In its amicus brief in U.S. v. Windsor, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (“CARL”) makes several disingenuous arguments as to why repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) would undermine religious liberty in the armed forces. Below is a summary of CARL’s four main arguments, with the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy’s rebuttal:
1. Repeal of DOMA would force service members and chaplains to choose between serving God or country, and marginalize those in faith groups that support traditional marriage.
Those opposing marriage equality are not more marginalized than those who opposed gays serving openly, those who opposed blacks being integrated, or those opposed to interracial marriage by service members. There is no Hobbsian choice between serving God or country – service members harboring beliefs solely supporting “traditional marriage” are free to marry those of the opposite gender, and abide by all their “traditions” that their marriage vows embrace.
2. Service members who hold traditional religious beliefs on marriage and family will face, for the first time, military policies and duties that are sharply hostile to their beliefs.
Service members are free to believe what they want, but they must serve amicably with those who live according to principles that conflict with the views of their particular religion. There is nothing unprecedented about this dynamic – the identical circumstances existed for those who harbored religiously based segregation beliefs when blacks were integrated into the military, for those who opposed interracial marriage, and – most recently – for those who opposed serving with openly LGB service members.
3. Military policy would directly conflict with a chaplain’s responsibility to provide the fully spectrum of religious counsel.
This is nonsense. Chaplains often are faced with service members having different religious beliefs, and they are duty bound to find another chaplain or clergy who can serve that service member’s beliefs. Moreover, chaplains are free to preach to their flock whatever they want – this will not change if DOMA is overturned.
4. Overturning DOMA would sweep aside the carefully calibrated efforts to balance religious liberty with competing interests – codified in recent legislation upholding chaplains’ freedom of conscience – thereby intruding into the lives and convictions of religious service members.
Again, this is nonsense. Allowing LGB service members to marry will not affect this legislation that allows chaplains and service members to believe whatever their religious convictions dictate. On the contrary, overturning DOMA would enable those whose beliefs embrace marriage equality to live in accordance with their religious convictions.
In essence, CARL contends that freedom of religion only applies to their conservative theology. The thrust of its arguments is nothing more than an attempt to impose their religious beliefs on others, infringing the rights of those following a different theology or moral code. Freedom of religion is not absolute – it cannot extend so far as to trample upon another’s freedom of religion and that is precisely what CARL is asking the Supreme Court to do.
Jeff Hersh, Esq.