Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Tony Perkins of FRC on CNN: DADT Is A Religious Issue

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 02, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: CNN, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Family Research Council, First Amendment, Tony Perkins

On CNN's Belief Blog yesterday, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council made a very strong pitch for the idea that homosexuality in the military is a religious issue. stupid religion.jpg

He says that allowing gay soldiers to serve openly would infringe religious freedom.

Those most likely to suffer are military chaplains....Their ministry is to proclaim the moral and theological teachings of their faith....This may result in a chaplain corps that has plenty of Unitarian ministers and homosexual Episcopal priests, but a shortage of clergy to minister to the largest religious groups in America....

But if DADT is a religious issue, doesn't the US government have an obligation under the First Amendment to take a neutral stance towards it?

His argument against DADT repeal is as illogical and unsupported as it was when he aimed it against ENDA.

What Perkins doesn't seem to understand is that religious freedom cuts both ways.

The US government cannot make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or impeding the free exercise of religion.

Just as they can't require soldiers to keep kosher laws or go to a church, even the church of their choice, they shouldn't be able to require them to follow biblically-sanctioned sexual mores, like polygamy or marrying your brother-in-law if your husband dies. They can, for non-religious reasons, require them to keep in shape, not do drugs, or abstain from sex with other service personnel.

But when Tony Perkins insists that his religion requires him, and military chaplains of his persuasion, to preach against religious beliefs of Unitarians and Episcopalians, and that refraining from harassment of military personnel who don't follow his religion is a violation of his religious freedom, that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

I understand that the military needs to have religious chaplains. The military is a career for many, and given the fact that serving in the military means that one is effectively living in a military camp, the familiar trappings of normal life need to be reproduced for its citizens. They need to have stores and movies and gyms...and religious life.

That doesn't mean that military chaplains can foment sedition, or commit treason, or preach violence. I mean, a military chaplain is perfectly within his or her rights to believe in the rightness of slavery of African-Americans because they are the cursed sons of Ham (Genesis 9:20-27), or whatever. But that doesn't mean African-Americans should be required to serve in segregated military units because integration might infringe somebody's religious freedom based on their idea of Biblical principles.

Perkins also rails about made-up sensitivity training, which exists nowhere but in his own fevered imagination, that would "indoctrinate" troops, and require them to believe that people are born gay and cannot change and that homosexual conduct does no harm. But he offers no proof of that, other than the irrelevant fact that after he unleashed on the Commander in Chief for supporting DADT repeal and "the radical homosexual social agenda", he was disinvited to a prayer breakfast at local base.

The military officer who disinvited him noted that military protocol does not call for criticism of the Commander-in-Chief. "As military members we are sworn to support our Commander in Chief, and are forbidden to make or support statements which run counter to our roles as members of the armed forces."

Perkins decided that military allegiance to the Commander-in-Chief is a violation of religious freedom. "People don't understand that in the military there is a chain of command, and you have to follow orders. You're not free to disagree." Actually, I think people do understand that. It seems to be Perkins who doesn't understand that. He's free under the First Amendment to call the Commander-in-Chief a dirty so-and-so, but that doesn't mean he deserves to be invited to a pancake breakfast at the local VFW, let alone a prayer breakfast Andrews Air Force Base.

Perkins seems to have no idea what "sensitivity training" is. "Sensitivity training" is exactly that - giving people tools to be sensitive to people around them of different identities. Here's what the Encylopedia Britannica says about sensitivity training:

A psychological technique in which intensive group discussion and interaction are used to increase individual awareness of self and others...The group is usually small and unstructured and chooses its own goals. A trained leader is generally present to help maintain a psychologically safe atmosphere in which participants feel free to express themselves and experiment with new ways of dealing with others. The leader remains as much as possible outside the discussion. Issues are raised by the group members.

Sensitivity training isn't about bludgeoning people into agreement about diversity. It's about giving them a chance to practice interacting with others so they don't cause an international incident. It may have been okay in his hometown for a recruit from Texas to routinely call African-American men "boy", women "bitch" and gay people "faggots." He or she needs to know some other way to interact, and that's what sensitivity training is designed to provide.

Yes, there have been cases of poorly-designed sensitivity trainings run by unqualified people gone awry, but that doesn't justify an assumption that the military is going to demand fealty to any particular beliefs about homosexuality.

