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Tom Carpenter
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Tom Carpenter is a former Marine, an A-4M and airline pilot, attorney, consultant and blogger. He served on the SLDN board for 16 years and was co-chair for 6 years. He is presently co-chair of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy. Tom lives in Los Angeles with his husband of 20 years, Art.

Entries by Tom Carpenter

Religious Accommodation -- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

(2) Comments | Posted November 25, 2014 | 3:00 PM


Fireworks at the Hearing- Representative Forbes(R-VA) vs. Mikey Weinstein Executive Director of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Anyone who has ever watched a Congressional hearing knows it is a set up. The majority runs the show. They select the majority of witnesses for any given panel. The outcome is preordained. Just this last Wednesday, November 19, 2014, when the Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held its second hearing on Religious Accommodation in the Armed Services it was not just a set up, it was far more- the perfect ambush.

The five-person panel was made up of three ultra conservative Christians from the Liberty Institute, Family Research Counsel and the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty. They were "balanced" by a retired Jewish Navy Chaplain and Mikey Weinstein, also Jewish, from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The purported purpose of the hearing was to hear the views of nongovernmental parties about the recent changes in religious accommodation mandated by Congress. In the last two, must pass, National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA), Congress, at the behest of ultra conservative Christians, included provisions that expanded the rights of service members and chaplains to express their religious beliefs. On its face, the expansion of such a right would appear perfectly fine. But, part of what is really going on is an attempt by the ultra conservative Christians in Congress to allow chaplains to witness for Christ to all service members AT ALL TIMES, without fear of accountability.

If you watch the video of the hearing, you will notice that the only Democrat attending and asking questions was the subcommittee ranking member, Susan Davis (D-CA) (Jewish). Where were the rest of the Democrats? On the Republican side, there were not only the chair of the subcommittee, Joe Wilson (R-SC)(Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church),and fellow subcommittee member, Walter Jones (R-NC)(Roman Catholic but previously Southern Baptist), but also seven ultra conservative Christian members of Congress, not members of the subcommittee, who were permitted to question the witnesses. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Randy Forbes (R-VA), John Fleming (R-LA), and Doug Collins (R-GA) are all Southern Baptists. Vickie Hartzler (R-MO) is a member of the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. Doug Lanborn (R-CO) claims to be a nondenominational Christian and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) is a devout Roman Catholic. With these reinforcements the ambush was set.

The true goal of the chair was to establish that Christian evangelists, including chaplains, were having their religious expressions unjustly limited. This hearing was a set up to prove that, even with these new protections, Christians were being mistreated and oppressed. Congress would therefore be compelled, in the next annual NDAA, to provide unprecedented legal protections beyond those already the law.

This claim of persecution of Christians is not new. The Family Research Council and others have been making hyped up, often false, accusations for the past several years. Many of these claims of persecution have been debunked and completely discredited. In reality, it is ultra conservative Christians, and the evangelistic chaplains who share their strict partisan biblical opinions, who are unhappy with the cultural changes in the Military. The real elephant in the room at this hearing was the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"(DADT) law and the finding by the Supreme Court that portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were unconstitutional. Is it purely coincidental that the members of Congress participating in this hearing, as well as the conservative members of the panel, were some of the strongest obstructionists to the repeal of DADT and staunch supporters of DOMA?

What is happening to the Military is that the chaplaincy has been taken over by ultra conservative Christians who not only object to these cultural changes, but who see the armed services as a mission for Jesus. While they make up 18 percent of the Force, they have 63 percent of the chaplains. It is these chaplains who want unfettered access to be able to publically ostracize LGB service members, and also proselytize aggressively, without restriction. They are looking to their allies in Congress to aid and abet them.

As this charade of hearing was going on in DC, contrary to the testimony of several of the panelist that there was never proselytizing in the field, an evangelistic Christian chaplain was using a mandatory event to do just that. During a compulsory suicide prevention-training program at a Ranger Battalion in Georgia, this chaplain proclaimed " Invite Jesus into whatever you are feeling." Mandatory troop formations have never been appropriate venues for religious proselytizing of any kind, an axiom seasoned chaplains have always respected.

