By Roger Drinnon
In light of the Department of Defense’s (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 LCMS has sent a request to the Secretary of Defense to ensure specific protections for chaplains, service members, medical personnel, DoD civilians and other DoD-affiliated employees.Read the request
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.
“Current DoD and service-specific policies and guidance for religious protections do not provide sufficient protections,” the Synod’s request states, “as they allow for implementation of a wide range of subjective religious restrictions based on what a local commander deems as contrary to ‘good order and discipline.’ ”
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. The Synod in convention 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.”
He said the request has been 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, Sept. 8. As of Sept. 15, it remains unclear when and how DoD officials will respond.
“We stand to protect service members’ God-given, constitutionally protected religious liberties and right of conscience,” said Muehler. “No American, especially those who wear the uniform, should be denied their religious freedom or be forced to go against their conscience. 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.”
Muehler said the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty has applauded the Synod’s efforts to protect religious liberty in the military, and the organization has shared the Synod’s request with other faith groups who might make similar requests to the Defense Department.
Roger Drinnon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of Editorial Services and Media Relations for LCMS Communications.
Posted September 16, 2016