Firing back at the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State has compiled a report to debunk claims about religious persecution in the military.
“The AU report, ‘Clear and Present Falsehoods: The Real State of Religious Freedom in the Military,’ responds to an earlier report by the Family Research Council (FRC) that purported to list widespread instances of religious liberty violations in the armed forces,” reads an Americans United press release. “In fact, AU says, the FRC report (titled 'A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military') is merely a list of overblown and inaccurate claims that often don’t provide context or the whole story.
“Many examples of religious liberty 'violations' listed in the FRC report were in reality efforts by military officials to enforce separation of church and state or were ambiguous policies that were quickly fixed. A final category included examples of private individuals being critical of military policy.”
Not every one of the Family Research Council’s 61 claims, each followed in the report by Americans United analysis and response, is related to LGBT people. However, several do reference same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues. Here's an overview of the LGBT-specific items, along with the Americans United's (paraphrased) findings:
• A claim that President Barack Obama’s remarks about a defense bill's “religious liberty” amendment indicated “his intention to elevate special protection for homosexuals above religious liberty.” Americans United finding: Factually true — the president did criticize the amendment — but with an unfounded conclusion.
• One claim concerned FRC’s own Tony Perkins being slated to address a prayer luncheon, then having his invitation rescinded after issuing a statement criticizing White House efforts to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Americans United finding: Perkins was disinvited from speaking due to his criticism of Obama himself, who Perkins said was “willing to jeopardize our nation’s security to advance the agenda of the radical homosexual lobby.”
• Another claim — one specifically called out by Slate — referenced a service member who was reprimanded after sending an email critical of same-sex nuptials held in the chapel at West Point. Americans United finding: The reprimand was not due to the service member’s opinion but rather his failure “to render the proper respect to a commissioned officer.”
• An army officer referenced the FRC and the American Family Association as antigay hate groups. Americans United finding: The email was sent, but the sender “acted on his own and the email was not a part of any Army-approved training program or command-generated memorandum.”
• One claim was that a solider was punished for serving Chick-fil-A food. Americans United finding: The solider didn’t just serve food from the chain, which has made headlines for its CEO’s anti-equality views, but did so explicitly to oppose the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, to support the Defense of Marriage Act, and to criticize the Obama administration for not defending DOMA. He reportedly faced no punishment.
• An assistant chaplain in the military allegedly faced the threat of demotion or pay cuts if she didn’t delete a Facebook post in which she criticized homosexuality and LGBT-affirming pastors. Americans United finding: The chaplain’s identity is unknown, and the truth of the claim has not been verified.
• A drag group performed at an LGBT Diversity Day. Americans United finding: “It is true that three individuals dressed in drag did perform at the ‘Diversity Day’ event. It is unclear how this performance constitutes an attack on religious freedom in the military.”
• An Air Force service member was supposedly fired due to his religious opinions concerning same-sex marriage. Americans United finding: The service member was not fired but was transferred as had previously been planned, and his version of events was found unsubstantiated in an Air Force investigation.
• A briefing named the American Family Association as a hate group and listed its name on a slide depicting the now-deceased Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church carrying an offensive anti-LGBT sign. Americans United finding: Basically, the soldier who created the slide screwed up.