Michael Hamar

Five Myths About Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Filed By Michael Hamar | September 18, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, DADT repeal, Elaine Donnelly, gays in the military, Joint Chiefs, religious based discrimination

I have long maintained that the real rational behind Don't Ask Don't Tell is religion and religion belief and the efforts of military leaders and Christianists to inflict their beliefs on all of society and in the military in particular. The goal has always been to punish gays for not conforming to the Christianists' sexual mores and to devise means to utilize the nations laws as a way to send a societal message that gays are inferior - dangerous even.

Incidents at the Air Force Academy and many other military bases, including local Fort Eustis here in Virginia confirm that there are far too many far right Christians in the senior ranks of the military. What better way to do so than to depict gays as unfit to serve in the military and at threat to military readiness.

God forbid gays be shown to be brave, loyal, reliable and outstanding soldiers, sailors and airmen. Were this to happen, this would totally under cut the Christianist effort to depict gays as effete, often feminine acting, unmanly, sexual perverts/predators. The goal of DADT has always been to maintain an anti-gay image that would help keep gays discriminated against in the larger society.

A Washington Post article looks at five myths surrounding DADT and the first mentioned is the above described false premise of protecting military readiness. The others are about the falsehoods that anti-gay proponents of DADT continue to disseminate as excuse to delay or kill repeal. My Senator, Jim Webb, needs to read this article and get his head out of his ass and support repeal NOW. Here are some highlights:

On the long path to regulations that treat all troops equally, a number of myths have cropped up surrounding the law.

1. DADT was created to promote unit cohesion and military readiness. DADT has never had anything to do with those goals... acknowledged to historian Nathaniel Frank that the policy was "based on nothing."
According to historian Anne Loveland, the architects of DADT knew they could not argue that the law should be based on their personal morality, so they used the unit cohesion argument instead. In her work on evangelical chaplains in the military, Loveland discovered a behind-the-scenes debate as the policy took shape in 1992-93. Though the chaplains and evangelical groups wanted to present a case that gays and lesbians are abominations, polls showed that most of the public didn't share their moral concerns; they knew would have a better chance if they talked about military necessity.

As recently as 2007, then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace was asked why the military still had a ban on gays, and he said he believed that DADT was necessary because homosexual conduct is immoral... the problem really wasn't that Pace spoke out of turn. It was that he told the truth about a rationale that was supposed to remain unspoken.

2. Repealing DADT will be complicated. Opponents of repeal are trying to depict the transition to an inclusive policy as a fragile and complicated process... But the shift to an inclusive policy is not rocket science. Research by the Rand Corporation shows that the Pentagon needs just three things to ensure a smooth transition: The military must have a standard of nondiscrimination that mandates equal treatment for everyone. There must be a single code of conduct that applies equally to gays and straights and does not mention sexual orientation. And military leaders at all levels must show their support for the policy.

All of these steps are simple, which is why the militaries of Britain, Israel, Canada and other U.S. allies have had such an easy time getting rid of their bans.

3. The integration of women and African Americans into the military offers useful comparisons. The debates over gays, women and blacks in the military seem quite similar in many regards. Just as some people claimed that white enlisted personnel would not follow black officers, for example, others say that straight troops will not follow gay commanders.

Operationally, the end of "don't ask, don't tell" will be a cakewalk compared with racial and gender integration, which took many years and faced huge logistical obstacles. In this case, a majority of troops already say that they know or suspect that they know gay peers and are comfortable serving with them. Symbolically, the comparison is wrong as well: It conflates homophobia, racism and sexism, which are distinct phenomena.

4. The troops oppose repealing DADT. It is true that when asked their policy preferences, more troops say they favor DADT than allowing gays to serve openly. But there are several caveats: First, the margin is small, and a large number of troops say they have no opinion. Typically, polls find that about 40 percent of troops prefer DADT, 30 percent prefer open service, and 30 percent have no opinion. Second, the vast majority of troops say they are comfortable working with gays and lesbians. Third, even among those who have an opinion, very few feel strongly about it.

