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Unfit to Serve? Print E-mail
By Joseph Wood   
Saturday, 13 April 2013

The marginalization of orthodox religious believers proceeds apace.  The most fundamental responsibility of government is “to provide for the common defense.”  How a government discharges this responsibility says a lot about its larger purposes and methods. 

Some of the tactics now used within the U.S. security establishment are coming to resemble the intimidation and ostracism long associated with the academic left.  Catholics, who long fought to be accepted as loyal Americans, may be among the first to suffer.

A case in point: The Pennsylvania Army Reserve recently grabbed attention for an equal opportunity presentation that identified Catholics, orthodox Jews, and Evangelical Christians as extremists, along with Islamist terrorists and Islamophobes.  I found this troubling, but less alarming than some other commentators have.

From my time in the military, I can imagine a scenario:  Captain Toobusy says it’s time for the mandatory annual EO Training.  Sergeant Needful tells Private Bagofdoughnuts to come up with something innovative, “make the troops think.“ Private B, who cannot distinguish a Buddhist monk from a Swiss Guard, and whose familiarity with religious belief extends to a Jehovah’s Witness comic found on his doorstep, surfs the web and produces the material in question, perhaps thinking it demonstrates the “tolerance” he has heard so much about.  No one reviews the routine presentation.  Suddenly, you’re famous.

Or maybe the Army paid thousands of dollars to a “consultant” claiming expertise on “leadership training.”  I recall one such corporate trainer who inadvertently endorsed Nazi eugenics without realizing the implications of what she had gleaned from the web.

Maybe, rather than malice, it was a case of ignorance operating in a climate of relativism.  But other officially mandated tactics are more ominous.

In February, after attending a general papal audience and as one of his last official acts, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed a memo extending some military benefits to same-sex domestic partners of military service members and their children: multiple insurance benefits, childcare, shopping privileges at military facilities, youth programs, etc.

The changes aim to give same-sex couples as much of the material blessings of military marriage as possible, if the couple simply certifies, “We are each other’s sole domestic partner, in a committed relationship, and intend to remain so indefinitely.”  There are a few other stipulations, but those are the core requirements. 

The change further removes the government from judging the relationship that merits these benefits.  Only the service member himself or herself decides what qualifies as “indefinite” commitment.  The long-ago days when a divorce would threaten an officer’s prospects now seem quaint.


          Leon Panetta, former Sec Def and Catholic

Panetta’s new policy could not extend those benefits reserved by law for spouses.  But his memo goes extraordinarily far towards anticipating such a change.  It looks to the day when “the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense” and announces that on that day, “it will be the policy of the Department to construe the words ‘spouse’ and ‘marriage’ without regard to sexual orientation.” 

Panetta apparently did not want to leave any latitude, or burden of decision, to a successor on whose watch such a change might occur (though a different secretary could take a different tack, it would be a difficult reversal).  This mirrors court opinions on same-sex marriage that assert there could never be any possible rational basis for marriage “discrimination.” 

The purpose of the memo is clear and flows from the bipartisan decision to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  The memo begins, “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation no longer has a place in the military.  Today, our military leaders are ensuring that all America’s sons and daughters who volunteer to serve our nation in uniform are treated with equal dignity and respect….” 

If that statement simply ensured that service members were evaluated on their duty performance rather than their sexual proclivities, it would represent no great change.  But military members, trained to comply, will certainly understand that the intent goes well beyond that. 

Anyone who supports traditional views of marriage expresses that view to the detriment of his or her career advancement.  It is an absolute affirmation that sexual orientation and marriage comprise the same kind of question as the racial integration that was led by the military.

Beyond the Defense Department, there are further troubling signs. I was recently interviewed about an applicant for a federal job who is seeking a security clearance.  I’ve done many such interviews, which seek to determine the trustworthiness of candidates for sensitive positions and identify vulnerabilities to blackmail.

But there is now a new wrinkle to a question: “Do you have any reason to believe that the candidate harbors any biases or prejudices against any group or individual based on age, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or parental status?” 

The questions are broad and loosely phrased in order to elicit any possible “adverse” information about character (the investigator wasn’t sure what “parental status” meant).  But, if a candidate for a security clearance is known to be a traditional believer, is that a reason to suspect that he might “harbor discriminatory views” about marriage or sexual orientation?

