By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS) More than 40 retired military chaplains warned President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that allowing gays to serve openly in the military will force current chaplains to choose between obeying God or men.
"This forced choice must be faced, since orthodox Christianity -- which represents a significant percentage of religious belief in the armed forces -- does not affirm homosexual behavior," the chaplains wrote in their Wednesday (April 28) letter.
The retired chaplains -- affiliated with denominations including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention -- said the change could force chaplains to water down their teachings, or force them to preach or counsel views that conflict with official military policies.
In February, Gates said the Pentagon would spend a year studying the ramifications of repealing the 17-year-old Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy.
The letter was spearheaded by the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defense Fund. ADF lawyers sent a letter with similar concerns to Obama and Gates in February.
Also on Wednesday, the executive director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers asked members to contact the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, which is seeking information from chaplains groups about how the repeal of the policy would affect chaplains.
The Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, criticized the retired chaplains' letter, saying it is "fraught with illogical reasoning" about issues such as counseling.
"By this logic, we also should ban all service members whose gambling habits, treatment of spouses, and views on abortion, politics or the economy are not in line with those of the chaplains," he said.
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