5. DADT is a losing issue politically. More than a dozen polls in the past five years have found that roughly two-thirds of the public supports repeal. Majorities of regular churchgoers and Republicans now support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. The political risk for the Obama administration and the Democrats is in not following through on their pledge to repeal the policy.

It is time that the foul policy known as DADT be thrown on the trash heap of history. It's also time for its proponents to admit that DADT is all about religious based discrimination and that it has nothing to do with military readiness. Jim Webb, stop undermining the U. S. Constitution.

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I have long maintained that the real rational behind Don't Ask Don't Tell is religion and religion belief and the efforts of military leaders and Christianists to inflict their beliefs on all of society and in the military in particular. ...

Close, but there is another, deeper aspect that you do not mention, which is honor. Proper military service is supposed to bestow honor on the servicemember for serving his country well.

The issue of honor also central to allowing service by African-Americans and women. Like these traditionally "underling" groups, the notion that gay men and lesbians should be openly and publicly given honor for their service is antithetical to traditional attitudes.

"Ordinary" service brings honor ... and when especially heroic actions are taken on the battlefield, special honors such as Purple Hearts and Medals of Honor are handed out. The ultimate result of gays and lesbians in the military is not only that they will be honored, but eventually they will even be venerated --- gasp!

Although honor is a separte point, it is closely related to religion. Study the tradition surrounding the guard service at Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and similar venerated military spots, and you will quickly conclude that there are many in the military who cannot tell the difference between "God" and "country".

Its funny, you speak of 'honor' and how those in power fear giving honor to GLB service members.

Yet those self same people in power venerate Alexander the Great, the Hopplites, the Trojan's and the Spartans all of which included Gay men in their service.

Well, Gina, that's sort of correct and sort of incorrect --- they may not argue about Alexander the Great being gay (or bisexual) but Alexander the Great was not American, nor do they hold him up (or the others you mention) as an American hero who American children should admire and emulate. Of course, he and the Spartans and Trojans were all non-Christian pagans, and they lived thousands of years ago, and thus they are hardly an immediate threat.

I am not saying, Andrew W and others, that the religious influence is not primary, I am only pointing out that it has multiple cultural layers beyond that which is obviously religion.

And as I have pointed out in other posts, fundamentalist Christians are very "tribal" and myopic --- and the ancients are not members of their immediate "tribe" so what they did or how they thought just doesn't count to them.

But, religion is the only thing that teaches those beliefs - seeds typically planted at a very young, impressionable age.

I get the "honor" thing, too. But, it is religion that has branded homosexuals. We need to be re-branded - something we can do - or wait for Christians to go the way of Greek mythology. I'd rather not wait.

Not to argue with you, Andrew W, but just to play Devil's advocate: I sometimes run into atheists who are anti-gay. If religion is the source of all things anti-gay, then how do you explain anti-gay atheists?

Usually, if they are willing to discuss the issue at all, they give you the old "Penises are obviously designed to fit into vaginas" argument --- even though they are usually OK with anal intercourse between a man and a woman.

In actuality, these atheists are almost always men, and my theory is that they have a subconscious problem with a man getting butt-penetrated. This is a purely psychological source, not a religious one.

Moreover, most secular Communist countries are very anti-gay and even gay-oppressive. Since their social policies are secular/atheist, their anti-gay prejudice probably doesn't come from some element of vestigial religion.

Your claim about religion being the main source of anti-gay teachings may be true for American culture, and maybe Western culture, but it is not necessarily true globally.

Most atheists weren't raised that way. Most were still taught as a child that homosexuality is wrong - by religion.

I don't agree with atheism, it requires a leap of faith, just like religion. The truth is nobody knows.

The seed of all LGBT discrimination is religious beliefs. In America it's the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is wrong and they're still teaching that to our children.

National polling data doesn't effect Jim Webb's vote because he is "very religious" (his words) and 68% of people in Virginia make religion "important."

Sadly, yeah relgion in the military has great weight with some commanding officers.

The WORST witch hunt I ever witnessed was undertaken by a evangelical commanding officer. The kind of CO that insists on cleargy at most command functions and holds command meetings at the base church so us heathen's can be saved.

