The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty isn’t happy about the Pentagon’s recent proclamation to allow military chaplains to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies both on and off federal bases. Rev. Ron Crews, executive director of the group, says the policy change violates federal law, which defines marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. He is joined in that opinion by Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who represents Roman Catholic priests in the military.
The two religious leaders are now calling on Congress to intervene to prevent any federal facility from being used in flagrant disregard of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In a press release, Crews said:
“By dishonestly sanctioning the use of federal facilities for ‘marriage counterfeits’ that federal law and the vast majority of Americans have rejected, the Pentagon has launched a direct assault on the fundamental unit of society – husband and wife.”
We call once again for Congress to affirm that the federal definition of marriage applies to the Department of Defense and that no federal facilities may be used to circumvent federal law. In addition, we call on Congress to enact a ‘Right of Conscience’ clause in the Revised Title 10 code to ensure that no American, and especially not our service members, be forced to deny their religious beliefs.”
Obama’s own Justice Department has decided not to defend DOMA, but perhaps Congress thinks more highly of the laws it has enacted than the administration does and will respond accordingly to the request of Crews and Broglio. That seems doubtful, though. In the meantime, a “Right of Conscience” clause seems like a very wise idea. While the Pentagon proclamation stipulates that no chaplain will be forced to perform same-sex unions and Crews and Broglio have already said none of the chaplains they represent will do so, it might not be such a stretch to foresee a time in which the Pentagon might require military chaplains to perform such ceremonies. Consider the legal trouble Catholic Charities has encountered for its refusal to accept gay couples as candidates for foster parents or adoption. Nothing lost by an added protection that does nothing to limit chaplains friendly to the idea of same-sex unions but that does everything to ensure freedom of religion for those who oppose them.