Evangelicals Hitting the Fighting Holes?
The Navy is investigating a chaplain's allegations he was punished for theological disagreements with superior officers, including his objections to requiring sailors to participate in services at a church that accepts homosexuality.
Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt says he was transferred ashore and given a negative job recommendation because of the religious disagreements.
Other actions cited in Klingenschmitt's personnel records include his advocacy for a Jewish sailor who wanted kosher meals and his preaching of sermons that some sailors viewed as proselytizing and intolerant.
In each case, the military is accused of an institutional bias for one "brand" of religion while simultaneously maintaining a hostile climate against other varieties of faith. The stories, so far, are one-sided as the military refuses to comment on in-progress investigations. Even a cursory review of each case's allegations brings to mind many questions.
In the AFA case, the vaunted "report" from Americans United for Separation of Church and State seemed able to unearth only 15 "cadets and staff" to support its allegations. But just what is the composition of that group? Is it say, 12 cadets and a few professors? Or is it 2 cadets and 13 staff members with axes to grind against the academy administration? Even if all 15 were cadets, that's an infinitesimal sample from a group numbering about 4000. Hard left blogs like DailyKos have also pounced on the "55 complaints" from the AP story, but they have omitted the context of that number. According to the AP story,
The academy said it first learned of reports of religious intolerance in a survey of cadets that included 55 complaints. Some cadets accused evangelical Christians of harassing both Christians and Jews; some of the Jewish cadets said they were blamed for the death of Jesus Christ. [emph. added]
The significance here is that this 55 number does not represent a large number of formal complaints that have been investigated and documented. Essentially, these are anonymous comments submitted on a survey. With such a dubious origin, this "number of complaints" should be viewed skeptically. For a detailed look at this case, check out Hugh Hewitt's column.
In the case of the Anzio chaplain Klingenschmitt, so far all we have is his word against "no comment". Clearly, he clashed with the chain-of-command on several points, and he was in fact sent ashore and administratively punished. The chaplain's Letter of Instruction (administrative punishment) admonished him for sending emails that were critical of the Navy's involvement with a church that supported a gay-lesbian outreach ministry. While this may be a perfectly proper protest, it must be done through the chain-of-command; going around it constitutes insubordination, not a clash of "theology".
Predictably, the left has seized on these incidents to vilify the military in general and to call for the abolishment of the service academies. In this thread (scroll down a ways), the kind people of Kos call service academy graduates "religiously intolerant sexual predators". As a 1989 graduate of the Naval Academy and submarine veteran, I can tell you that I never observed anything remotely resembling the charges in either case. The Naval Academy mission reads in part "to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically". The left hates to hear this, but moral development cannot happen in a humanistic, relativistic vacuum. If our future officers are to be imbued with the moral foundation provided by religious ethics, it is imperative that midshipmen (and cadets) be provided an atmosphere that endorses religious faith. Endorsement does not constitute coercion, and real harassment must be aggressively rooted out and prevented. But given the awesome destructive power under their control, America's officer corps must have the respect for life that is fostered by the overtly religious features of service academy life.
UPDATE: Welcome, Hugh Hewitt readers!