An Open Letter to Hoppy Kercheval on Homosexual Conduct in the Military

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They say never to pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. I would assume that the same is true for those who buy radio waves by the megawatt!

While I have no wish to fight with you, my friend, I do feel the need to disagree with you on an important issue of our day, an issue I fear you have not given your trademark thoroughness in thinking through.

Of course, I speak of repealing what is commonly called the, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. According to the title of your commentary on Thursday, you believe it’s, “Time to allow gays to serve openly in the military.” For support, you point to the politically appointed joint chiefs of staff, secretary of defense, and an unsubstantiated data claim that 14,000 men and women have been discharged under DADT.

In general, I would encourage your careful reading of a well-prepared document by our friends at the Family Research Council which was written by Robert Maginnis.

First, it might be worth asking why were these individuals dismissed under DADT? We sometimes have the impression that a soldier blurts out, “I’m gay” and the MP’s appear out of nowhere, usher the soldier into a court martial proceeding, and he’s shipped home soon thereafter.

This misperception is largely because this debate has focused on sexual identity – a complex and often nebulous concept – when the military is largely looking to govern sexual conduct. In fact, DADT is a compromise position of policy issued by the Clinton administration that failed in its attempts to repeal an underlying law that says:

The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts could create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability. See 10 U.S.C. 654(a)(15).

Repeal DADT and you still must deal with this underlying law. It is why many, if not most, of those discharged under DADT were so dismissed because they were men attempting to have unwanted sex with other men, or female soldiers likewise with soldiers of their gender.

The statistics bear this out. Analysis of a FY 2009 study found that, of all the sexual assaults in the military, 8.2% of them were same-sex in nature. Comparing that to the general, civilian population, we discover that homosexuals in the military are three times more likely to commit sexual assaults relative to their population. And, it should be noted, that most of these assaults were men fondling or attempting oral sex on other men while the victim slept or was intoxicated.

Thus, at the outset, we must keep in mind that many, though not all, of the discharges under DADT came about because sexual conduct was disciplined.

But we should also discuss that 14,000 estimate you give. Not knowing where you received your data, I looked up my own. The GAO says that, between the years 1994 and 2008, 12,785 soldiers were dismissed under DADT.

However, according to the Department of Defense, only 0.37% of military discharges were because of homosexual behavior. Why were others discharged? Well, according to the Center for Military Readiness, during that same time:

90,302 were discharged because of drug use.
55,790 failed to meet weight standards and were excused.
39,454 soldiers received discharge papers because they were pregnant.
The military, understandably, has high standards, based on readiness and effectiveness. Ours is a voluntary force, one with no constitutional guarantee for military service. We ought not experiment with the greatest military on the earth.

You also point to the militaries from around the world who have opened the door to homosexual behavior in the military with, you suggest, little or no problems. I wonder if you overlooked some considerations.

First, did you consider that our culture is home to a very politically active and litigious homosexual movement? It is difficult to have an objective discussion on the topic – as those charged with national security must – when so much of the modern homosexual movement is one of forced acceptance, regardless of the consequences on military readiness.

Also, did you consider your references to Israel, Britain, and Canada a bit lacking in analogy? With over 2 million personnel, our military (active, reserve, and guard) dwarfs most of the world’s military. Of the 200 or so militaries in the world, only 25 have taken this drastic social step. Israel is 34th in size and Britain 26th. As for Canada, it implemented a significantly different policy altogether, one focused on conduct over identity – much like our current law does.

Beyond that, you must give some thought to the voluntary nature of our military. We do not have conscripted service (as Israel), nor do we have a service in which just anyone can join. Recruits must meet rigorous standards and abide by rules enforcing strict behavior and discipline. While the U.S. Constitution provides for the creation of a military, it does not guarantee that its citizens will be admitted. Their “fit” for the military is for the commanders to decide.

In addition, you suggest that military commanders are ready for the change and see no problem. However, I would note, first, those defense leaders endorsing this plan are, primarily, those owing their position and/or elevation to President Obama. Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen clearly fall within that category.

Beyond them, you have most of the Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces advising (strongly, in the case of Marine Commendant Gen. James Conway) against such a social shift. Their concerns, like mine, rest in what is best for the military – a different entity entirely than that of the civilian population.

Finally, consider some real-word, pragmatic pitfalls we might incur:

Religious liberty – Requiring service members to embrace open homosexual behavior puts individual soldiers in a true quandary, more-so their chaplains. How does a chaplain counsel an open homosexual if the chaplain holds to the religious convictions of most religions today that homosexual behavior is immoral? Will their sermons be vetted to be sure they do not discuss the sinful behavior described in Romans 1 before they get to the Good News of Romans 6 and 7? What of the individual soldier espousing his convictions to his bunkmate? These are real problems that those pushing for repeal simply gloss over.
Benefits – Housing will be a true issue, that may lead to accusations of increased stigmatization. Will homosexuals be required to be identified and segregated in their sleeping arrangements? What about spousal or domestic partner benefits? If such benefits are forwarded under Federal law, what does that mean for state Marriage Protection Amendments? Federal DOMA?
Health – According to a September 2010, CDC fact sheet, men having sex with men account for 48% of all HIV cases in the United States. While men having sex with men account for only 4% of the entire population, they are 44 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV. This is tragic! Our laws ought not encourage behavior known to increase such a wretched disease; they ought to oppose it. But, in setting public policy, we must also remember that these are blood-born diseases. What will we do with blood transfusions on the battlefield?
Certainly, more could be written. I know you to be a thoughtful man, one that spends a great deal of time reading and thinking on the subjects on which he speaks. And, while we might ultimately disagree on the final conclusion, I am thankful for your willingness to listen and your graciousness in disagreement.

While I believe that our military is no place to advance a radical, social agenda, I also realize that the feelings of homosexuality are real. While I must side with what I believe is the best course of action in terms of public policy for our nation and it’s military, I want my friends in the homosexual community – including those who have fought for our country – to know of my love and respect for them. I pray that they will find their satisfaction in Christ, not in behavior that is unhealthy, immoral, and unwise.

And there, I pray, we part as friends. Knowing of your great compassion for your fellow man, I ask you only to temper your compassion with discernment. To the extent I may prove helpful in elucidating that discernment, I remain,

Your faithful partner,

Jeremiah G. Dys, Esq.,
President and General Counsel,
The Family Policy Council of WV.


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Written by Jeremy Dys

September 24th, 2010 at 7:25 am

Posted in Marriage, Religious Freedom

Tagged with DADT, Hoppy Kercheval, Marriage, military readiness, religious liberty

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