For years, Major Jonathan C. Dowty has used his rank and his blog, Christian Fighter Pilot, to spread a message of hate and sedition. Through that blog he regularly decried the terror he lived under…as a Christian being forced to serve with homosexuals. He actively harassed subordinates, many of them clients of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, that did not conform to his “spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.” He did so with the silent consent of his superiors, comforted by the knowledge that even when public appeals were made he would not face reprimand for his brazen disregard of the law. Thankfully, that time has passed. Major Dowty’s blog has at long last been discontinued (at least until July 15th), and his vulgar publications have been taken down.
This apparent lawfully mandated action has not gone unnoticed by those who claim “Christian persecution.” The argument put forward by Todd Starnes of Fox News, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and the likes of Major Jonathan Dowty is essentially that it is a violation of our service members’ constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of religion to prevent them from preaching against the “dangerous behavior” of homosexuality. The account of the fate of what is almost certainly Major Dowty’s blog sounds somewhat different in Mr. Starnes’ words:
a service member received a ‘severe and possibly career-ending reprimand’ for expressing his faith’s religious position about homosexuality in a personal religious blog.
He neglected to include mention of Major Dowty’s rampant denigration of homosexuals. Of course, it is reasonable to assume that Starnes would agree with Dowty’s assertions that condoning or even passively allowing homosexual behavior will lead to bestiality, and that we can blame the sexual assaults in our military on the repeal of DADT.
The Colorado Springs Gazette, a habitually conservative paper, succinctly drove this bizarre massage home in an article which glorified the values of academic freedom:
…genuine tolerance requires that we tolerate intolerance…We object to the Ku Klux Klan but defend their right to profess radical hatred.
The failure of this argument is that the freedom to spread hate stops when you don the uniform of our armed forces, or any state-appointed civil servant for that matter. The hierarchical nature of government places individuals in positions of significant power over others, and to use that power to spread hate is abusive of any position of legal authority. Teachers may not segregate classrooms. Police officers cannot profile. Judges cannot bring their bigotry to the bench. Military officers cannot discriminate between godly and un-godly subordinates. Should they choose to do so, they become criminals.
As a soldier myself, when asked about my opinion of then President George W. Bush, my responses were censored. I responded with things like, “I cannot answer that question” or “he is my commander in chief and I can’t get into this” knowing that to be disloyal to the president while in the military is criminal. In 2009, I witnessed a senior officer with the gall to speak at length about his disapproval of President Obama in the presence of a JAG officer. The result? He was abruptly advised that what he was doing was criminal and would be reported if he did not stop. The senior officer acknowledged that what he was doing was illegal, and ceased his insubordination. This is not a religious issue. Yet when Master Sergeant Sommers was censored for his “NObama” bumper sticker and for tweeting “In honor of DADT repeal, and Obama/Holder’s refusal to enforce DOMA act, I’m serving Chick-fil-A at my MSG promo reception for Army today” he cried foul.
“Ironically, the liberals are preaching tolerance,” he said. “They are saying, ‘We can tolerate you.’ But if you have a certain belief that doesn’t align with what the military wants you to believe – particularly religious beliefs – you’re no longer welcome in the U.S. military.”
Imagine a religion which dictated a soldier smoke marijuana twice a day during ritual prayer. Would their religious rights be infringed upon if the military enforced its zero tolerance policy on drug use? After all, the soldier would not be doing anything but practicing their religion. Imagine a soldier holding a faith which prevented them from wearing an Army uniform. Would their religious rights be in the cross-hairs as well? Imagine a religion which required a soldier be disloyal to their superiors and disrespectful to their subordinates. Well, you don’t have to imagine that, because it already exists as demonstrated by Major Dowty and Master Sergeant Sommers.
Conservative extremists have perverted what could and should be a religion of peace and love. While it is only a vocal minority doing so, the damages of the Major Dowtys of the world who use Christianity as an excuse to bully others continues to negatively impact the lives of many. Perhaps a good hard look into the Bible would calm the waters:
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
-Romans 13 (NIV)