He discharged an entire division within the command because a few were Gay,Lesbian and Trans. Their subordinates/coworkers/friends stood up for them, but the CO kicked them all out. His action hamstrung the command for nearly a year. He bragged about it and even (according to rumor) asked for a medal for doing it.

As an Atheist, I never found disbelief to require any sort of leap of faith.

Mostly it simply requires looking at a bunch of ancient superstitions and finding them impassible.

Atheists are not the problem facing LGBT/T people. Religionists are, particularly the devout ones with lots of complete faith in insane ideas.

You may choose to ignore it but a goodly percentage of these right wing Christianists expect the Apocalypse any day now and with it a Third World War that will wipe out most people including all but 144,000 Jews who will convert and become super evangelists. This will bring the return of Christ and a Thousand Year Reich (only they don't call it that)

"As an Atheist, I never found disbelief to require any sort of leap of faith."

To believe and assert that "there is no god" without any evidence of that, requires a leap of faith.

Being objective and honest requires that we acknowledge "we don't know" with any degree of certainty.

Religious people embrace a "story" (one of thousands) and use faith to make it real, even without any tangible proof or evidence. Much in the same manner, an atheist claims beliefs that are equally without proof or evidence.

An increasing number of people are accepting the truth: I don't know, neither do you and that's okay. "Not knowing" allows people to live without fear and to see everything as a "possibility."

I'm completely with Andrew W on this one --- first, the conclusion that religion is the same as superstition is not the same thing as concluding that God does not exist. After one disposes with the cultural/religious question, there remains the personal philosophical question, "What do I believe about this?"

Secondly, the lack of clear evidence in favor of God's existence is not clear evidence for the contrary. When someone concludes thus that there is no God, they are making an assumption --- albeit, a reasonable one, but it is an assumption, not a logical conclusion, and as an assumption it is a "leap of faith". It is also a leap of faith in the sense that it is a belief that we choose instead of a belief that is forced upon us by objectivity.

And I reject the notion that atheism is in any valid sense the "default" conclusion. Just because I cannot sense microwaves without relying on an external electronic device, does not mean that it is logical for me to "assume" that microwaves do not exist!

(Footnote: Of course, I am talking about a relatively weak microwave sources, such as astronomical microwaves --- a human can sense microwaves if they are strong enough to begin to cook you ... and perhaps the same will be said by the atheists about God as they march toward the flames of Hell ... but I doubt it.)

Finally, there is the problem of definitions: both the word "faith" and the word "God" mean different things to different people, and this matters. For example, I might claim that the God of the Old Testament does not exist, but the God of the New Testament does.

Because we are abused by people who most frequently use religion to justify themselves, we blame all religion.

The fact is that we are making inroads within many religious denominations as well, which is good because for many in the lgbt community, religion is important. (No debate here on why; it just is.)

The subtle cultural issues A.J. addresses above do matter. Like many in the police forces, many in the military focus on preserving order within the clear bright lines they perceive and doing so "honorably." Unfortunately, our country is seized as a whole by a more conservative religious tradition than western Europe or indeed even most of the world.

Being "accepted" or "tolerated" is not progress. There is nothing wrong with us - we don't need to be accepted or tolerated.

Religion still teaches that homosexuality is wrong. NO Christian denomination has formally rejected the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is wrong. In fact, most still teach their children that lie. That Christian belief has branded homosexuals and created most of the resulting discrimination. No other institution had done that.

You don't get to excuse "some Christians" unless that group has abandoned that teaching/belief. So far, none has. THAT would be progress.

Why do you dismiss Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ and the Unitarians, who are not rigidly doctrinaire, and some of which explicitly hold that homosexuality is OK? Also, why do you dismiss the small Christian denominations, such as MCC and Unity Fellowship, that have formed specifically to accept and serve GLBT populations?

When you say "So far, none has" I assume you must be speaking about only the major multi-million international Christian denominations. However, if you group all the smaller GLBT-affirming Christian groups together, you do have several million people, which I think ought to register as at least a blip on your radar screen.

