Groups Battle Over 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
New Law, Old Fight
The Senate Armed Services Committee and the House of Representatives voted yesterday to overturn the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly. The votes signal that conservative activists may be losing the battle over gays in the military.
The new law is a compromise between the White House and Capitol Hill that clears the way for the military to change the policy, but the repeal would not take place immediately. Before the repeal would take place, the Pentagon must finish its review of the policy, and the defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff must agree that the repeal would not harm military readiness.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), called the compromise a "cultural time bomb, strapped on the backs of the men and women who honorably serve this country."
The FRC also created a website devoted to DADT (complete with a customizable color palate depending on one's favorite branch of the military) that says, "Our military exists to fight and win wars, not engage in radical social engineering. Forcing soldiers to cohabit with people who view them as sexual objects would inevitably lead to increased sexual tension, sexual harassment, and even sexual assault."
The organization's link between gays and sexual assault created headlines. The FRC issued a report that claimed gays in the military are more likely to commit sexual assault than heterosexuals. The conclusion is based on the number of same-gender sexual assaults in the military compared with the percentage of civilians who openly say they are gay and lesbian.
"If open homosexuality is permitted in the military, these numbers will only increase," said the report's author, Peter Sprigg. "The numbers of homosexuals in the military would grow, the threat of discharge for homosexual conduct would be eliminated, and protected class status for homosexuals would make victims hesitant to report assaults and make commanders hesitant to punish them."
Frank Turek suggested on the American Family Association's blog that women should also be excluded from serving in the military. "Having served, I believe that the military needs as few sexual distractions as possible, be they from men and women serving together in combat or open homosexuality," Turek wrote. "The job is too difficult and critical to be complicating matters sexually."
Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver joined a campaign led by Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, which opposes gays in the military, women in combat, and co-ed military training. In a letter to Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Staver wrote, "Open homosexuality disqualifies an applicant. The military must have discipline and order and, of necessity, must house people in close and confined quarters, whether on the battlefield, a ship, or a submarine."
The Traditional Values Coalition said that gays serving openly in the military was a threat to national security. It asked its members to contact their representatives and tell them that "during a time of war against Islamic terrorism on two fronts is not the time to engage in social experimentation with our military."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commistion (ERLC), also asked for quick action opposing the proposed change in policy.