I don’t know if someone reported for these thought crimes would be denied a clearance.  But no one who needs a clearance wants to court risk.  The effect is chilling: if you want the security clearance, you had best not advocate traditional views about marriage and family, even in private.  The subject is taboo.

Eventually, the question may become simpler: “Do you have any reason to believe the candidate harbors any belief in natural law, or a divinely created order that is not to be changed or altered by humans?”  

Then, we really are back in the catacombs.

Joseph R. Wood is a former White House official who worked on foreign policy, including Vatican affairs.

The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (9)Add Comment
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written by Manfred, April 13, 2013
Good post, Mr. Wood. I thought I had read that the "suspects" alluded to in the Army Reserve report had been drawn from data on the Southern Poverty Law Center Website, a group who has attacked The Remnant (Catholic) newspaper, The Wanderer and individual Catholic and Evangelical leaders. The operative word in your piece is "volunteer". As we have no draft, I am told the Services can't fill their billets. Even Israel no longer allows women soldiers to serve in combat, but our Army and Marines are making that transition. They simply can't attract enough men from a broad background. Why even Ivy League schools which had banned R.O.T.C. after Viet Nam are allowing cadets back on campus. Our Country is no longer really a Nation as it no longer has a common language, a common religion or world view and borders. If a reader does not agree, please drive through Miami, New Mexico, Arizona and southern California. We are polarized and it is not going to change. For many (getting fewer) Americans same-sex "marriage" is the sine qua non. The very idea of this becoming normal would represent living in Hell while on earth. My reccommendation to serious parents who want to protect their children? Forbid them from volunteering for military service and dry up the enlistment pool. Perhaps the military will reconsider.
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written by Brad Miner, April 13, 2013
Regarding Manfred's assertion the "Services can't fill their billets." In fact, as of 2012 all branches have met or exceeded their goals in both recruitment and retention. We'll see how budget cuts will affect this going forward.
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written by Grump, April 13, 2013
As a veteran, I always thought that the Universal Code of Military Justice applied to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. USC ยง 925 - Art. 125. Sodomy states:

(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.
(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

Obviously, the UCMJ is no longer the law of the military, superseded by whatever Obama and Panetta decide is lawful conduct.
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written by DeGaulle, April 13, 2013
Will this kind of 'army' be fit for purpose? Women are certainly not suited for war, and what kind of effect will homosexual lovers fretting for one another on the battlefield have on the tactics of engagement?
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written by Mack Hall, HSG, April 13, 2013
Having the spirit of a hard-core, gung-ho civilian I can't say that I enjoyed all my time in the service, and that year-and-a-half in Viet-Nam was not fun, but there was never even a whiff of hostility to Christianity or Judaism. NCO's certainly made unkind (sniff) remarks regarding my DNA and intellect, but not about the religion stamped on my dog-tag.
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written by jason taylor, April 13, 2013
Manfred,"cannot fill" is a rather unlikely statement. Several societies have used that logic but in those cases usually the men have the decency to be dead first. We observably have enough force to deal with any conceivable major threat reasonably well. What is meant by "cannot fill" can only mean, "we don't have enough to subjugate every border tribe that gets in a scrap with us" which is something every large power has to deal with and won't be solved by feminizing the military.

In any case, those that wish feminine soldiery are better off arguing on the basis of Fair Play and sticking to that. Because "cannot fill" is another way of saying, "America's men are so wussy that they need to get their women to fight for them."
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written by Old Sarge, April 13, 2013
There is an old saying,
"A government that can play with its military,
knows when and where the next battle will be."
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written by Louise, April 17, 2013
Joseph, I've been mulling this over for a few days and frankly, while it is all very troubling, your last point about the security clearance question has floored me. Do you have any idea how that slipped in there?
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written by Joseph Wood, April 17, 2013
Louise, I don't know how long that question has been asked. In a job interview, it would be one thing, just asking if the person can work with or lead everyone based on actual job performance rather than personal stereotypes. But a security clearance process is not a job interview. It seeks to determine character and reliability according to commonly accepted standards. As I said, I don't know if someone would be denied a clearance for traditional views at this point. But the effect is to tell anyone in defense, foreign affairs, intelligence, many industries, etc that they could be reported for certain views, which would complicate their clearance and thus affect their career. So it suggests to people that traditional views best not be discussed with friends, neighbors, co-workers or others who may be asked about a person's character.

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