I can appreciate (enthusiastically!) the pleasure one might get from ranting against fundamentalist Christianity monolithically, but the truth is that the Christian world has moved off of dead center on this issue. Indeed, a few big groups are splitting into two over it, in some well-covered cases.

Because no Christian denomination has explicitly rejected the traditional Christian teaching/belief that "homosexuality is wrong."

You have referenced the United Church of Christ as "holding homosexuality as okay." Only 7% of their churches are what they call "Open and Affirming." That's means LGBT people are "welcome" and "accepted." I suppose people could see that as progress, but 93% of UCC churches are NOT welcoming.

MCC has not made a formal declaration that they reject the teaching/belief that "homosexuality is wrong." They have a few Ministers (that I have corresponded with for the last year) that are pushing in that direction, but it hasn't happened. It seems to me they should be the first denomination to reject the teaching/belief that has caused the majority of our discrimination. they have a brochure about "misinterpreting" the verses in Leviticus, but they haven't rejected the idea that we are wrong.

The only conclusion that makes sense to me is Christians are not willing to reject a portion of the Bible (as even most Jews have) because they believe it will somehow harm them. All the misinterpretation crap is just silly double-talk.

Some Unitarian Universalists have rejected the belief, but they're not really "Christians." My friend says they believe everything and nothing. in a way, that sounds cool.

One of these days a Christian Organization will take a stand and formally reject the teaching/belief that homosexuals are wrong. Denominations are splitting because of us and whether the Bible is literally "God's word" or more of an inspirational book. Even then, I haven't seen them take a stand against the teaching/belief that we're wrong.

Rainbow flags and even "gay" bishops are nice, but not enough - we need some courage. We need them to formally reject the idea/teaching/belief that we are wrong. I am hopeful that some Christians will do that soon. I'm betting on MCC.

Actually, the ONA is not the same as "welcoming." The ONA means that that church has rejected the teaching that homosexuality is wrong. The UCC's national head has rejected the teaching that homosexuality is wrong, and they encourage their member churches to move to that view. However, because of their organizational structure, they cannot force their churches to change to ONA. Their organizational structure is congregational, meaning that each church gets to decide its beliefs for itself--so the UCC encompasses liberal, centrist and conservative congregations equally. Likewise, the Disciples of Christ have nationally rejected the teaching that homosexuality is wrong, but leave it up to each church to determine its own course. However, the UCC is much further along, as there is no national debate on ordination of GLB persons, and they've recently included T, as well. So there are denominations that have rejected the teaching that homosexuality is wrong. However, I think it's unrealistic to expect all of the churches underneath the heading of those denominations to change their ways overnight. The seeds have been planted and have begun to grow. Patience and perseverance and attentiveness and education will see us through the rest of the way.

Where is the official statement from UCC? I've read the documentation about ONA and it is about welcoming, accepting and affirming. Nothing about rejecting the traditional Christian belief that "homosexuality is wrong."

If that have that official position, I'm sure you can find a formal statement.

Again, only 7% of UCC churches are hanging rainbow flags.

If DOC has an official statement, it should be published somewhere.

Thanks, Andrew W, for answering cogently, I now see where you are coming from, at least.

If I can find any official denominational statements that categorically reject the idea that homosexuality is wrong, I will post a link.

By the way, as you may know, the first Christian statement decreeing that homosexuality is sinful was not issued until the Lateran III Council in 1173. There is much evidence to indicate that during the first millennium of Christianity, some Christians regarded homosexuality as "disreputable" (sort of like the way some people regard gambling and/or fast dancing today) but there was no doctrinal pronouncement that it was sinful. So IMHO I do not agree with you that all the "mis-interpretation" dialogue is "just silly double-talk". It is already determined that certain passages were interpreted this way during this era, and that way during another.

Perhaps I should have said that arguments about mis-interpretation of Bible scripture are never going to convince the literalists. For those of us that routinely see those arguments posted, it sounds like "double-talk." It ends up sounding like "my religion is better or smarter than yours" and that's a futile argument - everybody wants to believe they are on the winning team.

It seems to me the first Myth is we have always been told that the law is DON'T Ask- DON'T TELL, however the way it has always been used THEY WILL ASK - YOU CAN'T TELL.