Christian leader rejected for supporting “don’t ask, don’t tell”

By William Wan U.S. military officials rescinded their invitation to prominent conservative Christian leader Tony Perkins to speak at prayer … Continued

By William Wan

U.S. military officials rescinded their invitation to prominent conservative Christian leader Tony Perkins to speak at prayer luncheon Thursday at Andrews Air Force Base because of Perkins’s outspoken views on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality.

Perkins and other conservatives say the action sends a dangerous message and could have a chilling effect on ministers and military chaplains.

The brouhaha was first reported Wednesday by CBN. The prayer luncheon was scheduled for Thursday at Andrews Air Force Base. Perkins — a Marine veteran and ordained minister — has been on the invitation list since October. According to a letter sent to Perkins at his office at the conservative Family Research Council by Chaplain Lt. Col. Gary J. Bertsch, the military saw statements on FCC’s Web site advocating for keeping the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“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,” Bertsch said in the letter, referring to Obama’s promise to repeal the policy.

In response, Perkins issued this statement:

“I am very concerned, however, that this merely foreshadows the serious threat to religious liberty that would result from repeal of the current military eligibility law. Such legislation would not merely open the military to homosexuals. It would result in a zero-tolerance policy toward those who disapprove of homosexual conduct.

“Military chaplains would bear the heaviest burden. Would their sermons be censored to prevent them from preaching on biblical passages which describe homosexual conduct as a sin? Would they remain free to counsel soldiers troubled by same-sex attractions about the spiritual and psychological resources available to overcome those attractions?”

“Military chaplains would bear the heaviest burden. Would their sermons be censored to prevent them from preaching on biblical passages which describe homosexual conduct as a sin? Would they remain free to counsel soldiers troubled by same-sex attractions about the spiritual and psychological resources available to overcome those attractions?”

Bill Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, also chimed in this morning: “There are legitimate reasons to accept and reject the current policy regarding gays in the military. No one, therefore, should be censored from speaking at any private or public forum–much less a military instillation–because of his or her views on this subject. While the most immediate issue is the blacklisting of Perkins, the larger issue is the “chilling effect” this decision will have on the free speech and religious liberty rights of all those who serve in the military, especially clergymen.”

An Andrews Air Force spokesman said officials there are preparing a statement to send out this afternoon in response.

Update: Andrews Air Force Base just issued this statement in response, “The Chaplain’s Office retracted Mr. Perkins’ invitation after his recent public comments made many who planned to attend the event uncomfortable. This was a local decision made by the Chaplain’s Office who wanted the luncheon to be inclusive for the entire base community. The Chaplain’s Office respects and defends Mr. Perkins right to express his opinions, and regrets any inconvenience to him. We thank and respect him for his prior military service.”

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  • dodnavy74

    Military leaders are sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, NOT elected officials. For the last 3 decades that distinction has been forgotten as more and more senior military officers embrace political correctness rather than military leadership.

  • chared1

    I commend the military officials who rescinded this idiot’s invitation to speak, but to focus on this detail is to ignore the elephant in the room. Why should Andrews (or any other military installation be having a “prayer” breakfast anyway. Get religion out of our political and military institutions!

  • slowe111

    What concerns and shocks me about this story is that there is such a thing as a ” prayer luncheon Thursday at Andrews Air Force Base “

  • C11K

    Supporting the constitutional free exercise of religion and spiritual wellness of all military members is a delicate balancing act. The National Prayer Luncheon is a voluntary interfaith event with the goal of fostering unity in prayer for our nation and world (promoting both free exercise and spiritual wellness). It is not a worship service where a particular religion’s doctrine or morality should be preached–for which there are separate voluntary worship venues. If the chaplain at Andrews AFB had a legitimate concern (even at the 11th hour) that a doctrine or morality would be advanced by the speaker, either directly or by association, then canceling the speaker was the chaplain’s unfortunate duty. Regarding Perkins’ comments about chaplains being censored… This comment is unfounded and easily elicits a knee-jerk fear reaction (such as, “What? How dare they take away my religious freedom, speech, etc.!!”). But, chaplains have always been allowed to be true to their God and faith in the pulpit during faith-based worship services they lead (versus the pluralistic setting of an interfaith prayer luncheon). The exception is that chaplains are not to use the pulpit to oppose specific legislation or policies. This is the same rule civilian churches must follow in order to remain tax exempt. Consequently, chaplains are free to address doctrine and morality of homosexuality in their sermons as it relates to their religious traditions (this is religious freedom, after all); but they should not speak overtly against the President’s policies (such as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”), potential or existing legislation, etc. There is no need to make such overt connections anyway, as people who worship in military chapels are intelligent enough to make the connection on their own. Moreover, Perkins’ fear of a slippery slope resulting in a zero-tolerance policy toward those who disapprove of homosexual conduct is also unfounded. Has such a zero-tolerance policy materialized for those who disapprove of drinking alcohol or premarital sex? Both are very prevalent in the military (and civilian culture, too), and chaplains are unquestionably free to preach about those topics in chapel services.

  • C11K

    Supporting the constitutional free exercise of religion and spiritual wellness of all military members is a delicate balancing act. The National Prayer Luncheon is a voluntary interfaith event with the goal of fostering unity in prayer for our nation and world (promoting both free exercise and spiritual wellness). It is not a worship service where a particular religion’s doctrine or morality should be preached–for which there are separate voluntary worship venues. If the chaplain at Andrews AFB had a legitimate concern (even at the 11th hour) that a doctrine or morality would be advanced by the speaker, either directly or by association, then canceling the speaker was the chaplain’s unfortunate duty. Regarding Perkins’ comments about chaplains being censored… This comment is unfounded and easily elicits a knee-jerk fear reaction (such as, “What? How dare they take away my religious freedom, speech, etc.!!”). But, chaplains have always been allowed to be true to their God and faith in the pulpit during faith-based worship services they lead (versus the pluralistic setting of an interfaith prayer luncheon). The exception is that chaplains are not to use the pulpit to oppose specific legislation or policies. This is the same rule civilian churches must follow in order to remain tax exempt. Consequently, chaplains are free to address doctrine and morality of homosexuality in their sermons as it relates to their religious traditions (this is religious freedom, after all); but they should not speak overtly against the President’s policies (such as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”), potential or existing legislation, etc. There is no need to make such overt connections anyway, as people who worship in military chapels are intelligent enough to make the connection on their own. Moreover, Perkins’ fear of a slippery slope resulting in a zero-tolerance policy toward those who disapprove of homosexual conduct is also unfounded. Has such a zero-tolerance policy materialized for those who disapprove of drinking alcohol or premarital sex? Both are very prevalent in the military (and civilian culture, too), and chaplains are unquestionably free to preach about those topics in chapel services.