Stated clerk's note: The United States Secretary of Defense has established a Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Working Group to "review issues associated with the possible repeal of 10 U.S.C. §654, which would allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military, and to develop an implementation plan, should Congress repeal the law." In the course of that review the working group solicited comments from agencies that endorse chaplains. The 77th General Assembly of the OPC has responded to that request with the following letter.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Office of the General Assembly
George R. Cottenden, Stated Clerk
July 20, 2010
TO: The Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Working Group
c/o Chaplain (COL) Gary Linsky
SUBJECT: Concern about Repeal of the Current Military Policy Prohibiting Homosexual Behavior
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) is thankful for the opportunity to respond to the letter of Major General (S) Gregory A. Biscone, USAF, Chief of Staff and the subsequent letter from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense under the signatures of Chaplain (Major General) Douglas L. Carver, USA, Chairman and Army Chief of Chaplains; RADM; CHC, Robert F. Burt, USN: Chief of Chaplains; and Chaplain (Major General) Cecil R. Richardson, USAF, Chief of Chaplains soliciting our "views ... regarding the impact of the repeal of [10 U.S.C. §654]" and promoting dialog "with civilian organizations regarding religious issues" (see attachments 1 & 2). We regret that the Assembly itself could not make the 15 May 2010 deadline, for our denomination did not meet in deliberative session until our July General Assembly. This is the official response that supersedes the earlier communication you received 15 May 2010 (see attachment 3).
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is gravely concerned over the potential repeal of 10 U.S.C. 8654 that governs the service of homosexual individuals in our military. Therefore, we are grateful for your desire to consider carefully the moral implications of your approving sexual practices that God has explicitly condemned.
We are concerned that the repeal of the current law may go so far as to force our currently serving chaplains to choose between violating their ordination vows and resigning from the military. They have affirmatively answered the following question in their ordination: "Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?" Thus, OPC chaplains preach and counsel from the Scriptures because they are convinced that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). (All Bible citations are from the English Standard Version.)
We are concerned that other members of the OPC who are serving in the Armed Forces may also be coerced to teach and enforce a policy that explicitly violates the Word of God. When they took their membership vows in an Orthodox Presbyterian Church they answered "Yes" to this question: "Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?"
Several Bible passages forthrightly state God's condemnation of homosexual behavior. From the Hebrew Bible, Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." Romans 1:18-33 in the New Testament historically and prophetically describes how the wrath of God is revealed against people who, by their own sinful behavior, suppress the truth about the one true God and how the moral disintegration of society follows. In the consequent moral disintegration in human society, the acceptance of homosexuality is a prominent symptom: "26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature: 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."
Our military chaplains and members are concerned about the following specific consequences:
• Chaplains may be open to charges of discrimination or command reprimand when they preach or counsel in accordance with the passages in the Bible which directly speak of the sin of homosexual practice. Such threats compromise the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion clause and the freedom of speech as well as the gospel message which delivers homosexuals from this destructive practice (1 Corinthians 6:9-11Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.)
• Bibles in military chapels and on military bases may be under the threat of excision of all passages which speak very directly to the sin of homosexual practice. Whether it be under the guise of opposing "hate speech" or alleging insubordinate opposition to a policy of the Department of Defense, the effort may be made soon after the repeal of the law.
• Marriage and family retreats conducted by chaplains intended to strengthen traditional marriages and families may have to include homosexual couples, which will violate chaplains' faith tenets and may discourage the voluntary participation of unmarried, heterosexual couples.
• Homosexual couples may seek union ceremonies or marriages, which are in violation of the beliefs and ordination vows of a large percentage of military chaplains, not just those from this denomination. Refusal may invite the charge of discrimination and command reprimand.
These expressions are consistent with the Chaplain's Manual of the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel, Section "Policy and Guidance; V. HOMOSEXUALITY" (we will be happy to provide a copy upon request) and our own denomination's Instruments of the General Assembly, Appendix A (www.opc.org/GA/Instruments2009.pdf, p. 3023, starting at line 530).
We provide this response for the good of the nation, for the integrity and effectiveness of the chaplains who serve the nation on behalf of their church, for the military and spiritual welfare of our members who serve in the Armed Forces, and for the protection of the constitutional principle of the free exercise of religion.
George R. Cottenden
Stated Clerk, The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
DOD Comprehensive Review Working Group
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense
Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel to CRWG correspondence
cc: Major General Douglas L. Carver, Chief of Chaplains, U. S. Army
Rear Admiral Robert F. Burt, Chief of Chaplains, U. S. Navy
Major General Cecil R. Richardson, Chief of Chaplains, U. S. Air Force
Rear Admiral Mark L. Tidd, Chaplain of the Marine Corps
Chaplain (COL) Thomas E. Preston, Executive Director, Armed Forces Chaplain Board