What these members of Congress don't seem to understand, or more likely don't care about, is that the military chaplaincy is different from ministry in the civilian world. As one chaplain endorser and member of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy recently stated:

Military chaplains exist first and foremost 'to perform or provide for the free exercise of religion.' There is a sacred institutional trust that chaplains must save their theology and creeds for formal worship services and/or private, client-invited pastoral counseling. Suicide prevention presentations and other mandatory presentations, ceremonies, and personnel formations are NOT the time to theologically opine and sermonize. Chaplains should and are mandated to be sensitive to the needs of A-L-L in their spiritual care and institutional responsibility -- and they are never to attempt to proselytize or even opine when such possibly can be construed as either coercive or an undue influence! I would think that such actions in the context of mandatory formations and presentations and even written columns in official unit publications could easily be construed as command-sponsored or command-endorsed policies or positions and as such are likely violations of that sacred trust, if not outright illegal. If professional military chaplains are uncomfortable laboring with sensitivity and sincere adherence to and genuine respect for their proper roles in such contexts, it may be time for some chaplains to reconsider their sense of calling and definition of ministry -- before the military is compelled to take action to insure the rights as well as the (career and emotional) safety of personnel.
The accommodation being considered by this committee is clearly a subterfuge to allow criticizing of LGB service members and proselytizing of all non-Christians. While any legislation this committee might propose would give cover to these ultra conservative Christian chaplains and their fellow believers, it would in all probability also have an adverse impact on those service members who do not share these religious beliefs. Such unrestricted criticism and proselytizing would clearly have a negative effect on unit morale, good order and discipline. Providing legal cover, with no accountability, would be counterproductive for the military, may present a challenge to the military chaplaincy's continued survival and viability, and clearly would be bad for our...
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Navy Chaplains Obstruct Religious Liberty

(7) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 4:07 PM

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Navy Chief of Chaplains-Rear Adm. Mark Tidd

The United States Constitution in Article VI, paragraph 3, states in part: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Just last month,...

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Checkerboard Justice Cannot Stand

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2014 | 5:35 PM

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Sixty years ago, on May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling, which declared that racially segregated public schools were "inherently unequal." Much like the question of segregation in the...

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Time to Embrace a Military Chaplaincy for All the Troops

(3) Comments | Posted March 25, 2014 | 4:59 PM

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Several years ago, the co-chair of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy was standing in line in uniform waiting to be checked out of the Post Exchange. The gentleman behind him, who appeared to be retired military, said, "Chaplain, what do...

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Money Talks and Bigotry Walks

(1) Comments | Posted March 4, 2014 | 4:10 PM

Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona decided money talks loudly and persuasively. Had it not been for fierce public outcries about the potential harm to the state's economy, there is little doubt she would have signed Senate Bill 1062 into law. Both United States Senators from Arizona, the last Republican presidential...

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A Gathering Storm of Bigotry and Discrimination

(1) Comments | Posted February 25, 2014 | 5:54 PM

It's about time! Prompted by ever-vigilant bloggers, leading LGBT advocates have sounded a belated alarm about the steady stream of proposed state laws designed to deny basic human rights to LGBT Americans. If enacted, these self-proclaimed "religious liberty" laws would reduce every gay American...

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USAFA Closets Are for Clothes, Not Cadets

(3) Comments | Posted November 25, 2013 | 4:31 PM

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Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson (right) accepts the guidon from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III on Aug. 12, 2013, during the U.S. Air Force Academy superintendent change of command ceremony. Johnson is the Academy's 19th superintendent. (Official USAF photo)

The

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U.S. Air Force Academy -- It Doesn't Get Better

(4) Comments | Posted November 21, 2013 | 4:47 PM

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USAFA Chapel by J. Seefried

Setting off yet another scandal, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) has hired and promoted "ex-gay" cure advocate, Dr. Michael Rosebush, USAFA 1975, as a staff member for the Academy's Center of Character and...

