On the last day of the PCA GA, the Assembly approved a motion to send a letter of petition to the President and other civil and military leaders regarding the possible repeal of the law regarding homosexuality in the military.
Often couched in terms of a repeal of the policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell, “ the Assembly was advised that it is the current military Title X law (“Homosexuality is incompatible with military service”) that is the actual focus of any repeal proposals.
Mission to North America reported that the input was requested by the government on the matter. The Pentagon Comprehensive Review Working Group, through the military Services’ Chiefs of Chaplains and the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, actually sought ecclesiastical advice from the faith groups represented in the military. As the PCA’s chaplain endorser, I had the privilege to place this motion on the floor. In doing so, I noted that this kind of request is unprecedented in his 30+ years of military service.
A PCA active duty chaplain emailed me just before the vote:
“Please let the Fathers/Brothers know that in terms of the spiritual warfare that Paul writes of in Eph 6 that their chaplains are in a strong battle already. We are watching GA today and praying for their reinforcement of righteousness so that we can stand firm in our ministry despite current attacks on religious liberty. GA can reinforce us in that fight today or they can leave us surrounded…today is the day the PCA can stand together for the sake of the Gospel!”
The chaplain was encouraged by the Assembly’s vote and appreciated the fresh statement of PCA support!
The action motion was a substitute for the original motion and was reworked by the Committee of Commissioners on MNA:
With reference to MNA committee recommendations 9, 11, 12, 15 & 18 to answer overtures 12, 17 and 22 in the affirmative by approving the request of the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJCCMP): to direct the Stated Clerk to humbly petition with the following letter The Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service Chiefs and the President of the United States in his capacity as Commander in Chief, with copies to General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Army Forces and Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson for the protection and meaningful continuance of the free exercise of religion within the Armed Forces of the United States.
To: General or Honorable XXXXX
From: The Presbyterian Church in America
Subject: Possible repeal of the current law regarding homosexual individuals in the military
1. Concern: The PCA is gravely concerned over the potential repeal of the current law governing homosexual individuals in the military. Should this repeal occur we fear that the free exercise of the faith of our chaplains will be jeopardized. This repeal may go so far as to force the resignation of our currently serving chaplains from the military as well as the service of military members from this denomination.
2. Consequences: This potential change increases the likelihood of the following:
Chaplains may be open to the charge of discrimination or command reprimand when they preach or teach in accordance with the passages in the Bible which directly speak to the sin of homosexual practice.
Bibles in military chapels and on military bases may be under the threat of excision of all passages which speak very directly to the sin of homosexual practice. Whether it will be under the guise of ‘hate speech’ or speech contrary to the policy of the Department of Defense, the effort may be made soon after the removal of the law.
Marriage retreats conducted by chaplains intended to strengthen marriage may have to include homosexual couples which will violate chaplains’ faith tenets and negatively impact the voluntary participation of married heterosexual couples.
Homosexual couples may seek union ceremonies or marriages, which are in violation of the beliefs and ordination vows of a large percentage of military chaplains, not just those from this denomination. Refusal may invite the charge of discrimination and command reprimand.
The ‘free exercise’ and free speech rights of chaplains and military members may be abrogated as Equal Opportunity policies, ‘hate speech’ laws, or other legalities trump the First Amendment.
3. Appeal: For the above and many other reasons affecting chaplains and military members in the ranks we humbly recommend that you consider the ramifications for religious freedom that legislation in this regard may have. It is of utmost importance that you take all necessary measures to insure that our chaplains are free, without censure, to preach, teach, and practice in accordance with the beliefs of this denomination. We plead for this for the good of the nation, for the good of the chaplains who serve the nation on behalf of their church, for the good of the military members from this church who serve in our armed services, and for the protection of the constitutional principle of the free exercise of religion.
Douglas E. Lee, Chaplain (Brigadier General) USA (Ret), Executive Director, PRJC