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Groups Battle Over 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

Some conservative organizations are attempting one last push back in their fight to keep gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.

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.  

"Overturning the current policy would strain our forces, weaken troop morale, and propel countless chaplains to leave the services. Using our military to advance radical social policy is an affront to the greatness of our armed services," said Land.

Land thanked supporters for "standing in defense of our armed forces as they continue to sacrifice in defense of our nation."

Reacting to religious leaders making such statements, Nick Sementelli of Faith in Public Life said, "Religious leaders who use DADT to unfairly malign our troops and LGBT Americans are becoming further and further out of touch."

Sementelli said allowing gays and lesbians to serve will strengthen the military. "Our country will be safer for having a military that doesn't waste time and money discharging good soldiers and that can actively recruit the best and brightest citizens who want to serve," said Sementelli.

Odds and Ends

• Focus on the Family Action has a new name: CitizenLink. The organization was already using the name for its website and newsletter. The new name is designed to eliminate confusion between Focus on the Family and its political arm. The two are affiliated but legally independent. "Focus on the Family will continue to provide resources to help families thrive, while CitizenLink will specialize in equipping citizens to make their voices heard on behalf of life, marriage and the family," said Jenny Tyree of CitizenLink.

• The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has launched a new initiative to discuss possible ways to decrease abortions. NAE President Leith Anderson said that "a million abortions in the United States every year is unacceptable. The NAE is engaging a fresh national dialogue seeking effective ways to significantly reduce the number of abortions." In a resolution, the NAE said that it will seek to work with pro-choice groups and others "without compromising our core convictions" to find solutions that will lower the number of abortions.

• Al Tizon of Evangelicals for Social Action wrote about Glenn Beck's recent commencement address at Liberty University (LU). Beck has been controversial among Christian advocacy groups for his criticism of social justice activism. "The only reason I can think of then is that LU wanted to show its support of Beck's politically conservative, anti-Obama agenda in general and his thoughts about social justice in particular," said Tizon. "The former, I suppose, is understandable coming from LU, but the latter is deeply disturbing no matter where it is coming from."

• Sojourners president Jim Wallis was a guest on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, discussing the BP oil spill as a moral and religious issue. "This oil spill is really apocalyptic. It mirrors our oil addiction. We have to do something about it right now. And that's what churches are saying. And that's just our responsibility to say, 'This is, for us, protecting God's creation,'" said Wallis.

• The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good is calling for support of legislation that would give the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to military detainees. The ICRC currently has access to detainees because of an executive order; a law would make the access permanent.

• Chuck Colson said on BreakPoint this week that Christians should not get "a tattoo or, even worse, a body piercing." Colson said, "Tattoos last a lifetime—unless they are painfully removed. But the spiritual marks of a Christian last through all eternity."

Related Elsewhere:

Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site.

Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.

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