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Repeal of “Don’t Ask” Has Led to No Exodus of Military Chaplains

When Obama repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy last year, critics charged that the move would restrict the freedom of military chaplains and lead to an exodus of clergy from the armed forces. (Much like, say, the thousands of gay servicemen and women who voluntarily or involuntarily left as a result of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy itself.)

Instead, as the AP reported this week, the end of the 17-year ban seems to have caused zero problems. In a chaplaincy corps dominated by Southern Baptists, Catholics, and other theologically-conservative traditions, only a handful of chaplains have resigned for reasons that may or may not have been related to the repeal.

As for the religious freedom of chaplains, even some early critics of the repeal have to admit that there have so far been no serious problems infringing the freedoms or consciences of clergy.

The Catholic official who oversees those [220 Catholic] chaplains, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, had vehemently opposed repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and issued a statement after repeal conveying ongoing concerns “in this difficult time.”

"'This archdiocese remains resolved in the belief that no Catholic chaplain will ever be compelled to condone—even silently—homosexual behavior,' he said then.
However, Broglio said he was unaware of any major repeal-related problems that had arisen for his chaplains during the first nine months of the new era."

Like other conservative opponents of the repeal, Broglio expresses concern that problems might still arise in the future, focusing on hypothetical worries such as whether a chaplain might be asked not to preach about his belief that homosexuality is a sin or whether Southern Baptist chaplains—who make up the largest single contingent—will be penalized and refused promotions.

In the here and now, however, even some Southern Baptist chaplains feel comfortable enough to help support civil union ceremonies. The AP story describes Col. Timothy Wagoner, a Southern Baptist and an Air Force chaplain, attending a civil union ceremony officiated by one of his colleagues.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Wagoner said at the McGuire Air Force Base chapel, days later. “I don’t feel I’m compromising my beliefs … I’m supporting the community.” …
“As a Southern Baptist, why was I here? I was here to lend support,” Wagoner said. “I was here supporting Airman Umali. I’ve worked with him. He’s a comrade in arms.”