Q: Top U.S. defense officials say they will repeal the decades-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which requires gay soldiers to keep their sexual orientation secret. Homosexuality is often cast as a religious issue. Should religious views of homosexuality be a factor in such military decisions? Should the U.S. military repeal its ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy?
The need to end our military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy isn’t a matter of personal belief – religious or otherwise. It is a matter of basic integrity. Admiral Mike Mullen summed it up best in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week:
“No matter how I look at the issue,” Admiral Mullen said, “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”
Honesty — that is, telling the truth, not lying and not being forced to lie — is not only the most basic aspect of integrity; it is among the core values the military pledges to uphold. So it undermines their very mission to require silence about a significant aspect of a person’s life which is, in effect, to lie.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” then ripples out to friends who have to choose between loyalty to a comrade in arms or to a rule demanding a betrayal. This tears at the fabric of mutual support upon which military effectiveness is built.
Further, the prejudice against GLBT servicemen and women rests upon another lie: that being gay has any impact at all on effectiveness in serving one’s country. Senator John McCain, himself a veteran, acknowledges this falsehood when he says that gay soldiers have served admirably and he honors their sacrifice.
Finally, Admiral Mullen said that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” is matter of integrity for both the individual and the institution. He was so right — not only for the military, but for our nation. Our Constitution guarantees that our government will not make decisions based on religious views. As an arm of our government, the military must protect the integrity of our Constitution.
Since the days of our founding fathers, the United States has been committed to religious tolerance: a commitment that means we do not judge our fellow Americans based on our own religion. Keeping that promise is a matter of our nation’s integrity, no matter what your religion.