I “over react” as my friend said it was because acts like this do breed discrimination and violence.  Those that take power after having used or tolerated such behavior from their followers tend to become tyrants and oppressors in their own right, especially religious people.  Simply look at history to see how badly these events turn out.

But this is bigger than the repeal of DADT and gays.  Last week in another debate, the same type of crowd people shouted “let them die” in relation to a debate question about an uninsured man.  The week at another Republican debate people cheered the use of the death penalty even in cases where reasonable doubt was obvious. And then Pat Robertson told a caller that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease was justified. It is about the lack of outcry from Christians or even the willing participation of Christians in brutal behavior. These are scary things and it is the totally of them that brings my reaction.  This has happened in other countries and I fear that we are going down the same path.

We have a great number of very angry people including many Evangelical Christians that feel that the left has marginalized and persecuted them.  To some extent there has been some of that.  But the answer cannot be found in vengeance.  From what I read on many “conservative” or “Christian” websites the issue is revenge.   The revenge is in that they intend to take over by the ballot and if need be by the bullet to “take dominion” over every arena of public life and rid us of those that do not agree with them or strip them of any influence in society.

The people in the “Dominionist” movement and those that preach the “7 Mountains Theology”  have said that they are intent on establishing a theocracy in this country and others. In their new society people that disagree with them are the enemy, not only of them but of God, even other Christians. Rick Joyner, one of the leaders of this movement and one of the players in Rick Perry’s “The Response” said: “On February 23rd of this year I was shown for the third time that the church was headed for a spiritual civil war … the definition of a complete victory in this war would be the complete overthrow of the accuser of the brethens’ strongholds in the church … this will in fact be one of the most cruel battles the church has ever faced. Like every civil war brother will turn against brother like we have never witnessed in the church before … this battle must be fought. It is an opportunity to drive the accuser out of the church and for the church then to come into unity that would otherwise be impossible … what is coming will be dark. At times Christians almost universally will be loath to even call themselves Christians. Believers and unbelievers alike will think it is the end of Christianity as we know it and it will be through this the very definition of Christianity will be changed for the better.”

Others of this theological bent advocate chilling police state type methods in dealing with opponents and those that dissent and justify themselves by say that they are “doing God’s work” or “ushering in the Kingdom.

So this is not just about the gays, it is about protecting the weak and those that dare to dissent from a party line. It is about the use of  Brownshirt type tactics to intimidate and silence opposition.  The combination of radial politics and radical religion never produces anything good.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi Prison:

“Radicalism always springs from a conscious or unconscious hatred of what is established. Christian radicalism, no matter whether it consists in withdrawing from the world or in improving the world, arises from the hatred of creation. The radical cannot forgive God his creation. He has fallen out with the created world, the Ivan Karamazov, who at the same time makes the figure of the radical Jesus in the image of the Grand Inquisitor. When evil becomes powerful in the world, it infects the Christian, too, with the poison of radicalism. It is Christ’s gift to the Christian that he should be reconciled with the world as it is, but now this reconciliation is accounted to be a betrayal and denial of Christ. It is replaced by bitterness, suspicion and contempt for men and the world. In place of the love that believes all and hopes all, in the place of the love which loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), there is now the pharisaical denial of love to evil, and the restriction of love to the closed circle of the devout. Instead of the open Church of Jesus Christ which serves the world till the end, there is now some allegedly primitive Christian ideal of a Church, which in its turn confuses the ideal of the living Jesus Christ with the realization of a Christian ideal. Thus a world which is evil succeeds in making the Christians become evil too. It is the same germ that disintegrates the world and that makes the Christians become radical. In both cases it is hatred towards the world, no matter whether the haters are the ungodly or the godly. On both sides it is a refusal of faith in the creation. But devils are not cast out through Beelzebub.” (Letters and Papers from Prison p.386)

It is time that we recognize this before it is too late because the train has left the station.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, History, laws and legislation, leadership, Military, Political Commentary, Religion

A Matter of Honor: Padre Steve Defends the Navy in Firing Captain Owen Honors

Captain Owen Honors

Note: I am a career Naval Officer with a further 17 ½ years service in the Army. I have served at sea, ashore, in combat and commanded an Army Medical Company during the Cold War. I have had the honor of serving with many fine Naval Officers as well as Marine and Army Officers as well as Navy Chief Petty Officers and Army and Marine Corps Senior Non-Commissioned Officers. I write this essay due to the numbers of people on Facebook and other sites defending the actions of Captain Honors. My comments and opinions are my own but I believe are in keeping with Naval Regulations concerning the treatment of sailors and the UCMJ and reflective of the Navy’s Core Values of Courage, Honor and Commitment.

Captain Owen Honors was on the fast track to becoming an Admiral. He had an accomplished career in Naval Aviation including command of the “Checkmates” of VF-211 and the Flagship of the 6th Fleet USS Mount Whitney which he commanded during the Russian invasion of the Republic of Georgia.  As an aviator he flew over 70 combat missions in three theaters. His downfall came as a result of his actions as the Executive officer of the ship that he was preparing to deploy the USS Enterprise CVN 65.

