DADT, BDUs, and freedom

Shocking news: The military forces its members to break the laws laid down in the Bible! It’s explicitly required in military regulations! They are not allowed to use their First Amendment rights to refuse to participate in these abominable practices!

That’s right: military uniforms are made of cotton-poly blends.

Wait, what?

Some conservatives are complaining loudly that the repeal of DADT will force people in the military to violate their religion’s requirements. This is a specious attempt to use religion as a cover for bigotry. The fear-mongers claim that since they will not be allowed to condemn homosexuals, their religious rights are being compromised. These people are hypocrites, even by what they claim are the standards of their religion.

In Leviticus 19:19, the law specifically prohibits wearing clothes made of mixed fibers. It’s just one chapter after the law in Leviticus that forbids men to have homosexual intercourse. (Lev 18:22) Most contemporary Christians say that this is part of the Old Testament law that they don’t have to follow, just like they don’t have to keep kosher, or be circumcised, or follow any of the other highly detailed laws laid out in Leviticus and other parts of the Old Testament. Usually these Christians say that the Old Testament law was made obsolete by Jesus, and anyway, those laws were made for a time and place and situation, and they’re not relevant now anyway. Anyone who wears a military uniform and claims to condemn homosexuality based on Leviticus is a bald-faced hypocrite.

But many of the same Christians who eat cheeseburgers (not kosher) and wear whatever they want are claiming that their religion requires them to condemn homosexuality.  In fact, there are only a handful of verses that address anything like homosexuality, and the main one is right there in Leviticus alongside regulations about how to deal with mold on your walls and what clothing you’re allowed to wear. If the Old Testament law is irrelevant, either because of Jesus or because of changing contexts, then this law is just as irrelevant as the rest of them.

There is, in fact, one place in the New Testament that addresses homosexuality. But that’s Paul, not Jesus, and Paul is probably describing what today we would call pedophilia. (Note to the Roman Catholic Church: that’s still illegal, by the way.) By the way, Paul is also famous for telling women to cover their heads and be silent in church, which are commandments that most Evangelicals feel free to interpret according to cultural context. Jesus himself never says anything about homosexuality and says remarkably little about sex at all. He was probably too busy condemning those who mistreat their neighbors and just forgot about it. Oops.

Members of the military have restrictions placed on their First Amendment rights. The government bends over backwards to try to protect First Amendment rights of speech and religion, but not all of those rights are the same for military members as for civilians. Military people lose a lot of control over how they look (haircut, uniform, etc. – which is what I was referring to in the opening, because appearance is a form of speech, legally) and over what they can say, and when. It is true that military chaplains who are Evangelical Christians aren’t allowed to push their form of religion on others, and can be disciplined for doing so in ways that violate the ethics of the chaplain corps, although there is actually a much more reasonable argument that the Bible instructs Christians to tell others about Jesus. Too bad: it’s a minimal restriction to ensure the freedom of others. And so is the requirement that the military get used to treating people with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation.

As far as concerns about limiting speech outside of the military, well, as Slacktivist has pointed out, Fred Phelps is evidence that our country values freedom of speech so highly that it’s willing to allow some pretty odious speech to occur. We have other ethical guidelines that tell us not to do things like join the Nazi party or demonstrate with Fred Phelps, even if they are legal. Those ethical guidelines often transcend religion, especially the Golden Rule. Although, come to think of it, I think Jesus did have something to say along those lines.

About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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3 Responses to DADT, BDUs, and freedom

  1. Jason says:

    I love this

    • Literata says:

      I actually pulled up your recent post on the topic for your Biblical overview, although I decided not to go into too much depth about all the possible verses. Thanks for contributing to the inspiration and writing process!

  2. Andrew says:

    Throughout my 22+ year military career I’ve noted the irony of what you point out above: I can defend it to the death, but cannot practise as much of it as most of my peers.

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