His argument that failure to make the law of the land follow his version of the Bible is a violation of religious freedom is logically deficient, legally untenable, deserving of ridicule, and should not have appeared on CNN.

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So what do you say about Lt. Choi, who along with Zoe Nicholson, a Ghandi-ist, is involved in a fasting for equality action against DADT?

Would you agree that they've made this into a religious issue and that their actions are equally illogical and unsupported?

Are you really suggesting that because 1) Choi and Nicholson are fasting and 2) Ghandi fasted, that the formers' actions are automatically religious in nature?

Ignoring the fact that there is no such thing as Ghandi-ism (Gandhi was a Hindu), conflating the two is silly. I like fish. Jesus liked fish. However, I am neither a Jesus-ist nor a Christian.

But Choi and others did hold a prayer day for repeal of DADT on Monday.

I should add: Not that that changes anything, since there's a difference between "My religion gives me the strength needed to advocate for my beliefs" and "The government must make everyone follow my religion's rules."

Short answer: Yes.

Zoe Nicholson, a Buddhist who believes in the spirit of truth and empowered by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance,said principles by Ghandi, King, and Bayard Rustin is the person who put this action into play, against the wishes of many activists, including, ironically GetEqual.

Perkins has made an outlandish claim that forcing people to accept something that they don't like is an infringement on their religious freedoms. You seem to be trying to discredit his detractors by suggesting that Nicholson's very secular position is somehow religious in nature as well.

It's disingenuous and does not further the discussion.

I haven't followed Dan Choi's fast, Nelson, so I don't know whether he's made it into a religious issue.

Tony Perkins is full of shit and as a former Marine, he should know better. Military Chaplains, while they do differentiate based on particular faith and offer sermons tailored to that faith, still have an obligation and are trained to minister to those of other faiths. Even atheists. Their function in the military is not solely religious, though it is primary. What does he say about Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist/Atheist people? Are we infringing upon a Catholic chaplain's right to minister? Further, my atheism is just as much a qualifier for a infinitely long fire-bath as being gay - yet somehow a chaplain can deal with me and not a gay person?

Horseshit - and the people advancing this argument know it.

As to "sensitivity training," what it is more commonly known as is EO = Equal Opportunity training. Basically all it says is, "Don't be a fucking asshole because of someone's race/gender/etc" and that it is unlawful to use those characteristics to harm a person or their career. Nothing about how a person got to be the way they are.

Tony Perkins is, as usual, lying through his teeth. Thank goodness he's no longer a Marine. We don't need people like him in any of the services.

Baptist military chaplains are trained to minister to those of other faiths, Fu? But aren't all of those other religions wrong? Isn't this an infringement of religious freedom in Perkins-world?

Sensitivity training would actually be a great idea, but unfortunately it's not in the DADT compromise. Maybe the Pentagon will initiate it on its own. Who knows.

And military chaplains in specific would benefit. That line of work is filled with homophobes. They have a right to believe whatever they want, of course, but they don't have a right to say whatever on the government's dime. I wonder what would happen if a military chaplain did preach about reinstating slavery based on the Bible. Something tells me the military would ask that person to get another job.

They serve an important function on base - they're the only people who give personal advice to soldiers without having to report them or keep any records on who visited them. Why not get the most tolerant people in that position instead of someone who'll tell LGB soldiers to lie to everyone?

You want the most tolerant people in military chaplain positions, Alex? I don't think religion and tolerance go together in Perkins-world.

I thought we already had them there. At lest my experience with chaplains has always been their tolerance is an example to everyone they deal with. Tony Perkins has insulted the men and women serving as chaplains with his outlandish claims. Why didn't someone in the military leadership or congress basically 'bitch' slap (verbally not physically) him anyway?

OMG...after Tailhook hit the TV and made a national splash it wasn't even 3 days and we were being given 2 days worth of training on the issues. (the arguments on 'it takes time to dsimantle DADT' and then they talk about months and years is pure BS)
Anyone who's done military time should know that going to church is really a privilege and while a right the work of the military has to get done and if your in your working! Pray for forgiveness while you work and hope God similes on your labors.
Other than that, he's full of shit. Why does CNN bother letting him post crap?

A whole two days of training on how not to harass female soldiers, Gina? But don't you know that Eve was taken from the rib of Adam and she's his helpmate? Help a mate out, willya, Eve? I'm sure Tony Perkins would also decry this infringement on the religious freedom of our soldiers to use women for their intended Biblical purpose.