I am not going to regurgitate the story of his firing other than to say that his actions have created a mini-Tailhook scandal that will be with the Navy for the next 6 months to year. Captain Honors’ supporters on his Facebook support page have attributed his firing to “political correctness” and even linked it to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”  The excuses made by many of his supporters which include a number of men and women that served on Enterprise play down the significance of the videos, of which we have seen but a few edited versions.  The defenders of Captain Honors are for the most part very profane and vicious in their criticism of the Navy and launch some pretty raunchy and mean spirited attacks on those that defend the Navy or criticize the actions of Captain Honors.

Some in the alternative “conservative media” over at “Accuracy in Media” is all over this linking it to political correctness, don’t ask don’t tell or an intentional effort of the media plot to convict Captain Honors and disparage the Navy.  Of course they ignore the fact that they probably wouldn’t want their daughters to serve under such conditions.  In fact to me it looks like they are making this an issue because of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. These are the same people that criticize television shows such as Family Guy, Jersey Shore and other shows which supporters of Captain Honors have compared to his video productions.

However the videos are the tip of the iceberg. Captain Honors responded to critics in one of the videos calling them gutless. Reportedly there were people on the Enterprise that tried to warn the command about the videos that were brushed off.  This tells me that while he had many supporters that there were a fair number of people who were concerned but feared retribution if they reported the incidents to the chain of command, spoke up too loud or went outside the chain of command such as to the IG or their Congressmen.  From what I see Captain Honors showed a callous disregard for good order and discipline on the Enterprise and helped foster a climate in which those that had been sexually harassed discriminated against or were offended by the videos for whatever reason did not feel safe in approaching him.  The Executive Officer of a Naval Ship has tremendous power. Most efficiency reports are routed through him before they get to the Captain and all disciplinary cases go through him before they go the Commanding Officer and in most of those matters he can either dismiss charges or refer them to the C.O. for adjudication at Captain’s Mast. In effect almost everything on the ship stovepipes with the XO who along with the Command Master Chief are the men that set the tone for morale on such a large ship where much of the crew, unlike the crews of Cruisers and Destroyers have little contact with the Captain. Believe me as someone who served under excellent CO’s and XO’s at sea and ashore Captain Honors and behavior in “producing” these videos was poor leadership. While many may have found them humorous the XO’s job is not to produce videos but to set an example for all his sailors.  Since almost all ships have satellite television or TVDTS (TV Direct to Sailors) as well as internet access, educational programs, religious programs and a host of Morale Welfare and Support activities to cater to a wide variety of interests I have a hard time with the excuses made for his actions by his defenders.  The ship’s internal television or SITE TV is used on most ships for either movies or public service type announcements; it seems to me that Captain Honors abused that system as well as the sailors that maintain it.  Those on the Facebook page and other sites that claim that the videos were “necessary” to relieve tension from the deployment are either very misinformed or don’t really think much of other people. Add to the fact that liberty during port-calls is another “stress reliever” leads me to believe that the videos were made not for stress relief of the crew but for that of Captain Honors.

Men and women selected as XO’s and CO’s of ships are hand-picked and attend XO and CO courses before they assume the job. In those courses they get the policy of what is and is not tolerated. These are not stupid people, they understand the rules and the fact that Captain Honors produced and showed these and continued to produce and show them after somebody complained to him demonstrates to me that he believed that he was above the law.  Yet his supporters act like this is no big deal. I wonder if the supporters had a child, especially a daughter serving in such an environment if they would be so protective of such a commander.

The Navy’s investigation is just beginning and it will be painstaking thorough.  I am sure that a sizable number of people that knew about these videos and did nothing despite complaints of some crew members from the senior leadership of the ship to the Carrier Group Staff and Air Wing Staff will investigated.  Likewise the Navy will investigate the climate of command during that time period and will look a military discipline, equal opportunity complaints, sexual harassment and assaults, rates of suicide attempts and gestures and a host of other indicators of the climate of command on Enterprise when Captain Honors was the Executive Officer.

This will be somewhat like Tailhook or the Army’s Aberdeen scandal. It will not be pretty; careers will end because leaders failed to do the right thing when this occurred. What is it that they say; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Had leaders acted when this occurred then there would be no scandal now. Because of the actions of Captain Owen and his enablers the Navy and all of us that serve have to endure the aftermath.

Captain Honors’ actions may have been blatantly wrong but those that knew on the closed community of the Enterprise on deployment and had the power to put an end to it then are even more responsible. Captain Honors was the Executive Officer which means that the Commanding Officer as well as the embarked Carrier Group staff should have shut this down to protect the life and career of a promising officer.  They are just as responsible and I am sure that when the investigation is completed that all who could have stopped this will be disciplined. This is not political corrected gone mad it is how military professionals conduct matters of honor.  Navy Officers are held to a higher standard, the lives of our sailors depend on that and the country counts on it.  When we fail we betray the trust of our sailors, their families and the country. To quote Admiral James Harvey of Fleet Forces Command:

“It is fact that as naval officers we are held to a higher standard. Those in command must exemplify the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment which we expect our Sailors to follow. Our leaders must be above reproach and our Sailors deserve nothing less,”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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