Top Military Leader’s Stand against Gay Servicemembers Draws Cheers from Religious Right, Brownback

After the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Chicago Tribune that his support for barring gays and lesbians from openly serving in the armed forces was based on his belief, from his “upbringing,” that homosexuality is “immoral” and analogous to adultery, supporters of equality for gays were quick to criticize the nation’s top military officer for his prejudice-based promotion of public policy and for sending an inappropriate message to gays currently serving under his command. Not surprisingly, the Religious Right has come to the defense of Gen. Peter Pace, who has refused to apologize, and ambitious politicians are not far behind.

Concerned Women for America’s Matt Barber wrote that Pace “is to be commended for publicly expressing the common sense values shared by the majority of Americans, for having the courage to face down America’s self-appointed thought police and for his bold attempt to reign in our nation’s political correctness run amok.” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins declared that “Gen. Pace’s job is not to be politically correct but to protect the nation and the well-being of our soldiers.” Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council said his group will “ask President Bush to support General Pace’s right to stand by his convictions as he enforces the military code of conduct.” And Phil Magnan, director of a group called Biblical Family Advocates, issues a press release attacking gays as “licentious”:

“If there is any apologizing that needs to be done, it’s by homosexual advocates who have drawn millions of young people, including soldiers into a destructive, immoral and unhealthy lifestyle.”

“The homosexual community has sold the public their licentious lifestyle in the name of tolerance and freedom when they should be seeking to be freed from it. Ask the person dying from HIV if it was worth having hundreds of partners or if some of the millions who are enslaved to it would like to be free of it.”

Others claimed that criticism of Pace was “clearly an effort to purge from authority anyone who dares represent the most basic tenets of a Judeo-Christian moral code,” as editor Joseph Farah put it. Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth said of Pace critics, “Their idea of civil rights is that we can’t voice our moral beliefs about homosexuality. … If you say that homosexuality is wrong, they come after you; and, ultimately, we have to believe that they are going to want to ban [speaking out against] it, just like is happening in Canada, and England, and other countries.” The American Family Association is asking its supporters to send a letter to President Bush in support of Pace and in opposition to gays serving in the military: “I strongly oppose homosexual activists who want to force the military to approve their immoral lifestyle,” reads the letter template.

Already, one Republican presidential candidate struggling to gain momentum and distinguish himself among the Right has taken on the Pace cause. Sen. Sam Brownback circulated a letter in which he characterizes Pace’s justification of the military’s anti-gay policy as merely the expression of “his personal moral views.”

The moral behavior of members of the Armed Forces is of the highest importance, particularly during this time of war. The question is whether personal moral beliefs should disqualify an individual from positions of leadership in the U.S. military? We think not.