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Gay Army couple says chaplain barred them from marriage retreat [Military Times]

November 23, 2013


A same-sex couple at Fort Irwin, Calif., says they have been denied participation in an Army marriage enrichment program because of their sexual orientation, even though they are legally married.

Shakera Leigh Halford said her wife, a soldier at the post, approached a chaplain at Fort Irwin about participating in a “Strong Bonds” retreat at the base but was told the couple is “ineligible” because of their sexual orientation.

The retreat is one of the many services run by the Army’s Chaplain Corps. The Southern Baptist Convention, which provides the largest share of active-duty military chaplains, has barred members from taking part in weddings, counseling sessions and couples retreats for same-sex couples. Similar restrictions apply to Roman Catholic chaplains.

Southern Baptist chaplains in violation of these restrictions will be subject to removal of their endorsement, by order of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

25 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. F Young  |  November 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    So, if a Baptist or Catholic chaplain admitted a same-sex couple to a retreat and thus lost his endorsement, could the chaplain be fired by the military? Why is that not religious discrimination? Is there wording in the DADT repeal or the defense budget that allows it? Even if there is, why is it not a violation of the establishment clause?

  • 2. Sagesse  |  November 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    A chaplain must have an endorsement from their religious denomination to serve in the military. The religious body that gives the endorsement does indeed have the ability to withdraw it. Sometimes a chaplain can get an endorsement from another denominationa, say, another branch of the Baptist church, for example. The chaplain who was disciplined for just attending a wedding performed by someone else shortly after DADT was repealed did that.

  • 3. StraightDave  |  November 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Major FAIL! This is a no-brainer.
    This is on a military base, Pentagon rules apply.
    Post-DADT, post-DOMA, there is no such thing as "ineligible because of their sexual orientation". Somebody obviously didn't get the memo.

    A chaplain not being allowed to participate by his religious sponsor is very different from a soldier not being allowed to participate by the chaplain. Completely ass-backwards. The military simply cannot support or condone discriminatory practices. Somebody is due a good chewing-out for dereliction of duty and the head of the Chaplain Corps is due a letter explaining the new rules – once again. And a personal apology from the base commander is also in order. Holy crap, people! Where have you been? If you don't want to do your duty as a military officer, then you are free to resign. But you are not free to make up your own rules.

  • 4. Steve  |  November 24, 2013 at 8:41 am

    The problem is that they run these marriage retreats through the chaplaincy in the first place. That shouldn't be the case. It's bad for straight people too, because depending on the chaplain they may get canned religious stereotyped as counseling.

    All these family support programs should be strictly secular. They are only running it with chaplains because there is a severe shortage of mental health professionals no secular or humanist counselors.

  • 5. StraightDave  |  November 24, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I agree with all you said, Steve. It may be a poor substitute, better/worse than nothing??
    But there still needs to be some oversight or you end up with another Air Force Academy disaster – at minimum, some open-eyed commanders who care about the impact on morale.
    In any case, the exclusion of any troops is an absolute no-no – there must be zero tolerance with a firm hand. Take it or leave it, Father. Your in the Army now. Any laxity of rules will quickly deteriorate once people know they can get away with it.

  • 6. Sagesse  |  November 24, 2013 at 9:52 am

    We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the chaplains are caught in the middle. An individual chaplain may be prepared to serve any military couple who signs up, but be threatened with the loss of their endorsement from a religious body that is outside the chain of command if they do so. The military has to find a way to remove that source of coercion from its chaplains.

  • 7. Eric  |  November 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    No, it doesn't. The Establishment Clause prevents the DoD from coddling the peddlers of superstition. Chaplains can either follow orders or find another line of work.

  • 8. JustMe  |  November 30, 2013 at 7:13 am

    So what happens when there are no more chaplains?

  • 9. MightyAcorn  |  November 30, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Um…the rampant evangelism that has been inflicted on our armed forces goes away? I'm okay with that. There are nondenominational chaplains who don't feel the need to evangelize, merely serve. Perhaps the military should try stocking up on those.

  • 10. Steve  |  November 30, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Hire secular counselors instead. A much, much better investment.

    Or humanist chaplains. Like the Dutch and Belgian armies. In the Dutch military, out of about 150 chaplains, 30-40 are humanists.

  • 11. KarlS  |  November 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    A move toward sanity. A chaplain in lieu of a secular mental health professional is far worse than nothing regardless of which delusion system he or she happens to represent.

  • 12. JustMe  |  November 30, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    "A chaplain in lieu of a secular mental health professional"

    Unfortunately a secular mental health professional cannot give last rites on the battlefield to a dying soldier.

  • 13. Straight Dave  |  November 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    OK, that's fine. So hire chaplains to take care of that detail if that's where their unique expertise and authority lies. Leave the rest of the counseling to the professionals who are trained for it and who don't have the same conflicts of interest.

    We need to stop pretending that religious ministering and secular psychological counseling are the same thing. The state of the latter art has advanced tremendously in the past 100 years.

  • 14. Steve  |  December 1, 2013 at 4:26 am

    And if that's all Chaplains did, then that would be fine. Unfortunately they have intruded into many areas where they don't belong and are in no way qualified for.

  • 15. Eric  |  December 2, 2013 at 10:42 am

    If Catholic chaplains were limited to front line roles, you might have a point.

  • 16. JustMe  |  November 30, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Chaplains serve God first, Army second.

  • 17. KarlS  |  November 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Which is clear evidence they are insane since all gods are make-believe.

  • 18. Straight Dave  |  November 30, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    The Army gives them uniforms and signs their paychecks, not God.

  • 19. JustMe  |  December 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    The Army has never given an officer his uniforms. Army officers purchase their own.

  • 20. Straight Dave  |  December 2, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    … paid for with money the Army gives them for such purchase.

    "Officers receive a one-time payment after commissioning to buy clothing.


  • 21. JustMe  |  December 3, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Yeah … you missed this part:

    "No allowance for clothing maintenance is provided."

    So after 2 years, when the initial puchase has to be replaced, it is out of the officers' pocket.

    An officer spends more of his own money on his uniforms than the Army EVER gives him.

  • 22. Richard Weatherwax  |  November 25, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    What would a Catholic chaplains do if a married couple came to him and admitted that one of them had been previously married, but had gotten a divorce? Would they be refused permission to attend the program?

    If the Southern Baptist Convention wishes to remove its endorsement of chaplains who violate their restrictions on married couples who happen to be of the same sex, that is their right. If the Southern Baptist Convention wishes to remain working within the Army's Chaplain Corps, then it should reconsider its position. The military can not tolerate discrimination, whether it's against same-sex couples, blacks, Jews, or other minorities.

  • 23. JustMe  |  November 30, 2013 at 7:14 am

    It depends… If the pope granted an annulment… then the fact that a Catholic has been previously married is no problem.

  • 24. KarlS  |  November 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    It remains a huge mystery to me how any reasonably intelligent human could possibly care what an old supposedly celibate man in a dress has to say about…anything.

  • 25. chris2000X  |  July 31, 2016 at 8:33 am

    sounds like discrimination ?

    The Supreme Court's 2013 ruling in Windsor v. United States, all married couples in California – including same-sex couples – must be treated by the federal government as married, equally, and with respect.

    Sarah L