By Roger Drinnon
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod awaits a reply from the Department of Defense (DoD) after sending a request to the Secretary of Defense Sept. 8 to ensure specific protections for chaplains, service members, medical personnel, DoD civilians and other DoD-affiliated employees.
The request came in response to the DoD’s recently mandated LGBT Pride Month and its new policies for transgender service members, which, among other things, advocate in-service gender transitions while serving in the military.
The Synod’s request, signed by LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Chaplain (U.S. Navy Capt. Ret.) Craig Muehler, director of LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces, calls for specific protections for expressing personal religious beliefs to be codified in DoD and service-specific guidance, as service members purportedly are experiencing increasing restrictions on living out their faith in their military vocations.Read the request
“We are still waiting for an official response from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, but, meanwhile, several endorsers from the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty also are looking at our request and discussing the pertinent issues surrounding religious freedom in today’s pluralistic military environment,” said Muehler.
“We need to address how recent DoD policy changes impact the rights of military personnel to live consistently with their faith while in uniform — that faith doesn’t suddenly disappear when they put the uniform on.”
Earlier this year, the Synod in convention adopted Resolution 2-04, which reaffirms LCMS military chaplains’ rights of free exercise of religion in the face of LGBT inclusion in the armed forces, and Resolution 14-01 to encourage intentional leadership in matters of religious freedom.
Synod convention delegates also adopted Resolution 14-09, which commends the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations document “Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective” (click here to see this document and others related to marriage and sexuality).
“The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod clearly spoke in convention this summer that we as a Synod will continue to stand together to support the free exercise of religion and the right of conscience for our LCMS members [and those of other faith groups] who selflessly serve our nation in the military,” said Muehler. “The Department of Defense needs to ensure safeguards are in place to protect the rights of those who wish to abstain from any event, practice or activity that will force them to compromise their deeply held religious belief on homosexuality or gender orientation.”
The request was sent directly to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, to the Armed Forces Chaplains Board (AFCB) and to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Peter Levine, who oversees the AFCB. As of Nov. 11, it remains unclear when and how DoD officials will respond. A designated DoD spokesman had no comment when asked for an update.
“It is critical this Veterans Day that we pause to remember all those who have selflessly volunteered to serve our nation in our military,” said Muehler. “We are grateful and give thanks to God for each and every one who answered the call to serve and defend our nation as a member of the military.”
“No American, especially those who wear the uniform, should be denied their religious freedom or be forced to go against their conscience,” added Muehler. “The men and women in uniform serving on the front lines to defend our nation should not be penalized for exercising the same freedoms they are fighting to protect.”
Roger Drinnon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of Editorial Services and Media Relations for LCMS Communications.
Posted November 11, 2016