Even Post-DADT, Military May Get “License to Bully” LGB Servicemembers Because “Religious Freedom”

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(Note: I use the term “LGB rights’ as a way of noting that the US military, even post-DADT, still maintains a ban on transgender service members)

On June 5th Representative John Fleming (R-LA), member of the Committee on Armed Services, introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which would require the military not only to protect religious beliefs, but also “speech and actions.” What speech? What actions? This amendment could allow hate speech and proselytizing so long as it was theoretically backed up with some religious belief. It is also unclear if such an amendment would allow out and out religious discrimination on the part of commanders.

People in the military are perfectly capable of getting along even in fantastically stressful situations despite holding very different beliefs. When I served in the military, I worked for commanders with exceptionally different religious beliefs than I held. I am a lefty queer Episcopalian. In the Army I served under conservative Southern Baptist and conservative Catholic officers. It all worked out because we showed each other professional respect and stayed focused on the mission instead of our personal lives.

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Rep. Fleming’s amendment is an effort to get rid of that professional respect, to say that military members are not professionals working together to accomplish challenging missions but are rather… well, it’s unclear. Children in a boarding school maybe? Adolescents in need of spiritual formation? It is hard to imagine.

Allyson Robinson, an Army vet and the executive director of OutServe-SLDN explained:

“This amendment is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to sabotage the climate of inclusion and respect for all that our Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense have called for in our military, and would create a license to bully, harass, and discriminate against service members based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any number of other characteristics.”

This amendment isn’t a sign that that Fleming is a wild champion of religious freedom for religious freedom’s sake. On the same day that Fleming was introducing his religious speech and action protections, he was fighting against full representation of soldier’s beliefs in the Chaplain Corps. After Rep Rob Andrews (D-NJ) introduced an amendment that would allow Humanist chaplains to join the Chaplain Corps, Fleming made this statement:

“This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy. The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.’”

In June of 2012 Fleming had this to say about a chaplain who, in accordance with his faith’s beliefs and practices, officiated a wedding between an enlisted woman and her partner in Ft Polk base chapel.

“The liberal social experiment with our military continues. A same-sex marriage-like ceremony should not have occurred at Fort Polk, especially since the people of Louisiana have made it abundantly clear that our state does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. My frustration is compounded by the fact that a social agenda, which has nothing to do with military readiness or our national defense, is being imposed on our men and women in uniform. The repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ made incidents like this inevitable, and makes the case for the Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives in passing legislation that prevents military facilities from being used for same-sex marriages or marriage-like ceremonies.”

For Rep John Fleming, there is nothing more important than religious freedom, that is unless you are an Atheist or a supporter of GLB rights. For Atheists, LGB service members and allies, Rep Fleming seems to want careful legislative control of belief and action.

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Vivian Taylor is a writer, activist, avid Sung Compline promoter, and proud (if occasionally troubled) North Carolinian currently living in Boston, MA. She served in the War in Iraq from 2009-2010 and is currently running several statewide LGBT Q rights campaigns in places like Ohio, Oregon, and others. She writes about her experiences in war, being a peacenik veteran and being a transgender Christian.

Vivian has written 3 articles for us.

5 Comments

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    I honestly don’t understand the thought process behind, “My frustration is compounded by the fact that a social agenda, which has nothing to do with military readiness or our national defense, is being imposed on our men and women in uniform.” Can some one enlighten me how homosexuality is imposed on heterosexuals?

    I would also like to point out that this quote makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t include homosexuals in the men and women in uniform category. How can you be on the Committee on Armed Services and not represent all of the armed servers?

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    As it has been almost 20 years since I left the military, there have been some monster of changes all the way around. I only know how it was in the early 90′s and nothing about the what is happening after we did away with DADT, I have nothing to compare that with.

    However there will always be commanders who enforce stupid personal rules which affect one’s personal morality. Just as i found senior Mental Health staff who know nothing of Gender Identity Disorder (term of my time); nor of how to address or treat; today’s military members will find Chaplains on both sides of the fence in this matter. It is up to them to dig those up.

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    It’s completely absurd that this…Fleming can say with a straight face that allowing military personnel the “religious freedom” to willfully treat anyone they feel is LGB like second class citizens will do anything but lower morale and encourage less cohesion among troops. I seriously can’t stand ignorant people with nothing better to do. Even worse, ignorant people who have no business having any power, like this one.

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