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Separate Church From State and Guarantee Religious Liberty

(2) Comments | Posted November 18, 2013 | 5:07 PM

Since the Supreme Court ruled section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, there has been a loud hue and cry from some religious conservatives. They are now complaining the next step in the so-called attack on their " religious liberty" will be a government

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The Real Gay Agenda

(22) Comments | Posted November 7, 2013 | 7:51 PM

Many of us remember the salacious 1993 video produced and circulated by the right wing to the Pentagon and Congressional leaders during the debate about lifting the ban on LGBT military service. The video, titled The Homosexual Agenda, was filled with outrageous scenes from pride parades and...

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Is It Time to Return to a Draft?

(8) Comments | Posted October 9, 2013 | 2:30 PM

Why should that question be asked unless someone can show the all-volunteer force (AVF) is not working and sustainable? A recently published book with the title Skin In the Game -- Poor Kids and Patriots, by retired Army Major General Dennis Laich, answers this question with a comprehensive...

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A "Crisis" Engineered to Subvert Good Order and Discipline

(69) Comments | Posted September 30, 2013 | 2:48 PM

Denominational executives and endorsers have become mission distracters, and are undermining the quality of care chaplains are sworn to provide for our service members. Those same religious leaders who opposed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), and who supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), have now engineered...

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Southern Baptist Leader Attacks Fellow Christians

(126) Comments | Posted September 24, 2013 | 1:26 PM

Dr. Albert Mohler, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said this about those Christians who disagreed with him on the issue of Southern Baptist military chaplains and their ability to serve both God and Country:

Where will every...
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How Can Southern Baptist Military Chaplains Continue to Serve 'God and Country'?

(180) Comments | Posted September 9, 2013 | 3:52 PM

"Pro Deo et Patria" ("for God and country") is the motto of the Army Chaplain Corps. No longer can most Southern Baptist military chaplains continue to serve with integrity as military officers because their endorser, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, has placed them in...

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Isn't a Humanist Military Chaplain an Oxymoron?

(11) Comments | Posted August 19, 2013 | 12:28 PM

Must a military chaplain believe in God? We shall soon find out the answer to that question and it will inform us if the Chaplain Corps truly understands what the Constitution and the Supreme Court say about religious liberty.

The Navy recently received an application by...

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No Wedding Bells at the U.S.Naval Academy Main Chapel for This Couple

(105) Comments | Posted August 7, 2013 | 12:27 PM

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UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY MAIN CHAPEL DOME-Annapolis, Maryland.


It was not a gay couple nor a lesbian couple who were denied a wedding at the United States Naval Academy Main Chapel (Main Chapel), but a straight one. Why? Simply because they...

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'Conscience Protections': A License to Bully

(10) Comments | Posted July 22, 2013 | 6:18 PM

At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a company First Sergeant in the famed 82nd Airborne Division steps into a Company orderly room filled with junior soldiers both male and female. "I want all of you to know that I don't like this politically correct idea of allowing women in combat. As...

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'Conscience Protections': Death of the Military Chaplaincy?

(72) Comments | Posted July 18, 2013 | 1:29 PM

Military leaders have long complained about the inequities created by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). They recognized that having two classes of service members was detrimental to unit morale, discipline and had an adverse impact on military readiness. Many celebrated the recent finding by the Supreme...

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New Coalition Demands Christian Privilege

(6) Comments | Posted July 10, 2013 | 7:03 PM

The most extreme proponents of conservative Christian privilege combined forces on July 9 in a briefing outside the Capitol building. This coalition included Tony Perkins and retired Army General Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council (FRC), retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews of the so-called Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty...

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Military Chaplains Cry Wolf

(34) Comments | Posted July 8, 2013 | 4:24 PM

The decision by the United States Supreme Court declaring the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional has certain conservative Christian, Jewish and Muslim military chaplains crying wolf. These chaplains falsely claim that if they follow the law by recognizing the dignity of same gender legally married couples,...

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