In 2010, the lame-duck Congress repealed the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring gays from serving openly in the military, a fight that galvanized religious lobbyists on both sides of this volatile issue and a battle that mirrored the gay marriage debate in the wider society.
The policy, which often goes by the acronym DADT, was adopted under the Clinton administration in 1994, but it became under increasing scrutiny as the public clearly indicated it supported allowing homosexuals to serve openly.
White evangelicals were the lone and notable exception. A Nov. 29, 2010, survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life showed that 58 percent of Americans say they favor allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces while just 27 percent oppose a repeal of DADT.
Some religious groups, like Catholics and mainline Protestants, were even more supportive of repeal than the general public.
But nearly half (48 percent) of white evangelical Protestants opposed letting gays serve openly in the military and just 34 percent supported that idea. Experts said it’s also important to note that conservative Christians comprise a disproportionately large number of servicemen and women, and the issue has become especially freighted for military chaplains.
The year following the repeal of DADT was critical as the Pentagon developed policies for an orderly transition. Issues surrounding chaplains and religious freedom were closely-watched and debated.
Read a Dec. 6, 2010, CNN story, “Military chaplains debate their role without ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ “
Read a Religion News Service story, “Military Chaplains Voice ‘Intense’ Views on Gay Ban,” posted Dec. 3, 2010, at the website of Christianity Today.
Read “Pentagon ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ report: Chaplains’ views on gays strong, varied,” a Dec. 1, 2010, article at The Washington Post.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Roman Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services USA, wrote a Dec. 1, 2010, column at the “On Faith” blog of The Washington Post opposing the repeal of DADT.
A Dec. 1, 2010, post at the blog of First Things argued that DADT should not be repealed because doing so would open the door to the acceptance of other gay rights in the rest of society.
Read “DADT and the Chaplains,” a Nov. 30, 2010, blog post by Mark Silk, director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life and professor of religion in public life at Trinity College. Silk argues that chaplains have no standing on religious grounds to object to gays serving openly in the military.
Read a Sept. 20, 2012, study from the Palm Center that shows that the repeal of DADT didn’t negatively affect the military. The study was published one year after the repeal.